Mary and I may have first met in person at the HNS Conference in Denver, but she actually gave me the most wonderful gift before that. She wrote the very first review for my very first novel, The Lady of the Tower. And it was a fair and encouraging one. Four stars. For a newby author! I was over the moon. Mary and I have stayed in touch over the years, reading each other’s work and encouraging each other on. Her most recent novels, The Admiral’s Wife and Paris in Ruins, are wonderful historical fiction books set in fascinating locations with compelling characters. I am so grateful for her fabulous new review of The Godmother’s Secret (Five Stars! Hurrah!). More here:
Elizabeth St. John crafts her story with all the ingredients of successful historical fiction:
- Superb writing – Elizabeth combines both narrative and dialogue in a way that flows easily and engages the reader in her characters, the plot, and the tension that is at the heart of the novel. She weaves in phrases and words that are authentic to the time period but never intrude on the story.
- Dramatic arc of historical events – the story begins in 1470 during the Wars of the Roses when Edward IV is king and Lady Elysabeth Scrope is chosen to be the king’s son Prince Edward’s godmother. When Edward IV dies, the succession is thrown into turmoil and Elysabeth does everything in her power to protect the prince and his younger brother. The central question: did the young princes die in the Tower of London, and if so, who killed them? And if not, where did they go?
- Characters both heroic and human – central to the story are Elysabeth Scrope, Richard III (formerly Duke of Gloucester and brother to Edward IV), the Duke of Buckingham (another brother), Margaret Beaufort (Elysabeth’s half-sister), Elysabeth’s husband Lord John/Jack Scrope, and the two princes. Each of these characters plays a significant role, but it is Elysabeth who carries the main storyline and whose courage, love, wisdom, and tenaciousness hold our attention. Elizabeth St. John truly gets inside the character of Elysabeth Scrope and brings her to life.
- Immersed in time and place – the story held me in the 15th century through its use of language, dialogue, imagery, fashion, customs, food, and many other aspects. The Wars of the Roses is a confusing time, however, the author kept me well anchored as the plot unfolded.
- Corridors of power – powerful lords vying for superiority, scheming men and women grasping for power while pitting both sides against one another, the rules of succession from one king to another, the roles that women played both sanctioned and unsanctioned. Totally fascinating.
- Authentic and educational – Elizabeth St. John tackles the question of whether Richard III had his nephews killed. Her portrayal of Richard is both sympathetic and critical. She reveals the challenges facing families with divided loyalties during the Wars of the Roses and takes us through the change of dynasties from the York family to the Tudor family.
- Ageless themes – for me duty, responsibility, the corrupting influence of wealth and power, divided loyalties, and the power of love emerge as the themes of The Godmother’s Secret.
- High stakes – for Elysabeth the stakes are very high. Can she protect the prince she is sworn to protect? Can she hold onto her husband’s love? Should she remain loyal to her sister despite evidence of her sister’s traitorous actions? For others, the stakes are life and death, power or obscurity, loyalty or dishonour.
- Sex and love – love is a major focus for the novel. The love Elysabeth has for her husband; the love she develops for her godson; the love of family; conflicting loves.
- Dysfunctional families – yes, definitely! Brothers betraying one another. A sister who can’t be trusted. Two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet – Lancaster and York – at war.