Sunday, March 11, 2012
Attention historical fiction lovers! D.L. Bogdan, author of Secrets in the Tudor Court and it's prequel, Rivals in the Tudor Court has brought readers yet another book that brings the characters within it to life with a vibrancy and depth I rarely see. Bogdan's latest book The Sumerton Women tells the story of Cecily and Mirabella Pierce; two women whose lives intertwine to create a relationship of love and loathing that perhaps only true sisters could understand.
Young Cecily Burkhart is first introduced to the Pierce family when she is orphaned during the sweating sickness of 1528. The Pierce family is kind, welcoming Cecily with open arms as a daughter, sister, and future wife to the heir to the Pierce fortune, Brey. Cecily quickly warms to her new family and learns the joys and torments of having siblings, finding in the Pierce children Brey and the eldest Mirabella the brother and sister she never had. Brey is an open and loving child who quickly becomes Cecily's constant companion whereas Mirabella is difficult and intense; filled with a burning desire to become a nun. The family chaplain, Alec Cahill is the family's spiritual advisor as well as the children's beloved tutor. Father Alec must guide the Pierces through the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII and help them weather the religious changes forced upon the country by his break with Rome and later the ascendancy of his protestant son Edward VI.
The family travels to London in 1533 to witness the coronation of Anne Boleyn who intrigues Cecily with her determination and her ability to wrest the King from the arms of his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Tragedy strikes however in the midst of the celebrations when the heir to the Sumerton title, Brey, dies suddenly from a bout of what is most likely appendicitis. Death continues to stalk to the family when Lady Sumerton ends her life by throwing herself into the Thames following the death of her only son and a night of startling and dark family revelations. I don't want to give away the entire plot of the book but I will say that the truths that are revealed irrevocably change the family and the relationships of those within it forever.
Darkness descends upon Sumerton Place after so much death and Mirabella flees to the neighboring convent, taking shelter in the quiet cloister and living the devout and religious life she had always dreamed of. In Henry VIII's England, however, religious houses are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Mirabella is not long into her life as a novice nun when the King's soldiers come to disband the abbey and strip it of it's treasures. Mirabella attempts to make a stand against the King's men only to bring more tragedy upon herself. Denied her vocation Mirabella spends the next years of her life in turmoil, wreaking havoc on those she loves through her twisted sense of right and wrong and her ardent religious fervor.
Cecily, meanwhile is busy bringing light back into the Pierce family. Upon the death of her betrothed and her foster mother Lady Grace Cecily instead marries Lord Sumerton. Somehow she is able to put aside the fact that he has been her adopted father for many years and become the new Lady Sumerton. Though this would not have been uncommon at the time it is a rather shocking turn of events! She and Lord Sumerton have several happy years together and a new family is born from the broken hearts and minds of the old. Father Alec returns as a tutor to the children of Cecily and Hal and all live happily until... I'm going to leave you guessing! I will say however that it was a turn of events that I was not expecting! You'll just have to read The Sumerton Women to find out how life turns out for Cecily, Hal, Mirabella, and Father Alec! You can buy it here: