Emerald by Karen Wallace
|Emerald by Karen Wallace|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Emerald's happy life on the Welsh Borders is destroyed with the news that she is to marry an unpleasant, vulgar old man, and that her beloved pet bear is to be sent to the baiting pits. Her attempts to change her fate lead her to the court of Elizabeth I where she finds herself right in the middle of a plot to assassinate the Virgin Queen.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: August 2011|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Emerald and her brother Richard never understood why her father decided that after his death they would go and live with their uncle and aunt at Hawkstone Hall, even though their mother was still alive. Still, she had always been a cold woman, more interested in profit than people, and they soon forgot her. Until, that is, the day she wrote to Uncle Charles saying that Emerald was to marry Lord Suckley, and that he was already on his way to the Hall to inspect his new bride.
Cousin Arabella, far from being sympathetic, is amused at her plight: her time at court has taught her that love and marriage mean nothing when alliances and politics are in play. She offers to help Emerald prepare for the forthcoming nuptials, and how to behave in society, but her motives are decidedly mixed: she has been banished from Elizabeth's court, and she needs someone as powerful as Lord Suckley to plead her cause.
One of the most intriguing and, it has to be said, satisfying aspects of this story is the fact that almost all the courage and strength of character is shown by the women, whether they be good or evil. Emerald desperately hopes her older brother Richard will help her escape this horrible marriage, but he proves himself to be spineless and gullible. Her father too was a weak man, allowing his wife the freedom to do as she wished with the estate, and when Suckley behaves in a loutish, insulting way towards Emerald, it is the female servants who wreak a small but effective revenge on him. Aunt Frances is strict but caring towards the near-orphaned Emerald, giving her the mother's love she never had at home, and Arabella, while scheming and spiteful, is at least prepared to suffer any discomfort to get what she wants out of life. And reigning over them all, strong and fierce and proud in her womanhood, is Elizabeth I. At first we see her as cruel and heartless, grimly determined to win at cards and taking pleasure in the brutal sport of bear-baiting which sickens so many of her courtiers, but soon we learn that she is also a wily ruler and a keen observer of everything that happens around her. She knows there are people plotting to kill her, but she refuses to allow it to stop her doing her duty, and when at last we see her at the home of Emerald's mother, we realise she is a far more complex character than most of her subjects and servants could possibly realise.
A scene near the beginning of this book, where Emerald receives a secret gift of money, might mislead the reader into thinking that Emerald is about to flee the family where she has been so happy. But Elizabethan England was a strongly patriarchal world, despite its female ruler, and a girl would be more likely to kill herself or enter a convent than run away. Ms Wallace accepts the far harder challenge of keeping Emerald within the only society she knows, and the story is all the better for it. Our heroine needs every ounce of her braveness and determination to change her fate, because if she fails there is no escape or second chance: her life from then on will be vile and humiliating as she suffers the boorish attentions of the odious Suckley.
'Emerald' is a love story, and although the female characters are generally more vividly portrayed, the young man Emerald loves does have a heroic and romantic role to play in the plot which gives her love for him some credibility. The setting is clearly Tudor, but the point is never laboured: details which set the scene occur naturally, and just enough information is given about the conspiracies and intrigues at court to allow the plot to develop. It is a delightful historical novel, full of romance and adventure, and will give readers a lot of pleasure.
Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending us this enjoyable book.
Further reading suggestion: if you want to meet another strong young girl from the past, read Halo by Zizou Corder. The heroine is brave and resourceful, and it's a cracking good adventure story too.
You can read more book reviews or buy Emerald by Karen Wallace at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Emerald by Karen Wallace at Amazon.com.
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