I thought I had read all of Sharon Kay Penman’s novels about Justin DeQuincy, medieval spy and sometime sleuth, but it appears I’d missed this one, although it’s been out for several years. This series of books does a great job of showing the complex political world of England during the reign of mostly-absentee king Richard I through the eyes of a minor fictional character who gets drawn into quite a lot of political intrigue. Justin is “the Queen’s man,” i.e. in the service of the dowager queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, but he often ends up in the presence of the complex, ambitious, dark prince John, who is always at odds with his royal brother and mother. Justin is an appealing character, a bit of an innocent in a world that doesn’t reward innocence, but he always seems to come out on top in each adventure. Prince of Darkness starts as a spy story that becomes a murder mystery, and is an enjoyable visit to a medieval world you probably wouldn’t want to live in.
Monthly Archives: September 2013
This memoir describes Hafner’s attempt to share living space with her aging mother and teenaged daughter for a year, despite a difficult past relationship with her alcoholic mother. The memoir moves back and forth between the present and the past and realistically depicts the stresses and strains of having three generations under one roof. None of the three women comes across as entirely a victim or a hero: each of them tries in her own way to make the relationship work, but each also makes mistakes that keep it from working. This story was interesting and sometimes moving, but I was disappointed to learn at the end (I can’t remember if it was in an epilogue or in acknowledgements) that Hafner’s mother was opposed to her publishing the memoir. It raised the question of whether, for a writer, documenting an experience is worth risking the very relationship you’ve worked so hard to build.
Here’s a summary of nearly all the books I read over the summer — I accidentally left a few out and didn’t realize it till I’d finished editing and uploading. But most of them are here. And I’ve included guest reviews by Chris and Emma, and as usual, there’s a chance to win a book.