Release date: 4th August 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Summary from Amazon:
Emerald St. John is in trouble. She has been condemned to marry a man she hates, her enemies are conspiring to have her pet bear Molly torn apart in the baiting pits, and the man she loves is far away on the high seas. And she has stumbled into a web of spies with a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth I. To save herself and the kingdom, Emerald must beat the spies at their own game - which means transforming herself from a country girl into a lady of the court. Can she do it in time?
Sometimes a book is just simply a pleasure to read. Emerald is one of those books. It is so easy to get into and the writing let’s you sink right into it like a favourite armchair. It is historical novel set in the sixteenth century which explores the themes of power and courage.
When Emerald’s father dies, she and her brother Richard are sent away from their family home to live with their Aunt and Uncle at Hawkstone Hall. Emerald is just seven at the time and cannot understand why her father would insist upon this in his will when their mother is still alive. Emerald is afraid and Richard swears that he will take care of her but then he is sent to sea. So Emerald grows up alone and bonds with her Aunt Frances but unfortunately not with her cousin Arabella.
The story is really about what happens to Emerald now she is sixteen. Her mother writes to her Uncle Charles and informs him that Emerald will marry Lord Suckley. Emerald has never met this man and partitions her Uncle to prevent the marriage. Her Uncle despite his open dislike of Suckley refuses to do so. Emerald pins her hopes on Richard saving her from a fate worse than death. Suckley is a hideous man in both character and appearance. His name says it all and when I think of him I shudder.
Emerald is not entirely alone at Hawkstone. She has a friend in the little urchin Meg who idolises her. Meg was my favourite character. A minor character and yet she had a very distinctive, humorous voice and was incredibly brave. Emerald also has a friend in Sarah – a servant who as a young girl joined the steward’s service and played with Emerald - who is willing to help her despite all the risks. Certainly the female characters in this story are the bold and the brave, the courageous and the daring, but they are of course forced to play by the rules of a patriarchal society.
I cannot review this book without a mention of the other main theme in this story - love. Emerald is a story of romantic courtly love, as well as familial love, love of a monarch, love of place, love of a pet, love of a friend. If you haven’t read any historical fiction before, then I think Emerald is a great introduction to the genre. If you are a fan of historical fiction, then you’ll feel right at home here. The setting is convincing, the heroine inspiring, the hero mysterious and charming, the plot page turning; all in all, Emerald is a riveting, enjoyable read.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending the book to review.
Read for the British Books Challenge 2011.