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sentence-of-marriageSentence of Marriage

By Shayne Parkinson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Original Publication Date: 2006

Book I in the three-volume saga, Promises to Keep

Buy Link: http://www.lulu.com/content/472164

I’m a very lucky girl in regards to the books I’ve been getting for review. They just keep getting better and better. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson is no exception. It’s book one in a three-volume set titled Promises to Keep and one of the best historical novels I’ve had the pleasure to read in years.

New Zealand farm life in the 1880’s is hard and twelve-year-old Amy dreams of a life beyond the boundaries of her small community. Although snug in the warmth of her family’s love, Amy wants to be a teacher and experience the excitement of living in a city far from the isolated valley she calls home.

When losing her mother shortly after her birth, Amy and her older brothers are raised by an adoring father and strict, but loving Granny. Six months after Granny’s death, Amy is adjusting well to managing their home alone. When her father returns from a business trip with a new wife in tow, Amy and her brothers are shocked, but determined to make the best of it. Unfortunately Susannah finds farm life less than appealing and generally makes life miserable for all, especially Amy. Two and a half years later, Susannah’s younger brother comes to stay for the summer and Amy makes a choice that will change her life forever.

Although some of the plot is predictable in Sentence of Marriage, this in no way diminished the impact the story had on me because of the fresh way it was presented. The characters come alive on the page and with the breathtaking imagery drawn by Parkinson, the cinematic effect is undeniable. I felt as though I were watching the events unfold on a large movie screen. The author has a special gift for using specific words and phrases to bring the period and location into reality without it being overdone. The fact that I sat up reading until three-thirty in the morning, knowing I had to get up before six, speaks for how riveting the story is. I found it impossible to put down.

Not many people are totally good or totally evil and the author offers a superb mix of both good and evil characters with both good and bad traits existing in both. I was fascinated by Amy’s father, Jack, and enjoyed watching as different facets of his personality emerge. But one of the best characterizations I’ve ever seen is in Ms. Parkinson’s portrayal of Susannah—a selfish, conniving, self absorbed woman who seems, at times, to be on the verge of madness. Yet the author wisely gives the reader small glimpses of Susannah’s humanity, making her even more frighteningly real.

Negatives?? I screamed when I realized I’d read the last page. I wanted more, more, more, and I wanted it very badly. That’ s not a true negative though, is it? I have a feeling the story is about to take a decidedly even darker path, but I’m not worried about that. Sentence of Marriage has a darker storyline, but the warmth, humor, love and affection emanating from the characters make it both appealing and captivating. I’ll be buying a download of Book II in the Promises to Keep saga later this week and I heartily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and even those who don’t usually.

–Willow

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pendragon1The House of Pendragon, Book I: The Firebrand

By Debra A. Kemp

Amber Quill Press 2003

Historical

Buy Link: http://amberquill.com/Firebrand.html

Author Website: www.myspace.com/debrakemp

 

When I received The House of Pendragon, Book I: The Firebrand by Debra A. Kemp, I thought—okay, another battling knights, forced marriage, romance kind of thing. Not that I don’t enjoy those books, but I’ve read so many of them, I was hoping for something a little different. And this story delivered. Ms. Kemp has drawn from the too often told stories of King Arthur and created a totally unique, fresh, and realistically adult view of the uglier side of life in the dark ages. The story follows Arthur’s daughter, Lin, from slave to heir to the throne.

 

At the tender age of five, Lin is living in a slave hovel and awakens one morning next to the cold body of the only woman she’s ever known as mother. Unknowing of her royal lineage, the only family she has left is her seven-year-old brother. Dafydd loves his little sister and does his best to be both mother and brother. Complete opposites in temperament and personality, these two are perfect foils for one another.

 

In spite of all Dafydd’s attempts to caution Lin against her rebellious ways, years of taunting and ill treatment by the Queen’s sons leave her heart hardened. At the age of twelve, the Queen gives Lin to her son Modred, as his personal slave, to use in any way he likes. Horribly abused by her new Master, Lin becomes filled with hatred and a cold contempt of Modred and the Queen. With evil cruelty, Prince Modred is determined to break Lin’s spirit. Despite his attempts, Lin is just as determined to die before bowing to his will.  

 

Ms. Kemp has given us a brilliantly flawed heroine in Lin, a slave with a stubborn will too strong to be tamed. To her, slavery is wrong. Period. She will fight it till her dying breath; no matter how much pain it brings. This aspect of Lin’s personality may not set well with some readers because it also brought abuse down on those closest to her. But I understood exactly where Lin was coming from and felt very close to her. I loved her defiance, even if foolish and self-destructive. I cheered her on all the way, even while I waited anxiously for the retribution bound to follow.  

 

If you’re looking for a romance set in King Arthur’s court, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a beautifully written tale of the loving relationship between a brother and sister, and their daily struggle to survive the ugly, heinous life of slavery while keeping their humanity intact. Once I started The House of Pendragon, Book I: The Firebrand, I read it in one day and had trouble putting it down even long enough to take care of necessary chores. Lin and Dafydd will live long in my heart and I can’t wait to read Book II.

 

Willow

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