Book Review: A Foreign Country (With Giveaway)

Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country
by Joanne R. Larner

See below for details on how you can win a free, signed copy of

A Foreign Country!

… as well as how to get your FREE Kindle edition of 
Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third.

Not having recalled reading in the past any alternative history, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I picked up Joanne R. Larner’s debut work, Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day. To its credit, the book doesn’t take itself overly seriously, though it does present us with a marvelous package of imagination and poignant insight. Moving forward now to its sequel, A Foreign Country, we delve deeper into Rose’s brush with time travel and the last Plantagenet king.

Previously we witnessed King Richard’s appearance in our modern times; now, as the novel’s title implies, we—along with Rose, of course—journey to a land that has simultaneously fascinated and been ignored: the past. Following a year spent with the king in which he trains and they plan for his success at the “next” Battle of Bosworth, Rose marks the first anniversary of Richard’s departure by attempting renewed contact through a time fault. After some failure, she makes her way to Richard and his court, where by necessity he introduces the time traveler as “Princess Rose of Norway.”

I was pleased to see Larner repeat her pattern of using song names as chapter headings. As before, titles, not necessarily any song’s words, reflect each chapter’s events, and the author matches marvelously. An early section, titled “The Court of the Crimson King,” shows Richard as Rose first sees him on the night of a formal event:

His doublet was of a deep, dark blue, crossed with gold thread, with a thin, golden collar and edging, the fastenings down the front jeweled with pink rubies and sapphires. It enhanced the deep blue of his eyes.

 We catch further delightful glimpses in phrase, such as “sleeves slashed with lemon silk,” as Larner takes us through a wide array of songs and artists accompanying Rose and King Richard’s experiences, passages winding their way through the pair’s beings as well as the storyline, in much the same way we, too, recall movie or music lines within certain real-life contexts.

As the narrative moves forward, Richard and Rose have opportunity to get to know each other better, now in his own time, though still with the limitations he has placed on their relationship. By now he is married with children and loves his wife deeply, while maintaining a strong bond with Rose. However, suspicions arise and there is recognition that something is afoot, and while fears color ideas regarding what it all may be about, the details are clear to none, characters and readers alike. Mixed in with this are Rose’s own personal anxieties that grow stronger as time passes, until she can no longer dismiss them.

While not falling away from the plot, the author digs in a bit deeper as well, referencing mutual deals and the Hanseatic League’s stranglehold on European business interests, as well as Rose’s wry observation that bureaucracy in the fifteenth century is just as convoluted and outlandish as in her twenty-first. Even as citation, Larner’s mention of various historical trade and further political doings adds substance to her story as well as life in this era, a time many seem to perceive as made mostly of various narcissistic wars.

Brought into this mix is Leonardo da Vinci, who very much plays his own part while also mirroring the old and the new, and the mixing of the two, within the tale. We see both Richard and Rose’s roles reflected within his persona: an acceptance of other, and retention of attitudes prevalent in his own time, the contrasts creating new layers of each individual as they explore, directly or via proxy, someone else’s world. Rose and Leonardo, too, come to know one another better as Larner sketches in the artistic angle with proficiency and grace while the great polymath seeks out the new and different to examine. During one journey da Vinci

was often in a litter too, because he enjoyed looking out over the countryside and sketching in his notebook, occasionally making a caricature of one of the company. He particularly liked drawing subjects with interesting faces: those with exaggerated features, such as prominent noses, bushy eyebrows, large moles or deep wrinkles … She learned by watching him[.]

 While on one level a lighthearted and unpretentious tale, A Foreign Country works on and within others, too, that examine the world and its strange attractions, the division and meeting of these and the complicated manners in which humans respond to a variety of stimuli. Like the actors between the novel’s covers, events are typically more complicated than they appear. Still, Larner’s aim for an entertaining yarn more than succeeds as we read through the smoothly-written narrative, easily transported from one scene to the next and reluctant to put it down at any point. With a larger cast than the first book and multiple plotlines, one is eager to see where the author could possibly take this story next in the series’ final installment, Hearts Never Change. That readers mightn’t be able to conceive the path forward for Richard and Rose is not a worry, for Joanne Larner has established herself as a proficient storyteller. Given her passion for Richard III, there is also a great eagerness to travel to wherever she may wish to take us.

For your chance to win a free, signed copy of A Foreign Country, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here. All names will be entered into a giveaway and a winner drawn in two weeks.

About the author …

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy, of which A Foreign Country is the second part. This takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UKRichard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK.

Dickon’s Diaries

will be FREE on Kindle this Wednesday and Thursday, July 19 and 20. 

Click one of the Amazon links below to get yours!

Joanne has also collaborated with Susan Lamb to write a humorous book about Richard called Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third, also available on Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK. The pair will again team up for a second volume, and Joanne  is working on another Richard book, which will be called Distant Echoes and will involve a fictional technology, Richard’s DNA and his story in his own words.

To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

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A copy of Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

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Author photo courtesy Joanne R. Larner

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Book Review: Richard Liveth Yet (With Giveaway)

Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day

(Book I in the Richard Liveth Yet Trilogy)

by Joanne R. Larner

See below for how you can win a free, signed copy of this fantabulous novel!

On occasion I receive a book for review that makes me a bit nervous. Perhaps I don’t typically care for that genre, or the setting isn’t one I am usually drawn to. In this instance I was thrilled to be asked to review Joanne Larner’s Richard Liveth Yet, as it had two strong points going for it: time travel and Richard III, both of which are amongst my favorites. And that great judgment everyone makes: the cover. A painting of the author’s “fantasy Richard,” it is attractive and true to how the last Plantagenet king probably looked, with a more subtly modern appearance to its frame.

richard-liveth-yet-book-i-coverHaving also previously read time travel featuring the medieval king and later criticism of how he too quickly adapts to his new surroundings, I wondered how the author would handle his transition in this book. I knew that covering every possible nuance of the immense amount of change he would encounter would simply be impossible, that a certain amount of summary, as with the aforementioned novel, would have to occur if the story was ever to take place. So I wasn’t preoccupied with Richard moving into the modern world too fast—it was more a case of anticipation, like unwrapping a Christmas present to see what’s inside.

As it turns out, Larner knows exactly what to pick out and wrap up, and how much to leave to the imagination. As I got started I could see the novel was, as described in a showcase blurb, a lighthearted story, easy to read, perhaps not seeking to take itself too seriously.

Having said that last bit, I would caution that the tale of Richard meeting Rose and what happens between them also develops some rather poignant and lovely scenes, strong enough to bring humor into the mix and provide an all-around delight for readers every step of the way.

Like her creator, Rose Archer is an osteopath, so her experience in treating musculoskeletal problems comes in handy when she meets up with the time-transported Richard III, who suffers from painful spinal curvature. Larner cleverly avoids potential awkwardness between the two—as well as between characters and readers—by displaying Rose’s suspicion that her friend Laura, knowing of her obsession with the medieval monarch, has set her up in this situation, only to laugh at her later.

Richard, for his part, is tense but curious, periodically restraining himself for fear of sorcery or the unacceptably alien. With his behavior the author also introduces the concept that in fact a medieval man might very well have enjoyed some of our ways or technological advances if given the chance to sample them—even if the introduction entails a bit of hesitation, or he balks at other elements. Indeed, why not?

As the story moves forward, Richard and Rose get to know each other better, she introducing him to the ways of her world and he talking about his life and history, both of them at times filling in the blanks for each other. As their mutual trust begins to build and Richard’s back problems come up in conversation, he agrees to therapy, and readers are treated to a taste of time-transport humor, which mixes in a bit of Richard’s own.

From the new patient’s case history sheet:

Name: Richard Gloucestre, aka Ricardus Tertius Rex

 Date of birth: 02/10/1452

 Age: 32/561

 Address: Middleham Castle, Middleham, Wensleydale; Crosby House, London; Nottingham Castle, Nottingham; Windsor Castle, Windsor; and many others.

 Occupation: King

 Phone number: (Puzzled frown)

 Road accidents (e.g. whiplash): Was whipped occasionally as a child!!!!

 Presenting complaint: Chronic mid and low back pain and stiffness, with associated headaches, twenty years’ duration, getting worse

 Medication: Willow bark

At some point, as readers themselves know, and Rose as well, though she tries to avoid it, Richard would encounter information about his own end in all its horrifying details. They both know he cannot remain in the twenty-first century indefinitely, and they begin to develop a plan to return him to face what he must. Looming before he left his time was the Battle of Bosworth, where Rose knows he will die. With the benefit of hindsight in all the historical details in our time, continual training and Rose’s treatments and instructions how to care for himself, King Richard sets about adding to his plans for complete victory in the dreaded battle that otherwise would lead to his demise and the start of the Tudor dynasty.

rose-as-perceived-by-author
Introducing Rose Archer, the female lead character from Richard Liveth Yet.

In her introduction Larner writes that she aims for historical accuracy, though she does—and this is true of most historical novelists—take some liberties in unclear areas. This would certainly be linked to one disputed event in which John Neville, who like his brother the Kingmaker died at the chaotic Battle of Barnet, is said to have been wearing Yorkist colors beneath his armor, despite his stated allegiance to Warwick and the Lancaster cause. While there are those who call into question this version of events, Larner utilizes it to show a side of the king she and Rose both see, one who mourns for even the divided dead, recognizing the tragedy of having to choose between treasured loyalties. “I wept for [John] and Warwick. It should have been so different.”

Even Richard’s pleasures of the new age reflect what concerns him. After a particular treatment Rose asks,

“How was that, Sire?”

 “Reem!” he replied. He had heard the expression on one of the reality TV shows and used it all the time now. He never ceased to surprise her, the strange things he liked about modern life. He enjoyed the reality shows because he said they were about ‘real people with real problems and emotions.’ It seemed to be true that he genuinely cared about ordinary people.

Rose is a person who enjoys getting to and doing things, seeing various sights, and having a time-traveling visitor doesn’t stop her. In fact, her active lifestyle becomes a method of research in the pair’s aim to restore Richard to the fifteenth century, in turn revealing the author’s strength in connecting her narrative to history and significant locales within it. We are given insight into how various places appeared in Richard’s day while he takes it in, as do we, within that new moment. It brings the worlds together in a manner that guidebooks by their nature don’t, and places within it a humanity absent from such literature. We witness Richard’s responses to the changes—for better or worse—and see a bit of the reality from his time: “real people with real problems and emotions” once walked these locales and through Larner’s story their spirits continue to breathe meaning and life, allowing their significance to remain part of what continually makes these places dear to those who live or visit there now.

Also addressed in the novel is the universal effect of music, which Larner presents as scene headings named after songs on “Richard’s Playlist,” an inventory of songs included on an iPod he is gifted. While the lyrics don’t always exactly match what occurs in each passage, the titles do reflect scene content and speak to the manner in which so often music resonates with events in our lives, providing a backdrop that can comfort or even exacerbate sadness in moments when we sometimes need to let that emotion play itself out. Not only a very creative manner in which to involve Richard with music, it is also cleverly mapped because this medium would be inescapable to someone traveling to our time, it being such a large part of our lives. It being vastly important is of course true for other eras, but newer technology enables its ever presence in the day to day, and it is absolutely on target that Larner has it play such a role in the book as it does.

As historical fantasy, Richard Liveth Yet covers a lot of bases: through a magnificently-written story readers learn a great deal about historical events and possible explanations, including very plausible bits of information coming from Richard himself. It does not seek to portray him as perfect, and indeed the king admits to some of his own flaws. Narrated in third person, it enables us to get a taste of both Rose and Richard’s perspectives, as well as a reasonable evolution of their friendship and all they both encounter presented with a weight that satisfies the thirst to know how he views the modern world, without dropping into tedium. It is an exceedingly readable tale encompassing the history with a touch of romance and of course a bit of magic, leading to a conclusion we don’t expect but that primes us for the sequels, A Foreign Country and Hearts Never Change.

Larner has taken great pains to match history with her portrayal of Richard, simultaneously cracking the stereotypical portrayal of a medieval man who naturally hates everything in the new time, and in which his presence within it only chaos can ensue. In so doing she adds to his character by showcasing his willingness to examine the alien, even to embrace some, and care about the people amongst it all. She also provides an address to the controversial decision regarding his final resting place, and Richard’s own views on the matter may surprise some, while they reveal Larner’s idea of what Richard III himself finds most important.

A finely crafted novel, easy to read and carrier of a wealth of information and ideas, Richard Liveth Yet is a joy to unwrap; to encounter and witness the characters’ own discoveries and connections is a privilege, and traveling the roads of time through their eyes is indeed a gift from the author, unforgettable as it settles into our own landscape, making us all the richer.

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For your chance to win a free, signed copy of Richard Liveth Yet, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here. All names will be entered into a giveaway and a name drawn in three weeks. 

Update: Drawing November 21

About the author …

larner-author-imageJoanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UK.

Richard Liveth Yet‘s sequel, A Foreign Country, is also available for purchase at BlurbAmazon and Amazon UK.

Her third book, Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change, is almost completed and should be published on Kindle and Blurb by the end of the year.

richard-liveth-yet-book-ii-cover

hearts-never-change

To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at FacebookTwitter and her blog.

We are also delighted to note the music video, called “Richard Liveth Yet,” by the Legendary Ten Seconds, with images of locations from the book, and the book itself.

A lovely photo album of places and people depicted in Richard Liveth Yet.

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All images courtesy Joanne Larner.

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A copy of Richard Liveth Yet was provided to facilitate an honest review. 

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This post was updated to add specific date of drawing

Guest Post: Kristie Dean: On the Trail of the Yorks (Plus Giveaway)

On the Trail of Richard IIIToday I’m very excited to host Kristie Dean, author of On the Trail of Richard III (formerly The World of Richard III), which I reviewed back in August. The paperback edition is being released today in the United States and is available for purchase at Amazon.

Now Dean is back with an accompanying text, On the Trail of the Yorks, which I’ll leave for her to introduce. However, I will add that you should be sure to leave a comment because there’s a free copy to be had! Simply leave a comment–don’t fret about saying anything super snazzy–and you’ll be entered into the draw! On the Trail of the Yorks is also available for purchase here.

On the Trail of the Yorks

Part of the fun of researching On the Trail of the Yorks was visiting the places the York family had lived and loved. I especially enjoyed visiting locations that had not experienced great changes because it felt as if I could almost reach out and touch the past. When Lisl invited me to do a guest blog, I decided to share some of my pictures from the research trip. Some of these made it into the book, while others did not.

Ludlow Castle has to be one of the more picturesque castles in the British Isles. The best views of the enormous building can be gained by meandering along the Bread Walk from Ludford Bridge. Towering over the river, Ludlow can be glimpsed from the path through a mixture of tangled vines and flowers. Richard, Duke of York, was here at the castle when news reached him that the king’s troops had arrived.

Ludlow Castle

From the first moment I visited Kenilworth Castle, I was enchanted.  The castle ruins glow red in the sun and it is easy to imagine how grand it once appeared as Richard approached it towards the end of his reign. ­­The garden in the castle is a recreation of a Tudor garden and is exquisite. A garden certainly existed at Kenilworth in Richard’s time as well.

Kenilworth Castle

Calais was an unexpected delight. I arrived early in the morning and made my way to the center of the city. After parking my rental car, I walked to Église de Notre Dame where George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville likely married. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations, but I was able to make my way around the outside before walking on to the harbor. Calais was largely destroyed in the twentieth century and not much remains of the city as Richard and his brothers would have known it.

Calais
Église de Notre Dame

Bruges, Belgium is a place that I hope to return to time and again. Picturing Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, as she rode in a lavish procession through the city following her marriage to Charles, was incredibly easy. The city center still retains its medieval feel and there is so much to offer a visitor interested in history. Of all the places that I visited for the first time on my research trip for On the Trail of Richard III, it was my favorite. Take a ride on the canal, wander the twisting, winding medieval streets, or climb to the top of the belfry for an amazing view.

Bruges

Anne Neville married Edward of Lancaster at the Château d’Amboise in France. I was doubly excited to visit the château since Anne Boleyn also stayed there for a time. The day I visited was a gorgeous sunny one, with the creamy white building shimmering against the backdrop of the sparkling blue sky. As I strolled through the gardens, I pictured a young Anne Neville doing the same as she contemplated her marriage to her family’s former enemy.

Chateau d'Amboise
Château d’Amboise

Cecily Neville is believed to have been born at Raby Castle. While little of the interior is the same as it was in her time, the exterior still resembles the castle Cecily knew. A visit to Raby Castle can take a few hours and the interior is accessible via a guided tour. On one of my visits I was lucky enough to see several of the deer that still roam Raby’s deer park. Although I have been several times, I always manage a visit to the parish church in Staindrop.

Raby

Ewelme, in Oxfordshire, was another delightful surprise. Elizabeth, the fifth child and second daughter of Cecily and Richard, married John de la Pole, the son of William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer. She and John would have visited Ewelme often, especially when Alice was still alive. Within the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, a large alabaster tomb rests between the nave and the chapel of St. John the Baptist. This elaborately decorated tomb contains an effigy of Alice wearing a ducal coronet.

Ewelme

Eltham Palace was a favorite of Edward IV. He was responsible for the construction of the Great Hall. Today, the only way to visit the hall is by buying a ticket to tour the Art Deco palace. I thought I would rush through the palace and make my way immediately to the hall, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 1930s interior.

Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace

Lincoln Cathedral is a must-see for any visitor to England. The soaring cathedral was reputedly once the tallest building in the world. Not a single detail was overlooked in its construction and it is a beautiful place to visit. Nearby is the Medieval Bishops’ Palace where Richard likely stayed on his visit to the city. I also enjoyed visiting Gainsborough Old Hall, a short distance away. Richard was a guest here overnight.

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Gainsborough Old Hall

About the author…

Kristie Dean is the author of On the Trail of Richard III (formerly The World of Richard III) and On the Trail of the Yorks, both available from Amberley Publishing. When not travelling for research, you can find her at home with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

Many, many thanks to Kristie Dean for stopping by for a visit and sharing her beautiful photos with us!

Remember to comment below to get your name in the drawing for a FREE COPY of On the Trail of the Yorks.

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My Tottering TBR: Currently on My Night Table

Today in my importing I skip ahead a bit to introduce a new series rolled out recently and share once more while it is still current. 

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I know you all love books so here is another new series for your perusal. “My Tottering TBR” today will show off a few works my eyes are currently roving–that is, have actually started and are actively reading. Other angles will pop up as the series goes along and I hope you enjoy the titles.

(Blurbs are provided with links to other interesting stuff. Hyperlinked titles indicate an author or book’s direct page; others lead to related sites but I will always ensure there is an author link there.)

The World of Richard III by Kristie Dean

world of richard iiiRichard III remains one of the most controversial rulers in history. Whether he was guilty of murdering his nephews or not is a mystery that perhaps will never be solved. Even the location of the battlefield where, on 22 August 1485, Richard was struck down, has been a matter of debate. This book leads you on a journey through the landscape of Richard’s lifetime.

Following Richard’s trail, you will visit resplendent castles, towering cathedrals, manor homes and chapels associated with Richard. The Middle Ages come alive again as you visit Tewkesbury Abbey, where Richard helped his brother secure his throne. Witness the stunning vista of Wensleydale as you visit Middleham Castle, Richard’s adopted childhood home. Each location is brought to life through engaging narrative and an extensive collection of photographs, floor plans and images.

Added note: This book has since been read. To access the review click here.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

[Cover image to be replaced]

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon as she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord. . . 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire–and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Sextant by David Barrie

[Cover image to be replaced]

In the tradition of Dava Sobel’s Longitude comes this dramatic tale of invention and discovery–an eloquent elegy to one of the most important navigational instruments ever created, and to the daring mariners who used it to explore, conquer and map the world.

Barrie takes readers straight to the helm of some of history’s most important expeditions, interweaving these heroic tales with the account of his own transatlantic passage as a young man. A heady mix of adventure, science, mathematics, and derring-do, Sextant is infused with a sense of wonder and discovery. At once a dramatic history of maritime endeavor and a love letter to the sea and sky, it is timeless storytelling at its best.

Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech by Charles Slack

[Cover image to be replaced]

When the United States government passed the Bill of Rights in 1791, its uncompromising protection of speech and of the press were unlike anything the world had ever seen before. But by 1798, the once-dazzling young republic of the United States was on the verge of collapse: partisanship gripped the weak federal government, British seizures threatened American goods and men on the high seas, and war with France seemed imminent as its own democratic revolution deteriorated into terror. Suddenly, the First Amendment, which protected harsh commentary of the weak government, no longer seemed as practical. So that July, President John Adams and the Federalists in control of Congress passed an extreme piece of legislation that made criticism of the government and its leaders a crime punishable by heavy fines and jail time. In Liberty’s First Crisis, writer Charles Slack tells the story of the 1798 Sedition Act, the crucial moment when high ideals met real-world politics and the country’s future hung in the balance.

From a loudmouth in a bar to a firebrand politician to Benjamin Franklin’s own grandson, those victimized by the Sedition Act were as varied as the country’s citizenry. But Americans refused to let their freedoms be so easily dismissed: they penned fiery editorials, signed petitions and raised “liberty poles,” while Vice President Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drew up the infamous Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, arguing that the Federalist government had gone one step too far. Liberty’s First Crisis vividly unfolds these events in the early life of the republic, as the Founding Fathers struggled to define America off the page and preserve the freedoms they had fought so hard to create.

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I’d love to hear back from you on any of these or other titles you might recommend!

Note: This post recently appeared in the blog’s alternative location and has been updated since original publication to include a link to the review for The World of Richard III.

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Cover images courtesy their respective authors.

Book Review: The World of Richard III

The World of Richard III by Kristie Dean

world of richard iiiWith the recent re-internment and increased interest in Richard III, it is not surprising there would be a flurry of new publications related to the last Plantagenet king. While we all read at least a smattering of the Wars of the Roses (WoR), for many these studies belonged to bygone days, but the attention generated by these new books has brought the monarch to a wider audience. With The World of Richard III author Kristie Dean takes a new approach by bringing us to Richard. As closely as it is possible to do, she escorts us to and around the world he inhabited via the places he had visited, seeing or imagining what he observed and how he may have perceived it.

St. Mary's Church, Barnard Castle~A carving of Richard's emblem, the boar
St. Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle~A carving of Richard’s emblem, the boar

The work is a combination of travel information and history focused on places lived in or visited by Richard Plantagenet, from birth to his time as Gloucester, through his two years of kingship and finally, his death. Organized in seven major parts that span these courses of Richard’s life and in a loose chronological order, subsections then turn their attention to specific places associated with him on various occasions. As the author takes us from point to point there is some overlap, given that Richard visited certain locations several times, and Dean handles this seamlessly and without repetition. An extensive collection of beautiful photographs enables readers to follow along visually as they move forward.

Gatehouse at Middleham Castle~This is the entrance Richard would have used to reach the inner courtyard
Gatehouse at Middleham Castle~This is the entrance Richard would have used to reach the inner courtyard

The book is set up in a very practical manner, and the convenience will appeal to both armchair traveler as well as visitors to these amazing monuments. The table of contents lists the locations—including geographical—within each section in the event one wanted to access information about a specific site. While readers come in close contact throughout the book with the medieval practice of “recycling” names (first as well as surnames), Dean also provides a York family tree that sensibly and easily maps out the “who’s who,” helping to alleviate common confusions, for instance between Richard III (Gloucester) and his father, also called Richard (York). Years also are provided for clarification of events, such as the Duke of York and Salsbury’s flight to Ireland and Calais (1459), and their deaths in 1460, the latter of which is necessarily presented first.

A “how to” also briefly introduces the setup and points out helpful details such as contact information (phone as well as website), opening times, prices and postcode, which struck me not only as practical but also a blessing in disguise because many travelers—myself included—might get bogged down in their movements. In such instances it has happened that it doesn’t occur (to me and others) to check ahead about such additional details as cash machine availability, non-regular closures or waiting periods. Dean covers these and other crucial details and tips to contribute to a fascinating and rewarding journey.

The World of Richard III is presented in language that is a combination between necessarily practical and beautifully rhythmic, and Dean’s strength is being able to fuse the two in passages that complement each other. Ordinary words have the power to transfix, and the sense of peering through a veil is never far off. “But pause for a moment,” she advises at one point. “You are standing where he would have stood, with only the thin veil of time between you. It is a heady feeling.”

Church of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints, Fotheringhay
Church of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints, Fotheringhay

Dean speaks of Fotheringhay, Richard’s birthplace, in conjunction with how the “River Nene winds around the mound and disappears in the distance”; of the spires of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints and a “sleepy river,” adding that “[d]uring Richard’s time, the river would have been humming with activity. On Richard and Edward’s visit in 1469 the view would have been one of constant commotion as people scurried about to meet the king.” As readers we are privileged to catch this glimpse of Richard re-visiting his roots and taking care of and pride in who he is.

Nottingham Castle~This was one of Richard's most visited castles, and where he and Anne learned the dreadful news of their son Edward's death.
Nottingham Castle~This was one of Richard’s most visited castles, and where he and Anne learned the dreadful news of their son Edward’s death.

The ideal of knowing who you are based on where you are is deeply embedded in the travelogue and Dean awards sense of place its rightful due by “illuminat[ing] his character through the places and events that shaped him into the man he became.” Indeed, many events prior to Richard contribute to place and shared history, and to this end the author also unpacks some of these events to give readers a greater sense of what it may have meant to Richard himself. She often invites readers to imagine Richard at a certain place, or to see something lovely or meaningful through his eyes, and it is not difficult to contemplate Richard as an individual rather than a noble, duke, monarch or distant historical figure. Speaking of the Painted Chamber, once the scene of a momentous occasion, Dean elaborates how

…the sun would cast a rosy glow through the four windows in the chamber, illuminating the decorative paintings that graced its interior. Even the arches over the windows were covered with paintings, mostly heraldic images. It is easy to imagine Richard pausing from his duties as king and admiring these magnificent works of art with their deep hues of vermillion, ochre, and verdigris.

Penrith Castle, Cumbria~Dean writes of the "sandstone glowing in the sun" and tells readers that "English Heritage credits him with adding large windows." It is easy to imagine how breathtaking the scenery would have been, from inside and out.
Penrith Castle, Cumbria~Dean writes of the “sandstone glowing in the sun” and tells readers
that “English Heritage credits him with adding large windows.” It is easy to
imagine how breathtaking the scenery would have been, from inside and out.

The author does not, however, romanticize Richard as someone he was not, and to that end she retains an extensive and admirable neutrality regarding his controversial life and opposing views as to what kind of person he was. Indeed more than once she references Lancastrians and Tudors within their humanity and expresses compassion regarding their losses. She does not seek to disparage and the questions raised about Richard pertaining to his nephews et al. are not addressed here.

For this reason, The World of Richard III is likely to appeal to admirers of any era, WoR, prior or subsequent to, as well as those unfamiliar with even key players or events of Richard’s time. Those mildly or deeply interested in the Middle Ages, castles, cathedrals, architecture, travel, monarchy, and where we come from all will find rewards within the pages of this book. It is a history and reads not unlike a story, accessible and fascinating, bringing to life not only details of past lives, but also portraits of individual people who lived and loved, and sometimes lost in a time they recorded, deliberately and not, in the places they lived. We are brought to these magnificent locations and shown their splendor within the framework of one life influenced by countless others. We follow the trail of Richard, whose memories might include much of what is presented here, and in so doing learn a great deal more about who we ourselves are.

Warwick Castle was an historic building even in Richard's day. Despite frequenting magnificent buildings, Dean writes, "Richard may still have been awed by the castle's grandeur."
Warwick Castle was an historic building even in Richard’s day. Despite frequenting magnificent buildings, Dean writes, “Richard may still have been awed by the castle’s grandeur.”

About the Author:
Kristie DeanKristie Dean has an MA in History and now enjoys teaching the subject, following a successful career in public relations. She has been published in several online magazines and local newspapers, and presented a paper at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. She lives in Tennessee, where she is currently working on her upcoming book, The World of the Yorks, which features locations associated with the York family.

You can find more about Dean and her work at her website, her Facebook page and that of The World of Richard III.

The World of Richard III by Kristie Dean is published by Amberley Publishing, 2015. It is available to buy at all good bookstores, as well as online at the Amberley website, Amazon, Amazon UK and the Book Depository.

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A copy of The World of Richard III was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review. All images courtesy Kristie Dean.