Historical Fiction Review of Anna Belfrage’s In the Shadow of the Storm: First in New Series

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Review

In the Shadow of the Storm is the eighth novel I have read by Anna Belfrage in just a few years. However, it’s her first novel in a new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, which is set in England 1321 during the time of Edward II, and so, I read it trying to look at it completely not reliant on her last series, but yet, I still found myself comparing them. I wanted to see if Anna could pull off giving new characters original personalities within a new, and entirely different, plot and location. I suppose that’s the critical eye in me.

What I found was that Anna still has her unique voice, a mixture of humorous dialogue and situations, all embroiled within some type of plot where things are made strenuous by some sort of outside obstacle outside of the control of her protagonist. This time, Kit (illegitimate daughter of Alais Coucy and Thomas de Monmouth), who looks an awful lot like her more rambunctious half sister Katherine de Monmouth, is demanded by her step-mother to stand-in as a look alike for this sister and marry Adam de Guirande (foster son of Sir Roger Mortimer). Of course, Adam thinks she is Katherine, which poses all sorts of issues.

For the first 100 pages or so, this issue is really what is being set-up and fleshed out, and it seems that as much as we loved the Graham couple’s banter, we should get used to Kit and Adam’s banter quite well also. Anna has a way of writing a woman who puts her foot down and doesn’t settle for anything but true love and respect. Of course, she also has a sense of humor. On the flip side, her man generally is stubborn, yet loving and loyal. In this regard, Anna has succeeded again as we watch their struggle in understanding one another. Yet, I believe she’s also been able to completely create for us characters who have their own distinct traits as well. They aren’t copies. In a way, this couple together is a bit stronger to me. They live in tough and turbulent times, which is perfect for Anna to write in, as she does well writing with a juxtoposition of gentle loyalty versus intrigue, death, and violence. Love and loss. Pleasure and pain.

Anna completely manifests her characters into your heart and captivates you with their dialogue so that you are drawn to propel yourself through the pages. Her main characters are what makes her historical fiction really romantic, as you watch here Kit and Adam’s love unfold, but it’s done in such a natural and effortless way that it really entwines into the whole back story and platform that she sets them into, as they are then surrounded by a whole cast of characters.

In the Shadows of the Storm gives us great supporting characters in Mabel, Kit’s maid and confidant, and Hugh Despenser, the villain of the story (and a true historical person) who is a favorite of Edward II and causes all sort of issues in the 14th century leading to the Despenser Wars. Anna surely writes him to the degree that makes us cringe from his foul scent. He’s very vindictive. Roger Mortimer leading the revolt against the King is also well-done, though he a little bit of a randy character. We don’t know whether to like him or hate him at times. I suppose history has given us that idea of him too, though. I’m not sure I can give with accurate summation how I feel about how Anna presented Mortimer. All of those men at that time vying for power were all the same. Selfish. However, he’s why Adam ascends into the story, as Sir Roger serves as Adam’s foster father, dragging Adam along into his drama and therefore, as well, the plot of the story.

As you can gather, I believe that In the Shadow of the Storm is very character and dialogue driven, as that is what pulls me into the book and keeps me reading, however, there are strong under layers of plot, development, and historical research. It’s evident she’s planned this strong foundation and did a great amount of 14th century research into the time of Edward II and these uprisings, as Edward is not a popular king and not one often written on. The research and historical portions of the book are not forced though, and doesn’t bog down the story, but rather, endeavors behind in order to lift up the characters. The historical setting is what creates the drama and the angst in order to let the courage, strength, and tenacity of the characters shine.

In terms of research, you can tell she’s also absorbed it and easily planted it on each page before our eyes in her descriptions of clothing, food, sights, smells, medicinal cures (i.e. “elderberry cordial laced with linseed oil”). All this gives you a wonderful sense of place in which to picture the characters.

Anna writes with humor and a flowing style, yet she also presents with grit and tenacity. In the Shadow of the Storm is a book that has set-up what I hope is a fabulous new series by Anna in which we see Kit and Adam grow and achieve and conquer all that stands to come before them. It’s only the first book, but I think I already have a slight inkling that this series is one that I’ll love as much, or maybe more, as her last one.

02_In the Shadow of the StormIn the Shadow of the Storm (The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book One)

by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: November 1, 2015
Silverwood Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Sir Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Sir Roger for his life and all his worldly good, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Sir Roger thinks she is. So when Sir Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.

Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.

Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?

Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.

In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife

Author Anna Belfrage, Bio

03_Annna_Belfrage 2015Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, has now published in November 2015.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 eBooks and 1 paperback! To enter, see the GLEAM form—–>

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/IezOD/in-the-shadow-of-the-storm

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

04_In the Shadow of the Storm_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Tour Schedule:

http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/intheshadowofthestormblogtour/

Hashtags: #IntheShadowoftheStormBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt

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