Matilda Bone – Karen Cushman

f3cf55b3b4f2c1959707a486777434f414f4141Matilda has been brought up by the manor priest since her father, the lord’s clerk, died. But he’s been called to London, and she’s being left to stay with Peg, the bonesetter. It’s a completely different life than Matilda’s used to, and it takes some getting used to, but she learns to like the new world she’s been thrown into.

I really like Cushman’s historical stories- she’ll focus on the story of a young person, and layer in a lot of other interesting history around them. This book gives you an interesting overview of medieval medicine, as well as the contrast between the church and lay people. It’s a charming story – I read it in one night.

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Jane and the Wandering Eye – Stephanie Barron

380c536451d9019597937685977434f414f4141Jane is back in Bath, absolutely not enjoying herself, and is more than happy to accept a commission from Lord Harold Trowbridge to keep an eye on his niece, the Lady Desdemona. At a party given by Mona’s grandmother, a shocking murder occurs, drawing Jane into the world of the Bath theatre.

Yes, this is Jane Austen solving mysteries. And it’s completely anachronistic. (At least in this book, her family starts commenting that she’s spending a bit too much time in some rather unladylike pursuits.) But it’s all good fun, and other than Jane not really being Jane, the author layers in a lot of other interesting historical flavor.

Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer

d32d119efcdb32959746b396c67434f414f4141In this sequel to These Old Shades, Leonie and the Duke of Avon are long married, with a son – the Marquis of Vidal – who’s all grown up, and stepping into his father’s former rakish ways.

When a duel goes wrong, Vidal’s strongly advised to leave the country until it’s clear if his opponent will live or die. He’s been paying court to a very silly girl named Sophia, and convinces her to run away with him. But it’s Sophia’s older sister, Mary, that receives his message of where to meet, and determined to save her sister, she takes her place.

Vidal’s initially furious, and thinking her as loose as her sister, brings her along to France, but he quickly discovers that she’s actually a lady of some quality, and he’s now ruined her reputation, and needs to do something about it.

Honestly, this story reads pretty badly if you stop and think about it all. You really need to suspend disbelief and go into this as a sort of fantasy, because the characters are sparkling, and are enjoying themselves. If you can keep that in your mind, it’s a fun story. If you can’t take things written a while ago with a grain of salt, avoid this book.

The Raven in the Foregate – Ellis Peters

d73c161c49fcab75939617a5767434f414f4141The priest of the lay parish attached to the Abbey has died, and when the Abbot returns from a meeting of the English church fathers, he brings a replacement with him. Father Ailnoth brings with him a housekeeper and her nephew, a young lad who’s quickly volunteered for help for Brother Cadfael.

The old priest, Father Adam, had been beloved by his parishioners, having his finger right on the pulse of exactly how hard to push his parishioners when they had sinned, but not going overboard with punishment. Father Ailnoth is not that kind, and quickly alienates the entire parish. On Christmas night, before services, Cadfael sees him leave the church to head into town, and he’s never seen alive again. There are too many suspects- including his housekeeper’s nephew, who clearly has a much more interesting background than originally presented.

There is an interesting twist to perpetrator of this crime – I will fully admit I did’t see it coming. Other than that, this didn’t feel like a particular original story compared the others that came before. There definitely seemed to be a combination of elements of other stories that came together to make this one. It’s not bad because of this, just not one of my favorites. (I probably partially feel this way because the last book has a very interesting central plot, and this one just can’t compare.)

Faro’s Daughter – Georgette Heyer

d6f8246d2c73b0259385a625a67434f414f4141Lord Maplethorpe is just about to reach his majority when his mother pays his older cousin, Max Ravenscar, a visit. It seems Maplethorpe has become completely enamored with a girl at one of the gaming houses, and means to marry her. Ravenscar is himself a noted gamesman, so quickly heads over to get a lay of the land.

Deb Grantham lives with her aunt, Lady Bellingham, who has gotten in a bit over her head trying to make ends meet. Their gaming house is a little less genteel than originally planned, but with a mortgage hanging over their heads, they have little choice but to continue on. When Ravenscar attempts to bribe Deb to leave Lord Maplethorpe alone, she’s so offended she vows to marry Maplethorpe just to annoy Ravenscar.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. Neither of the protagonists were actually particularly likeable, and their schemes were just ridiculously far-fetched. I did make to the end – there was just enough fun there to make me wonder how it would ultimately work out.

Longbourn – Jo Baker

80e871af1d947fc59702f7a6867434f414f4141I’ve been leery of Pride and Prejudice retellings in recent years – they jumped the shark a while ago, but this particular story is told from the point of view of the Bennetts’ servants, and had really good reviews, so I decided to jump on it when it came up as a Kindle deal. And I really enjoyed it.

The nice thing is that it deals very little with the actual story of Pride and Prejudice – it only dips in and out, at the points in the story where the servants were visible. And the servants’ stories exist mostly independently of the Bennetts, which makes this work. The dependencies make sense – Wickham is fully as reprehensible as he is in the other world, but the story is also really only dealing with the things that are important to the servants. I found it refreshing, really.

That said, I now really need to go back and read the original book – I was left with a bad taste in my mouth for the Bennetts’ side of things, which makes sense in relation to the servants’ story, but is not what I want to be left with for a feeling overall, of that particular story’s world.

An Excellent Mystery – Ellis Peters

dc5a85894c45fdf593255635267434f414f4141This Brother Cadfael book actually isn’t about a murder, for a change.

After Winchester was sacked as part of the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, the brothers of the Benedictine monastery there have scattered to neighboring monasteries. Brothers Humilis and Fidelis have come to Shrewsbury, which is near where Brother Humilis was born. Before he became a brother, he was a crusader, and a wound from his time then will be the death of him, and probably soon. It’s his last wish to return to the place of his birth.

His former lieutenant, Nicholas Harnage, comes to find Humilis. It was Nicholas that had to break the word to the girl that Humilis was to marry that he was a broken man, and would be unable to wed. Nicholas has never forgotten the girl, and three years later, has come to find Humilis to ask his permission to pursue this girl, if she is not yet wed. Humilis has no objections, so Nicholas rides to her family home, which is also near Shrewsbury. And there, he uncovers a mystery, for Julian Cruce supposedly took the veil shortly after her engagement was ended, but no one at the nunnery she supposedly entered has ever heard of her.

What follows is a story all about fidelity. If you’re paying attention, it’s not long a true mystery – what the real mystery is is how everything that has happened to a number of people will be resolved, and I very much enjoyed that story.