. Athena's Books: A Constant Heart...in a World of 16th Century Hollywood
Friday, October 9, 2009

A Constant Heart...in a World of 16th Century Hollywood

Yay! More historical romance!

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell brings out the intrigue of Queen Elizabeth's court at the height of the English Renaissance. A period of elegance, beauty, progress. Or, if you want the reality...A period of artificiality, indulgence, and want. White, stiff paints for the face, masking natural beauty with an imitation of the queen; court clique's concerned merely with appearance and wealth. Extravagant spending by courtiers for the mere whims and short attentions of the queen; personal indulgences inspite of multiple debts and lack of payment for working classes. A want of more power and more prestige; a want of food and warmth by the masses. This is the world of 16th century England where the court rules without regard to morals as long as the queen is pleased. A court where to be 36 years old means to be a hag, and to be young and beautiful is a curse.

Beyond Shakespeare, sonnets, and corsets, London lay in filth and waste--a perfect breeding ground for the Plague. And, if the Plague didn't kill, then surely childbirth or the lead based white paints for the face. Jealousy, betrayal, illicit propositions...anything goes when you are a courtier or are married to one.

Marget, daughter of noble merchant, finds herself married to a man who seems to despise her. She is now a countess and married to a lord, the Earl of Lytham. From the first day he sets eyes on her, he wants nothing to do with her and not because she is lacking in looks. In fact, she is beautiful, more beautiful than his first wife. But, therein is the problem. His biggest vice is beauty as beauty only masks all that women are capable of doing to bring misery to man. His first wife betrayed him in their own bed.

The Earl wants nothing to do with her, but marries her because of her dowry. It is not a love match and that's how he intends to keep it. He has devoted his life to be a courtier--a lifelong admirer of the queen. So, although he has a wife, his first service is to the queen. As for Marget, she only wishes to elevate his status at the court and she goes out of her way to do this from changing her appearance to bargaining with those closest to the queen. She sacrifices her health, her love, and her very character to please a man who wishes to please someone else.

Will the Earl come to love Marget? Will Marget survive this marriage? Will the Earl ever leave the queen's side? Will Marget ever be accepted by the court and the queen herself? Or, will she remain an outsider and take her husband out of the court's favor?

*Note--not a YA book because it deals with the adult world, but the novel is clean, as in nothing explicit. Marget is very young when she marries--probably a teenager, and the novel changes from her point of view to that of the Earl.

There is intimicay and plenty of romance, but I have no problem with someone young reading it. Actually, it is very interesting and provides a whole other view of the ultra-cultured society many people envision when they hear of the Renaissance. There is even "A Note to the Reader" wherein the author gives an overview of the health risks related to the use of the white face paints. I highly recommend it...after reading it, you'll get a better sense of how our world could be so materialistic and concerned with image. It's just history repeating itself.

Siri Mitchell falls under the "Christian" author category, but the book is in no way preachy. It is just a good, provocatice, yet clean crossover novel that appeals to young adults and adults. Actually, if I had not found this title under Christian fiction, I would not have even known. Of course, there are passages relating to religion, but how could it not when Europe was consumed by the Christian faith at that time period. Although the Renaissance had a highly humanistic focus, meaning a focus on the creations of man, Chrisianity was still a major part of society. Wars were fought between Catholics and Protestants; major pieces of art had Christian themes. Consider "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci or Michaelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel--both notable Renaissance men.