QAB Book Review: “Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors”

December 29, 2013 in QAB Book Reviews by Beth von Staats

Castles C&K

Have you ever thought that it would be great to get a “sneak peek” of the writing of an historical fiction author BEFORE purchasing his or her newest novel? Are you curious to know just how much knowledge your favorite historical fiction author walks around with? Are you an extremely busy person who enjoys English history, but desire books you can pick up and put down as you have time to read? Or do you enjoy all facets of English history, but lack the time or energy to delve through the endless biographies and history books written that detail a rich history of a nation’s millennium and then some? If you enjoy learning of the little known “tid-bits” of English history or answer “yes” to any of these questions, look no further. Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, edited by Debra Brown and M.M. Bennetts, is the book for you.

An Edwardian stained glass impression of Warrioor Queen Boadicia in Colchester Town Hall.

An Edwardian stained glass impression of Warrior Queen Boadicea in Colchester Town Hall.

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors is an absolutely exquisite anthology book comprised of — count them — 166 historical essays composed by 55 different authors covering every imaginable facet of English history from Roman Britain’s Boadicea: Warrior Queen of the Inceni Britons to World War II’s The Men are Away at War and everything in between. As an American Tudorphile, I assumed when I decided to review this book that my interests would draw directly and only to the twenty five delightfully written Tudor Era essays, but I was very happily mistaken. The vast array of essay length compilations peaked my curiosity, and I ventured into former territories unknown, and in doing so, gained a new found appreciation and love for the exceptionally rich depth and breadth of the history of English people. As all authors and avid readers know, every wonderful historical fiction novel results not only from a writer’s ability to compose excellent prose and develop compelling plots and characters, but also the author’s commitment to complete in-depth historical research to insure no unwitting errors in fact, while also creating for the reader the life rhythms typical to the period. In creating a “written time machine”, readers are drawn into a love of history which often translates into a desire to learn more about how people who came before us lived, learned and loved. Castles, Customs and Kings vibrantly illustrates the “commitment to research” common to all accomplished historical fiction writers, while also providing readers with a wonderful glimpse of times past.

English Actresses Nell Gwyn (left) and Sarah Siddons (right)

English Actresses Nell Gwyn (left) and Sarah Siddons (right)

The variety of topics explored equals to the breadth of history the anthology covers, and many of the essays detail little known facts that rival the knowledge of even England’s finest historians. Beyond the typical stories of kings, nobility, battles, religious reformations and politics, we learn of the customs of the times, unusual facts of interest, and intriguing tales of the lesser known but also highly influential people of English heritage. Ever wonder when women began to act professionally and who they were? Did you ever consider how illnesses such as the Black Plague effected how people viewed the world and religion? Just what caused “childbirth” to be so dangerous in medieval times? Who exactly were the Knights Templar? Just how did gingerbread come about? Why did London STINK so putridly in the 19th century? And that harlot of Charles Dickens! Who in the blazes was she anyway? As the ultimate Tudorphile, beyond the hazards of childbirth, I never gave these questions even the most remote thought, but when I gazed through the Table of Contents of this delightful anthology, I was drawn right to them. If none of these topics interest you, worry not. There is something for everyone, and something more again and again. Trust me. You will not be able to put this wonderful history book down, and if you must, though the essay length format makes such an ease, you will be quickly back again.

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Debbie Brown

Debbie Brown

Debbie Brown is an historical fiction writer with varied multi-faceted interests, including homepathy, art, gardening and interior design. With an intense interest in reading period literature, wrote her first novel The Companion of Lady Holmeshire and began blogging at  English Epochs 101. Eventually, Debbie founded the very popular multi-author blog English Historical Fiction Authorsinviting historical fiction writers she met via the social media with the goal of publishing an English historical blog post daily. This multi-author blog became a resounding success, leading to the publication of an outstanding anthology Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales of English Historical Fiction AuthorsEnglish Historical Fiction Authors continues to post fascinating blogs and is an outstanding forum for writers and browsers with common interests to come together. For more information about Debbie Brown, visit her website at http://authordebrabrown.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html


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Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authorsedited by Debra Brown and M.M. Bennetts