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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes

This is a rich and engaging story of a young girl who tries to help a King.
by Margaret Campbell Barnes
    Mary of Carisbrooke: The Girl Who Would Not Betray Her King
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781402255953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402255953
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4.25

Product Description
"Margaret Campbell Barnes has been one of the most reliable of England's historical novelists."
-Chicago Tribune
A Girl, A King, and the castle that changed them both Forever...
Charles I, king of England, thought that Carisbrooke Castle would be safe, an Isle of Wight refuge far from the madding crowd of Cromwell. But Charles ran straight into the arms of betrayal, his retreat morphing to prison and his allies few and far between.

Mary, a quiet servant girl in awe of her king and country, vaults into intrigue and danger as she helps to plot the king's escape.

A moving story of royal hopes and misfortunes, Mary of Carisbrooke is at its heart the tale of a charming girl who is as romantic and alluring as she is smart and bold. Loyal to herself and to the Crown, Mary's brush with history reveals just how quickly fate can shift the paths of power.
Review: A beautifully written tale blending sweetness and sadness.

Mary is a quiet girl of 17 with a sunny disposition and a helpful nature. Her father is the Sergeant of the Guard at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.  Mary helps her Aunt Druscilla who is the housekeeper of the small household. Although they have to deal with the soldiers who came recently from London, the political struggles between the Cromwellian Parliament and King Charles I mean little to Mary and the other Islanders.

Mary’s quite life changes when the King, with several faithful retainers, escapes from Hampton Court, and seeks refuge at Carisbrooke Castle. Although the King and his supporters thought he was being granted sanctuary, the Governor is a staunch “servant of Parliament” who promptly sends word to Parliament for instructions on how to handle the King’s ‘visit.’

The story portrays Mary’s dedication, gentleness, caring nature and quiet courage. She serves the King with dignity not only as a laundress but also by becoming involved with the intrigue of passing secret letters, planning and helping with escape attempts. Unfortunately, poor planning, problems and betrayal beset the escape efforts and one by one the King’s friends are removed from him.  Mary becomes a source of comfort listening to his distress and trying to encourage him.

All of the King’s men, old and young, find Mary’s innocence and steadfastness to be charming. Mary blossoms into womanhood responding to the warm friendship of Harry Firebrace, the Groom of the Bedchamber. One of the other servants of the King, Richard Osborne, who has a bit of a reputation, tries to warn Mary to protect her heart.  Meanwhile Mary is threatened by the unwanted attentions of the leering Captain Rolph who is fiercely ambitious and opposed to the King.

The author does a wonderful job setting the tone as I felt a sense of sadness and tragedy even though I did not know how the King’s story would end. The characters are developed with unique depths that make them very real, whether likeable or detestable. Some of the characters are caught in the political machinations and their ambivalence is conveyed as they are caught between official duty and private feelings.

The book started a bit slowly but I think that is part of the somber ambiance. It soon picked up and the intrigue, dangers, and personal relationships kept me engaged and wanting to know what happened to the King and to Mary. There are plenty of rich details creating a vivid picture of the Isle and Castle. These enhance the smooth flow of the story.  If you enjoy historical fiction don’t miss this tender story.
Thank you to Sourcebooks for the book to read and review.

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