Book Tour Review: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

Thursday, June 19, 2014
Title: The Lost Duchess
Author: Jenny Barden
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 448
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

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.

I usually find a way to mention that I like historical fiction that creatively and organically explores new places or people in my favorite timelines. Jenny Barden has done just that with the Elizabethan Age and the ill-fated Roanoake colony with her adventure/romance novel The Lost Duchess. While the book clearly focuses more on the central romance between Emme and Kit than any other element of the story, there's a lot of entertainment and emotion to be had when reading through their unlikely but believable story in one of America's most famous settlements. It's a detailed and occasionally dry read, but Jenny Barden's ability to tell a story with subtlety and passion is to be commended.

Though there was a lot about The Lost Duchess for historical readers to enjoy, I found the characters were the most dynamic aspect for me. That's not to say that it wasn't obviously, meticulously researched (it clearly was) or that the plot wasn't satisfactory (it was), I just really grew to care about Emme and Kit. Their relationship, like each of them individually, is complex, complicated and interesting. It helped that both feel like real people on their own; Emme isn't defined by her romantic relationship any more than Kit is. The both complement each other well and serve as excellent foils for each other, as well.

The story's pacing does falter a bit in the later part of the novel, which is a large part in why this a four star review. Don't get me wrong: I still heartily recommend the book to fans of adventure or romance or historical fiction. The parts of The Lost Duchess that are good are very good, but when the details overwhelm the narrative or the plot gets stuck, it can be less engaging. Happily for me, the ending of the novel was satisfactory, realistic, and well-rounded enough to keep me firmly in the "I love this book!" camp. Though my first experience with her was not perfect, it's obvious Jenny Barden is a talented author with a genuine storytelling gift.


1 comment:

  1. I just got this and Mistress of the Sea from Book Depository last week! Saw it on Patricia Bracewell's blog and I was immediately interested in the Roanoke angle (and Drake!). Glad to hear it was mostly enjoyable! Characters really make or break historical fiction for me; good hist fic always has amazing details and descriptions but it's the characters that keep the story engaging and dynamic, esp if it's a period I read a lot about. Excited to read this soon.


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