The Miracle at St. Bruno’s (Daughters of England #1) by Philippa Carr
Gothic Historical Romance of the 70’s
Book from my personal collection
Burton Book Review Rating::
“I was born in the September of 1523, nine months after the monks had discovered the child in the crib on that Christmas morning. My birth was, my father used to say, another miracle: He was not young at the time being forty years of age . . . My mother, whose great pleasure was tending her gardens, called me Damask, after the rose which Dr. Linacre, the King’s physician, had brought into England that year.”
Thus begins the story narrated by Damask Farland, daughter of a well-to-do lawyer whose considerable lands adjoin those of St. Bruno’s Abbey. It is a story of a life inextricably enmeshed with that of Bruno, the mysterious child found on the abbey altar that Christmas morning and raised by the monks to become a man at once handsome and saintly, but also brooding and ominous, tortured by the secret of his origin which looms ever more menacingly over the huge abbey he comes to dominate.
This is also the story of an engaging family, the Farlands. Of a father wise enough to understand “the happier our King is, the happier I as a true subject must be,” a wife twenty years his junior, and a daughter whose intelligence is constantly to war with the strange hold Bruno has upon her destiny. What happens to the Farlands against the background of what is happening to King Henry and his court during this robust period provides a novel in which suspense and the highlights of history are wonderfully balanced.
I was fortunate to be able to participate in the read along for this first book of the gothic series that prolific author Eleanor Hibbert/Jean Plaidy wrote under her pen-name of Philippa Carr. It is the story of a family in England struggling to stay out of trouble during the tyrannical reign of Henry VIII and eventually his daughter Queen Mary.
The main characters are three .. “we three as one”: Damask, the daughter of the household, Kate, her distant cousin, and Bruno, the miracle child that was brought up next door to Damask in the Abbey. Religious turmoil permeates the land, as persecution reaches its wicked tentacles out to the innocents, and Damask and Kate attempt to live their lives after tragedies occur.
Damask is introduced to us as a young girl, and by the end of the story we pretty much see what would be the end of her life as well. She was a narrator that could easily get on your nerves though, she is supposed to be so uber smart, yet it seems she doesn’t see the reality in front of her face and that got tedious after awhile. The other characters were all well done with bad guys and good guys; the plus was that in the background we also had Henry VIII and his wives. The writing had small lulls – as we knew that the proverbial shoe was going to drop and we kept waiting for it. Full of tension and the gothic style of melodramatics, this was a fun read that definitely has me intrigued enough to at least see what happens with the next generation in book two. I had been suspecting what was to be the “climatic moment” when it hit by page 357, but it was still awesome.
I haven’t read a series in a very long time that features a particular family through a long period of time, though the Morland series comes to mind (Cynthia Harrod Eagles). These two series have completely different tones, as I would not hesitate to recommend this first book of the Daughters of England to the Young Adult reader who is intrigued by the tumultuous reign of the Tudors and their effects on the families of England.
This novel was part of my 2013 To-Be-Read-Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader
The next novel I’m reading for the challenge will be another by the same author (different pen-name) The Bastard King by Plaidy. You are welcome to join the group and read along with us, starting May 1.
I read along with the Goodreads Plaidy group for The Miracle at St. Bruno’s and we had great discussions there about the book, but here are some of the status updates from the book as I was reading (you may have to be my friend there in order to see since I’m pasting):