This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Crown in Candlelight

Crown in Candlelight, Rosemary H. Jarman
4.5 roses

This is only the second of Ms. Jarman's novels I have been able to get my hands on and read but if they're all as good as this one, I shall enjoy exploring her works further. This novel focuses on a time I have not read anything about beyond Shakespeare's play on Henry V. The story is about Catherine of Valios, the French princess who married England's King Henry V.  All I knew about Catherine before picking up this novel was that she was a daughter of mad King Charles of France, she married Henry V (who I can only picture as Kenneth Branagh!), gave birth to the future Henry VI, and may (or may not) have married Owen Tudor, thus giving birth to that future dynasty. That was the extent of my knowledge so I was happy to read something that truly focused on her life not only before she met and wed Henry but her life after he died. I loved every minute I was lost in its pages.


While there are two or three other narrators besides Catherine, the novel really is about her and the other narrators just give the reader a better idea of the events surrounding her. The first part of the book covers her early life and the struggles she had to get through with her father King Charles, who seemed to be a caring man when he was in his right mind, and her very formidable mother Isabeau who was only concerned with maintaining her power and money. Seeing the life she had before she met Henry its no wonder she was so deeply in love and devoted to him. Her closeness to her older sister Isabelle (who was married to Richard II) throws an interesting twist into her emotions later down the line. For me, the story really picked up once she was married to Henry. I don't know if that's because of the writing or just because things historically began happening at a pretty rapid pace from that point on. We also see how Owen Tudor ended up in the royal household and thus having the chance to meet the Queen. I loved the scenes between Catherine and Henry and my heart ached for the very fleeting time they actually had together. My heart also went out to Henry as he suffered with the sickness in his stomach that eventually killed him; he was obviously a very strong willed person to be able to battle (literally!) through all that pain. If Henry had lived I think theirs would have been a loving, successful marriage and she would have been a very successful Queen. It certainly would've changed history. The story between Catherine and Owen was a sweet tale of true love and I loved seeing their relationship grow. Even knowing what happened to them I was still hoping that somehow things would all work out in the end. The "villain" in this story is certainly Henry's overly ambitious and sneaky younger brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was made Protector over baby Henry VI after his father died. This man truly gave me the creeps whenever he showed up on the page and I wanted to reach back through history and smack him upside the head.

Beyond the characters and historical events, the writing in the novel, while keeping an "authentic" feel about it managed to not get bogged down with really heavy language, which I feel will make it easier for readers not familiar with the time period to read. The descriptions and details of battles, clothing, daily life also will help transport the reader to another time and place. I really enjoyed this look into Catherine's life, despite the fact that she was a pivotal player for the Lancastrians and gave birth to major figures in the Wars of the Roses. There was one line right at the end of the story, where Owen's Welsh friend is describing to the reader what she sees in the future, that put a huge smile on my face and took away any guilt I "might" have felt about enjoying a Lancastrian story (I won't spoil it for you but it has to do with my favorite English monarch, Richard III). I can easily recommend this story, especially if you'd be interested in reading more about Catherine, who is rarely talked about even though she is such an important part in history.


  1. I couldn't finish this one, but I was sick with a cold at the time. I've tried a couple others (finished one), but I parted ways with Jarmon after that.

  2. I did read "The King's Grey Mare" before this one and I didn't like it nearly as much as this one. I have book 2 of "We Speak No Treason" but I'm waiting for book 1 first.