I haven’t read many books that take place during the Italian Renaissance and I was delighted to receive this book from Donna Russo Morin for review. I believe this period of time the arts were at its strongest and most sought after. Great artist come from this period. Donna does a brilliant job showing this. This story takes place in Florence. Battista an “art collector,” is really an agent for King François of France. Battista is collecting sought after pieces of art for François that leads him to Aurelia.
Aurelia is a lady of privilege who longs for freedom and adventure. She gets her chance when she helps Battista escape the palace she lives in after he tries to steal a piece of art. Together they embark on a journey for the relic he must find for the King of France. Throughout the story they travel to other cities in search for clues while visiting an artist, Michelangelo, a friend of Battista along the way.
This story is enchanting. There is a particular scene that reached out to me. It was a scene where Battista and Michelangelo were toasting and they raise their goblets and Michelangelo says, “True painting never will make anyone shed a tear. Good Painting is religious and devout in itself. Among the wise nothing more elevates the soul or raises it to adoration than the difficulty of attaining the perfection-with sculpture-which approaches God and unites itself to Him.” So eloquently put.
Donna has such a way of words and writing about her characters. You feel like your right there beside them. You experience the same adoration as they do for art. I admire their passion and their sense of adventure. Her descriptions of the arts and the palaces are breath-taking. So much that you can imagine them as described
I especially enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. For example, “In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words,” Here beginneth a new life.” –La Vita Nuava.
I stumbled on a few words I was unfamiliar with and had to stop to look up a few pronunciations and definitions. I almost rated the story three and a half stars. However, since the story-line and plot was solid, and I love the characters, I rated it four stars!
Jo Ann Butler's debut historical fiction novel, Rebel Puritan, is inspired by her 8th great-grandmother, Herodias Long. Butler blends historical fact and fiction in Rebel Puritan so seamlessly the reader never feels the novel is semi-biographical.
Herod Long is 12 years old when tragedy strikes her family. Her family, farmers in Burlescome, England, are near destitution when her father and oldest brother perish from the bubonic plague. Herod, her mother and brother, Will, are left with a holding they cannot work by themselves.
This dilemma is resolved by Herod's mother, who invites her oldest daughter and her family to work the farm. Unfortunately for Herod, her mother's plans do not include her. Herod and her mother have an acrimonious relationship. Herod is a bit of a dreamer and her mother has no fondness for dreamers.
Herod, another mouth to feed and an unreliable worker, is sent to London to serve her mother's sister. Herod knows what happens to girls who are bonded out or sent away - few return home.
Herod arrives in London to discover Alice Clark, her mother's sister, is a cold woman. Herod is considered little more than a slave 6 days a week, working from dawn til sunset for a woman who complains incessantly and threatens to turn her out penniless for the next infraction. Servitude to this miserly and cruel aunt is Herod's future for the next five years.
Puritanism, the tentacles of which were newly arrived in Burlescome, is firmly entrenched in London. Herod attends church all day Sunday with her aunt and uncle and chafes under the extremism.
It is important to understand Puritanism as it effects much of Herod's life. Puritans were a group of Protestants who were unhappy with the Church of England. They believed in following the laws set out in the Bible without deviation. They also believed in the doctrine of predestination - God has chosen at birth the Elect who will enter heaven and those who are not of the Elect are damned for eternity. No one knows whether they are the chosen, therefore, Puritans worked hard for the glory of God.
It was a harsh lifestyle. The premise of Puritanism was to strip away all material and traditional aspects of the Church of England and practice extreme piety. Puritans were under constant scrutiny by fellow congregation members. Deviation from piety was dealt with swiftly by disapproval and discipline. Hell, fire and brimstone was the primary sermon.
Persecution in England prompted a massive immigration to New England, where communities were formed. These communities adhered to principles of Puritanism strictly. Those found in contravention were subject to banishment, corporal punishment and even, in some cases, death by hanging.
Now back to Herod. Her aunt and uncle operated a tailor's shop. One day when she was minding the counter, a young man came in. Herodios was enthralled and contrived to establish a relationship. This is the man she would marry in great haste (without divulging her true age of 13) so she could escape and immigrate to New England.
Life in New England and with her husband isn't the deliverance she craves. Scraping a living off the land is harsh and her husband, John Hicks, brutal. Puritanism reigns. Herod becomes friends with dissenters within the community, liaisons with repercussions.
Rebel Puritan is a novel of a young girl who struggles to find dignity and freedom within her world; a world in which women have few rights and are subject to male domination. Her efforts bring both success and tragedy. But her determination never fails.
Herod and her world come to life through Butler with her imaginative and gritty details. For example, I felt I lived through Herod in a dugout home on a treed lot in a small community in New England where every action was scrutinized.
Butler is skilled at evoking the realisms, hardships, hard-won victories and inevitable decisions a woman faced in 17th Century England and America. The numerous characters who populate Rebel Puritan have flesh and bones.
I recommend Jo Ann Butler's Rebel Puritan without reservation. I eagerly await receipt the continuation of Herod Long's life in Reputed Wife, to be released later this fall.
My rating: 4.5/5 Stars (Most Excellent)
Darlene Elizabeth Williams
My first impression of the books was that the farm looked charming, but boring. I'm glad I was wrong! Lost Nation, Iowa is everything you would expect from a small farm town in Iowa. It’s a town where everyone knows your name and your business. However, that doesn’t stop the dynamic Francesca from dancing to the beat of her own drum. Lucinda Sue Crosby has created a memorable set of characters with depth and style for this summer love story. Francesca’s granddaughter relives the best summer of their lives with colorful flare as the duo embark on adventures completely unbecoming a lady of the 1940’s. At the same time, the book also gently probes the cultural taboos of the time while the young Sarah begins coming of age.
The story is well developed and engaging. As a summer beach read this is wonderful and I was moved to tears by the close of the book. I found the descriptions to be full and vivid. The mystery within the story adds a nice touch. It was well constructed and not completely predictable. The cover art however, was a huge disappointment. I think that this was a missed opportunity. After all the wonderful events that unfold within the pages, a more engaging cover would have been good. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a lite beach read, as well as those with an interest in the 1940’s.