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The Lost Queen by Carol McGrath #Review

  We travel back to the 12th Century for this gorgeous historical novel, The Lost Queen by Carol McGrath . It was published by Headline Accent on 18th July. 1191 and the Third Crusade is underway . .  It is 1191 and King Richard the Lionheart is on crusade to pitch battle against Saladin and liberate the city of Jerusalem and her lands. His mother, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and his promised bride, Princess Berengaria of Navarre, make a perilous journey over the Alps in midwinter. They are to rendezvous with Richard in the Sicilian port of Messina. There are hazards along the way - vicious assassins, marauding pirates, violent storms and a shipwreck. Berengaria is as feisty as her foes and, surviving it all, she and Richard marry in Cyprus. England needs an heir. But first, Richard and his Queen must return home . . . The Lost Queen is a thrilling medieval story of high adventure, survival, friendship and the enduring love of a Queen for her King.   My Thoughts

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy



Under the Greenwood Tree was published anonymously in 1872. Subtitled, A Rural Painting of the Dutch School, it was the first of Hardy's Wessex Novels. I chose to read it as it opens on Christmas Eve, which seemed appropiate given the time of year. The Mellstock Church Choir are in the midst of their Christmas celebrations and we are introduced to a group of musicians and singers who are all drawn from west country folk. As they make their way around the villages, carol singing, they meet the new school mistress, Fancy Day. Of course one of the choir, Dick Dewey is enamoured and the story of their courtship begins. As the story unfolds, other would be suitors compete for her affections. All the rivals are drawn from different strata of society and Fancy is tempted by each one.

Alongside the romantic story line, we also glimpse the march of progress which is changing life in the rural villages in the nineteenth century. The Mellstock Male Choir with its fiddlers are to be replaced as the new vicar has obtained a new church organ. He is keen to modernise the local customs and also wishes to impress Fancy Day who is persuaded to play. It is agreed that the choir will bow out on a special day in the year and they try to accept the change with dignity. 

There are several allusions in the novel to the changing times. Older models of courtship are remembered. The pattern of the book is set by the seasons as is the life of the villagers. I enjoyed the comic aspects of the novel which ended on a bittersweet note. An early novel being Hardy's second published novel, you can glimpse some of the themes which he dealt with in much more detail in subsequent stories: a pastoral way of life which is changing,fate and chance, progress, the passing of time and the consequences of human frailty.  

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