Monday, October 28, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Assassin (Lady Grace Mysteries 1) by Lady Grace Cavendish -- Middle Grades Historical Mystery

Lady Grace Cavendish is a Maid of Honour in Queen Elizabeth I's court. Her parents died in service to the Queen and left her in care of the good Queen. While the Queen has Grace's best interests at heart, sometimes Grace chafes against the restrictions placed on her. She enjoys running, climbing trees and associating with unsuitable people like her friend Ellie, a laundry maid and Masou, an acrobat. Grace is approaching her 13th year and it's time to choose a husband. Grace has three suitors: Sir Charles Amesbury, who is fun but really old (older than the 36 year old Queen); Sir Gerald Worthy, the arrogant nephew of her guardian and stammering young Lord Robert Radcliffe of Worcester. Naturally, Grace plans to choose Lord Robert even if he can't get two words out and the gossips say he's broke. When one of the suitors ends up dead and another accused, Grace can't let an innocent man hang. She's given permission by the Queen to make discreet inquiries and stumbles upon mystery after mystery. She hopes she can solve the case before it's too late. Grace chronicles all her adventures in her daybooke. This story is chock full of period details of life in the Elizabethan court and some of them are not pretty.  I like the inclusion of lower class characters and the cultural practices surrounding death. Grace is a spunky, fun heroine, but she doesn't seem very realistic for the period. She's a tomboy who is more at home climbing trees than curtseying. That I don't mind but she has some very modern thoughts about love and marriage and sometimes about class consciousness and court etiquette. This part of her character doesn't ring true. She seems like a modern girl plunked down in the Elizabethan era. The mysteries are not too difficult to figure out. I was way ahead of Grace in what and who. I didn't figure out why though. That came as a bit of a surprise. This series is best suited for the target age range (9-12). The mystery is too simple for adults.Fashion history fanatics will love the descriptions of the sumptuous outfits worn by the court ladies. I enjoyed learning how a woman got dressed and all the layers of clothing worn. I needed to consult the dictionary in the back to know exactly what each piece was. The book could have used some illustrations to show the reader the clothing.

Betrayal  (Lady Grace Mysteries 2) by Lady Grace Cavendish -- Middle Grades Historical Mystery

Lady Grace is back. This time the Queen is on summer progress and the Maids of Honour are along too. There's a new maid, the lovely Lady Jane Coningsby who immediately becomes the rival of the beautiful Lady Sarah Bartelmy.  They vie for the attention of the handsome Captain Francis Drake (still an unknown, not yet knighted) and his friend Captain Hugh Derby. When Lady Sarah doesn't return home, Grace is worried. She discovers evidence that Lady Sarah has eloped with Captain Drake! Her reputation will be ruined if word gets out so Grace sets off to discover Lady Sarah's whereabouts. She uncovers alarming evidence that Lady Sarah may not have gone willingly and soon Lady Grace, disguised as a boy, and Masou are on board Drake's ship posing as ship's boys and searching for Sarah. They must find her before something drastic happens and she loses her reputation for good. This story is downright silly. I'm Ok with gender-bending stories a la Shakespeare but this one was downright stupid. Grace acts without thinking and gets herself into a lot of trouble. The story hints at what may happen to Sarah without outright saying anything the target age group may be confused or disturbed by. As an adult, I can easily imagine what Sarah's fate may be. The mystery wasn't much of a surprise. I guessed it right away. The conclusion came as a bit of a fun surprise and made me like Lady Sarah a lot more. The details of life on board a ship are really realistic and very gross. I needed the dictionary to understand all the nautical terms. There are much better, similar stories for younger readers and I didn't really care for this one much. This series seems best suited for 9-12 year olds and not for teen or adult readers. I don't plan to track down the rest.

The e-edition of this two-in-one volume is free from any errors. It looks just like a print hardcover book.

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