In 1647 Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland, being imprisoned by the Cromwellian Parliament in hopes of forcing the king into reforms, escaped to the Isle of Wight. Having fond memories of this traditionally royalist island and believing he could find safety there, he brought the turmoil of the mainland to the doorstep of a group of people who were much sheltered from the goings on in London and abroad. While he was mistaken that escape could be found there and was subsequently imprisoned once again by Parliament in Carisbrooke Castle, he did in fact find a loyal group determined to see the king come back into his divine rule. One such person was Mary of Carisbrooke.
Mary, barely seventeen, had always loved her sleepy, happy island life and never dreamed of leaving it as so many of her friends had. She was quite content to work alongside her aunt and under the close, loving attentions of her father at Carisbrooke Castle. When the king first appeared, she was shy but kind and honest and soon endeared herself to the new mainland men that followed in the king’s train as she had to those who already knew her well.
When her aunt became the King’s Laundress and she, in turn, her assistant, she found herself in a particular position to assist the king and his cause in a way unthought of before. As the intrigue, danger and drama that could only be found in the turmoil of a country’s civil war unfurled around her, she learned to use her given gifts of bravery, loyalty, insight and natural benevolence to attempt to change the outcome of history. At the same time, she learned about first love, first loss and what it really meant to live.
Beginning this book, I didn’t know much about the history behind its events other than the eventual downfall of King Charles I. From the beautiful cover and description, I had a mental image of our heroine to be about twelve years old. Upon reading that she was seventeen I had to change my initial mindset of a young girl ahead of her time to a young woman coming into her own. While the story is well written I found that it dragged through the middle, often bogged down with the numerous plots to help the king escape. Spending so much time concentrating on Mary’s devotion and assistance to her king I was disappointed when the final outcome of Charles’ death is told to us through a third party. It seemed to be dealt with swiftly and then to continue on to the beginning of the rise of Charles’ son, the eventual King Charles II.
The side plot of Mary’s first love and heartache also seemed to be dealt with as an afterthought so that I couldn’t feel endeared to her budding knowledge of what it means to grow up and become a woman. With this being said, I did find Mary to be an endearing character and enjoyed learning of this important point in history from an unlikely source. Mary of Carisbrooke is definitely worth a read for lovers of historical fiction, but readers who are just branching out into the genre might want to start somewhere else.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son and pet fish. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sourcebooks Landmark. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.