Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden


Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, Emme Fifield’s only hope of surviving the scandal that threatens to engulf her is to escape England for a fresh start in the new America.

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…

Ebury Press | June 2014 (Paperback) | ISBN: 978-0-091949-67-9

My Review

Jenny Barden's latest release, The Lost Duchess, is not your typical work of Elizabethan-era historical fiction.  While the novel opens at Queen Elizabeth I's court and includes a familiar cast of aristocrats (Edward Seymour, Earl of Surrey), adventurers (Sir Walter Raleigh) and political advisors (Francis Walsingham), it is the Roanoke Colony and the people who sought to establish it that are at the heart of this novel. 

Young Emme Fifield is a lady in waiting to the Queen, one with the world seemingly at her feet.  But when a brief encounter with an unscrupulous man jeopardizes her position at court, Emme is forced to reconsider her future.  Faced with few options, Emme pins her hopes on an upcoming expedition to the Americas financed by Sir Walter Raleigh and led by John White that seeks to establish a colony on the Island of Roanoke.  Unfazed by the dangers associated with an ocean crossing and the hardships involved with settling in the New World, Emme convinces the Queen to let her go.   Accompanying the expedition is Kit Doonan, a sailor who was once held captive in the Spanish Main and escaped to lead a band of Cimaroons.  While Kit and Emme have instant chemistry, the secrets they harbour threaten their chances for happiness; a situation made more pronounced by the harsh realities of living in a colony that is surrounded by enemies intent upon its destruction.   The Lost Duchess explores not only the fate of Emme and Kit, but also that of the Roanoke colony itself.

Having enjoyed Jenny Barden's debut novel, Mistress of the Sea (click here to read my review), I was eager to read The Lost Duchess.  I wasn't disappointed.  Jenny Barden has once again crafted a beautifully written and well-researched historical novel, one that features a memorable cast of characters, and an entertaining and informative narrative.  My favourite aspect of this novel is its New World setting.   I've read many works of historical fiction set in the Elizabethan era, but The Lost Duchess is the first that features the Roanoke colony at its core.  While little is known about the fate of the colony and its inhabitants, Barden's interpretation is a plausible one.  While the political and strategic considerations that impacted on the future of the colony receive only minimal attention in the book, Barden includes just enough detail to ensure that the reader understands the key issues.   This detail has also left me wanting to read more about England's first attempts at colonization and the strategic considerations behind them. 

While Kit Doonan's character is first introduced in Mistress of the Sea, enough of Kit's back story has been included in The Lost Duchess to ensure that the novel stands well on its own, and that reading the books in publication order is not necessary. 

Recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction set during the Age of Discovery, as well as to readers interested in a fictional account of the lost colony of Roanoke. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I was provided with a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of The Lost Duchess courtesy of Jenny Barden.  Giveaway details are as follows:

- The giveaway is open internationally;
- To enter, simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- Only one entry is allowed per person;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) August 24th; and
- The winner will be selected using random.org and will be notified by email.  

Good Luck! 

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