Fascinating and historically accurate, but the story sinks fast under the weight of clumsy exposition and a stilted style...

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VIRGIN

More trials and tribulations of the Tudor dynasty from Maxwell (The Queen’s Bastard, 1999, etc).

Henry VIII’s young daughter, Elizabeth, may succeed to England’s throne someday—and her future husband would be king. There are others in the line of succession and rivals to dispatch, but that doesn’t trouble Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral and new husband of Henry’s last wife, gentle Catherine Parr. Scheming Thomas has grandiose plans for his advancement at court. The arrogant lord is convinced that a girl as tender and nubile as Elizabeth will succumb sooner or later to his manly charms, especially considering that Anne Boleyn’s wanton blood runs in her veins. Elizabeth proves to be not quite that easy, keeping in mind her mother’s beheading and knowing well the cost of a single misstep, even for a Tudor princess. Also, she loves and respects Catherine, who befriended the lonely, outcast girl before her half-brother Edward was crowned. But Thomas is determined to have her and commences a carefully planned seduction. Innocent Elizabeth is bedeviled by sensual fantasies. Thomas, licking her royal toes . . . and moving slowly upward. Thomas, kissing her passionately. Oh, Thomas, Thomas. . . . He waylays her in the castle and outside, arranges for her to catch him romping half-clothed in bed with Catherine, whose pregnancy has addled her wits. Or is Thomas slowly poisoning the poor woman? At one point, Catherine even helps her evil-hearted husband capture Elizabeth, then lets him slit open the young girl’s gown and bare her breasts. But it all comes to naught: Thomas’s plot to kidnap the boy king is uncovered, and Catherine divorces him. Accused of treason, Elizabeth is exonerated, but there are unanswered questions: Was Thomas her first lover? Did she secretly bear him an illegitimate child and have it killed at birth?

Fascinating and historically accurate, but the story sinks fast under the weight of clumsy exposition and a stilted style crowded with minutiae.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55970-563-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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