I have been intrigued and slightly obsessed since my teen years with the fate of the ‘Lost Colony of Roanoke,’ which in the late 1500s became the first English colony in America. Studying more of this era from the Colonial American stand point in high school and for my BA degree in History here in the U.S., I mostly looked at it from an American soil standpoint. I haven’t delved as much yet into the background information from the Elizabethan England side of the adventure of colonization.
When I saw the British author and historian Jenny Barden had a book publishing this month that surrounded a lady-in-waiting, Emme, from Queen Elizabeth’s I court who joined the team heading to Roanoake, I jumped at the chance to hear their side, so to speak, of Sir Walter Raleigh’s quest to the New World.
Jenny opens her sophomore novel, The Lost Duchess, with emotion and heart-wrenching prose that instantly connected me to her protagonist, Emme. Queen Elizabeth I was rather known for her explosive temper, a little like her father, and her impulsive and selfish needs. When something horrible happens to Emme, she is shamed and has to squelch her feelings so as not to anger her queen, for which she serves in close company.
Though Elizabeth I was known for pretty much treating her friends, her ladies-in-waiting, like servants who were to be at her every beck and call, even to the point of not having sex or getting married, Elizabeth was also given to mercy and the emotional needs of her friends as well. As she lets Emme take the voyage to the New World, Emme is given a chance to run from any shame she might have otherwise endured and start her life anew.
The novel is so well-researched and the characters fully dimensional. I felt connected to each of them and felt they were authentic and accurate, even those who were truly from the history books. As Jenny introduces one of her secondary characters from her first novel, Kit, a romance ensues between Emme and he. I felt as if I was reading the tale of two soul mates who fall in love on an epic adventure, not knowing what lied ahead of them in the future.
Jenny’s book was full of mystery and intrigue, which made a great historical novel that I didn’t want to put down. I liked how she incorporated into the story some of the most up-to-date findings about the Roanoke colony. She offers readers a plausible outcome to a long sought after mystery. Of course, some things are still unanswered, but well…they are unanswered in the history books so while she gives us a possible version, she also lets the novel open to breathe and for readers to come to their own conclusions as well.
I would highly recommend The Lost Duchess to any historical fiction lovers of the Tudor Era but who want a new twist or unique players and storyline or to a readers who like Colonial America history, adventure, and epic novels of histories lost mysteries. It was fully well-written in plot development, character structure, and full of vibrant details that made you feel propelled into the story.
Taking Elizabethan England and the wild, lush land of Virginia and converging them together really gave insight into two totally different worlds and the curiosity of men to explore and conquer. I felt the ocean mist on my face, the heart beat of abandon, the remote environment of the Caribbean, and the hardships of pioneering new land.
This is definitely a book I’ll put on my shelves under Colonial America, as more books need written about this time period (ah, which of course is why I am writing one from the 1600s)! It’s from a unique perspective, but one that can serve as an example of solidly written historical fiction of this time period. It’s full of historical research and details so that it is a wonderful resource and will be a joy to re-read whenever I feel my craving for the mystery of Roanoke start to surface once more.
The Lost Duchess, Synopsis~
Paperback Publication Date: June 5, 2014
An epic Elizabethan adventure with a thriller pace and a high tension love story that moves from the palaces of England to the savage wilderness of the New World.
Emme Fifield has fallen about as far as a gentlewoman can.
Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, her only hope of surviving the scandal that threatens to engulf her is to escape England for a fresh start in the new America where nobody has ever heard of the Duchess of Somerset.
Emme joins Kit Doonan’s rag-tag band of idealists, desperados and misfits bound for Virginia. But such a voyage will be far from easy and Emme finds her attraction to the mysterious Doonan inconvenient to say the least.
As for Kit, the handsome mariner has spent years imprisoned by the Spanish, and living as an outlaw with a band of escaped slaves; he has his own inner demons to confront, and his own dark secrets to keep…
Ever since Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement in Virginia was abandoned in 1587 its fate has remained a mystery; ‘The Lost Duchess’ explores what might have happened to the ill-starred ‘Lost Colony’ of Roanoke.
Buy the Book~
Jenny Barden, Biography~
I’ve had a love of history and adventure ever since an encounter in infancy with a suit of armour at Tamworth Castle. Training as an artist, followed by a career as a city Jenny (Portrait 2) solicitor, did little to help displace my early dream of becoming a knight.
A fascination with the Age of Discovery led to travels in South and Central America, and much of the inspiration for my debut novel, called Mistress of the Sea, came about from retracing the footsteps of Francis Drake in Panama. The sequel, The Lost Duchess, centres on the first Elizabethan ‘lost colony’ of early Virginia. I am currently working on an epic adventure during the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada.
My work has appeared in short story collections and anthologies and I’ve written for non-fiction publications including the Historical Novels Review. I am active in many organisations, having run the ‘Get Writing’ conferences for several years, and undertaken the co-ordination of the Historical Novel Society’s London Conference 2012. I am a member of that organisation as well as the Historical Writers’ Association, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. I’ll be co-ordinating the RNA’s annual conference in 2014.
I have four children and now live on a farm in Dorset with my long suffering husband and an ever increasing assortment of animals.
I love travelling, art, reading, and scrambling up hills and mountains (though I’m not so keen on coming down!).
Jenny’s Debut Novel……
Mistress of the Sea, Synopsis~
Publication Date: June 20, 2013
Formats: Paperback, Ebook
Mistress Cooksley may be a wealthy merchant’s daughter, but she blushes at my words and meets my eyes look for look. Yet I cannot hope to court her without fortune, and a dalliance with a pretty maid will not hinder me from my path.
Captain Drake’s endeavour might bring me gold, but I, Will Doonan, will have my revenge.
The Spaniards captured my brother and have likely tortured and killed him. For God and St George, we’ll strike at the dogs and see justice done.
I thought I’d left Mistress Cooksley behind to gamble everything and follow Drake, and here she is playing the boy at the ends of the world. She’s a fool with a heart as brave as any man’s. Yet her presence here could be the ruin of us all…
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I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.