Monday, October 06, 2008
Siri Mitchell's A Constant Heart ~ Reviewed
A Constant Heart
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (October 1, 2008)
You may read the first chapter here.
Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed ... at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.
I am not a die hard fan of romance. Usually, they make me laugh because of the ubergooey sweetness and contrived plot points. I won't read them as a rule, and if I attempt one and see the words heaving and bosom on the same page, I'm done. Historicals are usually a safer bet for me, but sometimes I find myself nodding off and needing a strong whiff of smelling salts to continue.
I was a little apprehensive about A Constant Heart. If I mention I tend to be slightly ignorant of general history, you might not be surprised based on my previous paragraph. But, I took a chance on A Constant Heart because I loved The Cubicle Next Door. And I am a fan of All the Tea in China. If Siri Mitchell, who wrote a favorite novel attempted a historical, wouldn't it be a lot like All the Tea in China, another favorite novel?
Yep. Score. So imagine my surprise after reading a negative review at Amazon. The reviewer didn't care for A Constant Heart. I loved it.
Fascinating facts about a volatile time and a costly career intruigued me and made me want to look deeper into the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The story of the marriage and eventual love affair between the Earl and Countess was deeply melancholy and sweet. One scene in which the couple has a conversation with a salad and no words made me laugh out loud. The consequences and obstacles that the Lady and Earl faced while courtiers, to a queen who would be the very sun, were page turners. The writing leans literary, poignant in several scenes.
Told in alternating first person POV with the voice of Lytham and Marget, this is a very satisfying novel on many levels. If you would be unsettled by a unique POV switch, or with melancholy at the loss of life, fortune, and/or love, you may struggle with the story. A touch of violence in the age of quarterings and the Tower of London, and promiscuity in the court are elements that make A Constant Heart lean toward PG-13. Christian Fiction fans may find a lack of deep spiritual truths as well. But, if you love Mitchell, or if the era fascinates you you probably need to take the plunge.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
Review by Michelle Griep
In the court of Queen Elizabeth beauty is a curse, friendship is bought and sold, and true love is the unpardonable sin. Will Marget risk everything for the man who’s captured her heart?
A Constant Heart is historical fiction at its finest. Siri Mitchell effectively transports the reader back through time to experience Elizabethan England.
Ever wonder what would make a woman pluck her forehead back a few inches or paint her face white, ruining the skin beneath? When the character Marget attends court, she wonders the same—until she is shunned. Peer pressure worked as well in the 1500’s as it does today.
Instead of my usual knee-jerk reaction to relegate such women to the status of Neanderthals, Siri Mitchell’s characterization not only gave me a clear understanding but empathy as well for the difficult choices these women had to make.
I think the message of this novel is best summed up by the character of Joan when she says, “If you try to be anyone else, then that is the worst that can happen, because you cannot ever be them—and then you give up being you.” Teenagers aren’t the only ones who need this reminder, especially in today’s world of competition.
What I enjoyed most about Mitchell’s writing is her attention to detail. This is showcased in her stunning and sometimes shocking explanation of the lead paint women used at Elizabeth’s court and the devastation it caused to their bodies. She’s obviously done her research but manages to avoid lecturing with her storytelling finesse.
A Constant Heart is a great read that elicits a wide range of emotions. I’m putting it on my list of favorites, and once you’ve read it, I’m sure you will, too.