Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Canterbuy Papers by Judith Koll Healey (Historical mystery)

Description from goodreads:

Set in lavishly described medieval England and France, The Canterbury Papers is an enthralling and suspenseful debut novel combining dark family secrets, duplicity, and a missing heir to the throne.

The wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and then of England, sends her former ward, Alaïs, the sister of the king of France, to retrieve a cache of letters hidden in Canterbury Cathedral. Letters that, in the wrong hands, could bring down the English king. In return, Eleanor promises to reveal a long-held and dangerous secret involving Alaïs -- a bargain the French princess is powerless to resist.

Before Alaïs can complete her mission, she is abducted, an event that sets in motion a dangerous plot. It will require all of Alaïs's considerable strengths, along with help from the very intriguing leader of the Knights Templar, to unravel dark secrets, unmask evil villains, and escape with her life.

My thoughts:

When I was in college, it was a well known fact that I am not a fan of medieval history. However, through recent viewings of Simon Schama's A History of Britain (the best documentary series ever, imo), I have found I am fascinated by Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. As The Canterbury Papers is set during that time period, I decided to borrow the book from the library.

Alaïs is a French princess who had been pledged to marry Henry and Eleanor's son Richard. She had grown up in the English court. The Canterbury Tales takes place years after her childhood, at the opening of the book, she is a mature woman living at the court of her brother King Philippe of France. She is asked, by Eleanor, to travel to Canterbury to retrieve letters Eleanor sent to Thomas a Becket years earlier. In return for these letters, Eleanor promises to tell Alaïs the truth about her past.

Alaïs' journey is a tale of intrigue, which kept me guessing until the very end. The true allegiances of many characters were not revealed until the end. I often found myself wondering aloud what would happen next.

The Canterbury Papers is subtitled a novel of suspense, I found it to be a novel which kept me guessing until the very end.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer

From the back cover:

Three best friends, three cherished dreams, three searching hearts...

As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a special plan for the future. Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to study to become a minister. And Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible. But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of World War I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them as well.

When Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

My thoughts:

I always enjoy Kim Vogel Sawyer's novels, and In Every Heartbeat was no exception. I looked forward to reading this one, because the time just prior to World War I is one of my favorite historical periods. It was very interesting to see college life in the early 20th century.

I felt In Every Heartbeat had a little bit of a slow start, however it picked up once the situation with Pete's family was introduced. Unlike Libby and Bennett, Pete's parents are still alive, and he bears the emotional scars of their abandonment. This was my favorite part of the book.

While Libby and Pete's stories were tied up very well, Bennett's story was left incomplete at the end. I would love to see a second book focusing on Bennett.