Review: “The Sumerton Women” by D.L. Bogdan

The Sumerton Women

I was lucky enough to receive signed copy of D.L. Bogdan’s “Sumerton Women” before the novel’s release date (24 April 2012) and today I am going to post my review. Here is book’s description from Amazon:

“Orphaned at age eight, Lady Cecily Burkhart becomes the ward of Harold Pierce, Earl of Sumerton. Lord Hal and his wife, Lady Grace, welcome sweet-natured Cecily as one of their own. With Brey, their young son, Cecily develops an easy friendship. But their daughter, Mirabella, is consumed by her religious vocation – and by her devotion to Father Alec Cahill, the family priest and tutor. As Henry VIII’s obsession with Anne Boleyn leads to violent religious upheaval, Mirabella is robbed of her calling and the future Cecily dreamed of is ripped away in turn. Cecily struggles to hold together the fractured household while she and Father Alec grapple with a dangerous mutual attraction. Plagued with jealousy, Mirabella unleashes a tumultuous chain of events that threatens to destroy everyone around her, even as the kingdom is torn apart…”

Hm, where do I start? First of all – “The Sumerton Women” is now officially my favourite historical novel so far. It has everything – great storyline, vivid characters and historical background.

Lady Cecily Burkhart’s parents died due to Sweating Sickness that ravaged England in 1527. Orphaned as an eight-year-old girl, Cecily becomes ward to the Pierce family. Although Cecily grieves after her beloved parents, she quickly adapts to new environment and she grows to love her new family. She becomes a spark of sunshine in Pierce’s life, and although at the beginning they seem a happy family, Cecily slowly discovers their dark and painful secrets.

Lord Harold ‘Hal’ Pierce, The Earl of Sumerton, is a kind and loving man. He shares an uneasy relationship with his wife Grace, who drowns her sorrows in wine. Their marriage is strained by a painful secret, but I will not reveal what kind of secret it is – I don’t want to spoil your joy of reading the story.

Then there are Hal’s and Grace’s children; Cecily’s age-mate Brey and consumed with desire to become a nun Mirabella. Brey is a lively child who quickly develops friendship with Cecily. Mirabella from the other hand is a quick witted girl, so intensely devoted to Church, resenting all the earthly joys. And finally there is Father Alec Cahill, the children’s beloved tutor and family’s spiritual support. He is a young priest who develops an interest in so called New Learning that quickly spreads though England as the King Henry VIII’s love for Anne Boleyn increases.

As an heiress of huge fortune and lands, Cecily becomes engaged to Brey. They develop a beautiful friendship and once Cecily realizes how happy she will be as Brey’s future wife, she finds her inner peace and stability. But when the tragedy strucks, everything changes for Cecily and the whole Pierce family. Now, I would like to avoid describing the events in the book, but I am telling you – the story is so wonderful and so surprising at times, that you will easily get soaked into it!

D.L.Bogdan’s novel has so many layers – you think you know how the story will develop, but when it unfolds before your eyes many new twists and turns are leaving you astonished and craving for more! This book is a real page-turner and I must say that D.L. Bogdan created a beautiful tale about eternal love, friendship, pain, betrayal, passion and simple, human need of being loved.

The novel is very carefully researched – I loved D.L. Bogdan’s portrayal of the Tudor court. There are glimpses at Anne Boleyn, woman who stirred so many emotions – from Cecily’s admiration to Mirabella’s hatred. Later in the novel, Father Alec joins Archbishop Cranmer’s household and it was a wonderful chance to learn about Cranmer’s views through Father Alec’s eyes. What I love about this novel is the fact, that we are able to see many Tudor characters though eyes of novel characters. For example; Cecily admires Anne Boleyn’s strength while Mirabella is burning with hatred against New Learning and Anne herself.

 “The Summerton Women” is a great read, and simply magnificent family saga set in a time of crucial changes in the reign of the Tudor kings. D.L. Bogdan’s style of writing is amazing – she pays such a close attention to details! The settings were described so vividly that I almost felt the smell of fresh country air, and with eyes of my imagination I was able to see the Sumerton Castle. Characters were living their own life on pages of this novel, and I literally felt part of their family. Lady Cecily matured before my eyes – from an orphaned girl she became a lady in her own right, a wife and a mother. Cecily is such a lovable character!  Other characters are also very enjoyable and I must say that two of them deserve a special mention – Mirabella who hides her own desires under the façade of divine calling, and Father Alec who is an intelligent and kind man. Every single character in this book has its own story to tell.

In the end of the novel I felt quite sad because it was over. When I finished reading, I felt as if a dear friend was departing. This is how powerful impact this beautiful story had on me. I found it really fascinating that the lives of fictional characters ware intertwined with life of real historic figures. We have a glimpse on Anne Boleyn, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Jane Seymour, Lady Mary Tudor, Robert Aske, even king Henry VIII himself, and many more.

“The Summerton Women” will be published April 24 2012. I heartily recommend you this amazing novel!  Here I would like to thank D.L. Bogdan for giving me a chance to read her novel before it’s release date.

And a few words about Author…                                     

D.L. Bogdan is an acclaimed author of historical novels. Before “The Sumerton Women” she wrote two other books: “Rivals in the Tudor Court” about Thomas Howard, the 3d Duke of Norfolk and “Secrets of the Tudor Court” about Mary Howard, Anne Boleyn’s cousin. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, four children and few pets. For those of you who are interested in getting to know  D.L. Bogdan  better I have a very good news – soon I will publish interview with her on my website!

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