The Heretic’s Apprentice

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by Ellis Peters

Published 1990

This is actually one of my favorites of the Cadfael series (and, fear not, I finished these on vacation, so you are almost done reading about Cadfael! :-D).

In this story, a young man returns to Shrewsbury, bearing the body of his employer, whom he had accompanied on a pilgrimage that had lasted the last several years.  Although the older man had died on his trip, he had desired to be buried at his home church, and had charged (before his death, obviously) Elave (the young man) to bring his body home.  However, when Elave arrives at the abbey, another guest has arrived first–an Augustinian canon, Gerbert.  Gerbert’s horse has been lamed, and so he has had to unexpectedly stay at Shrewsbury for several days.  A strict (some may even say narrow-minded) man, Canon Gerbert is swift to pounce when he finds out that the reason that Elave’s employer went on a pilgrimage to begin with was because he had been accused to heresy.

While the mystery is good, per usual, my favorite part of the story is the non-mystery part–the part where Peters really studies human character.  She does a beautiful job working with the concept of heresy, managing to show several perspectives as reasonable, reminding all of us of the importance of humbleness (especially when it pertains to spiritual matters).  There is even a point where Brother Cadfael experiences a sudden understanding of Canon Gerbert’s viewpoint–

As for Gerbert himself, Cadfael had a sudden startling insight into a mind utterly alien to his own.  For the man really had, somewhere in Europe, glimpsed yawning chaos and been afraid, seen the subtleties of the devil working through the mouths of men, and the fragmentation of Christendom in the eruption of loud-voiced prophets bursting out of limbo like bubbles in the scum of a boiling pot, and the dispersion into the wilderness in the malignant excesses of their deluded followers.  There was nothing false in the horror with which Gerbert looked upon the threat of heresy…

The entire topic of heresy at this point in history is a fascinating one anyway.  Sometimes we forget that, at this time, the Catholic Church was the law and THE religion.  You were either Catholic, or you were a heretic, an outcast.  But Peters handles this beautifully.  Per usual, this book made me fall in love with Father Abbot quite a bit more.  He is my favorite character by far.

Since I haven’t posted in a while, I haven’t mentioned it in a while–you MUST read these books!

Indiscretion

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by Jude Morgan

Published 2005

I read this book in JULY, and am still excited to review it!  ;-D

There is a specific type of book that I really love–books that are romantic, funny, and light-hearted, without being full of smut and shallow, insipid characters.  You would be surprised at how incredibly difficult it can be to find books that fit into that category, especially books published in the last ten years!

So many recent so-called Regency Romances are simply written pornography with a few sentences of linking “plot.”  Ugh.  And, having been burned before, I approached Indiscretion with some hesitancy.  The story is about Caroline Fortune, a young woman who lives with her father (her mother has passed away), a man full of grandiose ideas and schemes that somehow never seem to materialize beyond the point of spending money (which they don’t have) on them.  Determined to find a place for his daughter, Captain Fortune makes arrangements for her to become the paid companion of an elderly woman, Mrs. Catling.  From there, Caro finds herself entangled with all sorts of people and plots.

While some of Morgan’s plot line has to be covered with Austen-like coincidences (think: My cousin happens to be the clergyman of your aunt!?  What are the odds??), it flows well.  The characters are very likable (even the not likable ones), and Caroline herself manages to be charming and witty, without being obnoxious.  The dialogue is delightful.  I literally laughed out loud at multiple points in this story.  Morgan actually takes the time to develop the characters you meet, and while they rarely present you with a surprise, they generally manage to give you a smile.

Caroline manages to balance the line between realizing many of the absurdities and inconsistencies of her culture and time, without being too forward or radical (although, towards the end, she does jaunt off to London in a public carriage by herself, something that stretched the line of what she would have actually been able to do at the time without her character being much more severely doubted).  A conversation about dancing was one of my favorite exchanges:

“You do not dance, Mr. Milner?”

“I do–once in an evening, twice if in thoroughly madcap mood.  What I dance, though, I must talk all the time.  Otherwise I begin thinking about dancing, and how absurd it is, and what prize boobies we would look if you took away the music.  Well, I suppose it will pass the time: do you want to go through the ghastly motions with me, Miss Fortune?”

“How can I refuse such a charming invitation?”

This is not a book of great depth, or one that will (likely) cause you to ponder your life and have an existential crisis of any kind.  However, if you are looking for a fun, light-hearted, humorous, clean read, this is an excellent choice, and one that I highly recommend.  5/5.

Dear Marguerite Henry

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by Marguerite Henry

Published 1969

As a little girl I was, as are many little girls, obsessed with horses.  Marguerite Henry’s books, introduced to me when I found an old copy of Misty of Chincoteague in a pile of my aunt’s childhood books, became one of my favorite authors.  As many of you know, I’m trying to read through every book I own, and I’m looking forward to getting to Henry’s stack–I haven’t read her books in years!

For my birthday last year, Mom gave me this books he had found.  Basically, Henry compiled some of the letters she received from readers over the years, and answered their questions about her books (at least the ones that had already been published!).  If you read Henry’s books as a child, and ever wanted to know the background story for her stories, this is a fun little read.

O my

Wow, it has been a LONG time since I posted, and I am SUPER behind on books!  I have a very long list of books to review and will hopefully begin whittling that list down over the next couple of days.  So, advance apology if I end up avalanching you in books, and, alternate advance apology if I don’t.  :-D

Hope you all are well and reading!