[Review] The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts by Mary Wellesley

Publisher and Publication Date: Basic Books. October 12, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Medieval history. Europe. Church history in England.
Pages: Hardcover edition holds 352 pages.
Format: E-book copy. The review copy does not have illustrations included. The hard copy does have illustrations.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of medieval history especially those who love English church history.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Basic Books.

Author webpage: Mary Wellesley/ Goodreads.


The Gilded Page is a complete study of medieval books and manuscripts. The book begins with how a page is created. It includes the transition through the years of the types of materials that were used to create pages in the Middle Ages.

The Gilded Page is a history of the people who were involved in the creation of; and those who owned and treasured the manuscripts and books.

The Gilded Page is a book for book lovers to pour over and enjoy!

My Thoughts:

The Gilded Page is an informative, descriptive, well-researched, insightful, and fascinating study of the written page in medieval England.

Medieval history is one of my favorite time periods to read and study. I especially enjoy reading about early Christian history in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I love reading about the monarchy. I love reading about the common people of the Middle Ages. For example, Margery Kempe.

A jewel of this book, and it is a pleasant surprise, is the history of the people who were involved with these manuscripts and books. This includes information about those who rescued these artifacts from doom. I especially love the stories of the Cuthbert Gospel, the Cotton Library, Queen Emma, Henry VIII’s private prayer book, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and Welsh poetry.

I’ve read several books on Henry VIII. This is the first book with information about him that personalized and showed a humane side of him. In his prayer book he made notations at certain passages. These passages resonated with him in his mind and spirit. I love this!

The Gilded Page is one of the top books that I’ve enjoyed reading in 2021. Bravo, Mary Wellesley!

*The review copy held no illustrations for me to view. I found the following illustrations at Wikipedia, and they are in the public domain. I am sharing with my readers what I found online.

St. Cuthbert Gospel. The beginning of the text.
Emma receiving the book, Encomium Emmae. This work is a selection of her life during the period she was married to Cnut. Emma of Normandy was Queen of England twice (married to two different Kings.)
Winchester Bible. From the page on the life of King David.
From the Lindisfarne Gospel. The illustration is from the Gospel of Matthew. It is Matthew the Evangelist.

[Review] Revelations by Mary Sharratt

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. April 27, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Medieval history. Travel.
Pages: 320.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Mary Sharratt’s website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Goodreads author page

For more information about the book visit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This link provides an excerpt at the bottom of the page.

To read more information about Margery Kempe:
Medieval Studies Research Blog on Margery Kempe
British Library– This link shows illustrations of her autobiography.


Margery Kempe was born about 1373 and died after 1438 or 1440. We do not know precise dates of her birth and death. She was born and lived in Bishop’s Lynn, Norfolk, England. She married John Kempe. They had 14 children. She began having visions after the birth of her first child. She was about 20. She continued to have visions. Some visions were of Jesus Christ sitting next to her. Some of the visions were frightening creatures. She is considered a mystic. She is not a Catholic saint, but she is remembered in the Anglican Communion. Her autobiography is the first in the English language.

After the birth of her 14th child, she told her husband they should not be sexually intimate anymore. She had a difficult labor with the 14th child. She did not want to risk her life with another pregnancy and labor. To cut herself off from her husband was shocking, unheard of during this era; and it marked her as an uncommon and disobedient wife. She began preaching to women, she traveled extensively without her family; and she visited Julian of Norwich, another female mystic, to seek support and guidance. She was arrested several times. She was tortured. She was considered a heretic. Her autobiography is written with transparency about her life. It is an unusual story for its time. It is a story about a woman living during the middle ages who endured many of the same things other women endured, except Kempe’s visions and pilgrimages set her apart.

My Thoughts:

Revelations is a remarkable story. It is a story that causes me to pause and reflect on what it must have been like to be a woman who didn’t have a choice to say no. No was a forbidden word for females. Females were to be compliant and obedient. If they were not, they were viewed with suspicion.

Several reasons led me to give an excellent rating to Revelations.
1. I love the characterization of Margery Kempe. She is a woman ahead of her times. She loves her children but felt drawn to something more. She illustrates what grief does to people. She has a strong personality but is stifled by culture. Her character develops in her maturity. Through her story, I understand maternal and child health during this era.
2. I have not read another story about Margery Kempe.
3. Descriptive setting of her travel mode, scenery, people, and the places or cities she saw.
4. Other female characters in the story gave different perspectives on women’s lives of this era and how they felt about Margery.
5. The story is chronological or linear. I am so glad to read a story that is not multiple time periods going back and forth.
6. The story shows male and female relationships, especially marriage. I am more sad than angry at the dominance of males over females. Sad for the females of course.
7. The story shows the different roles or responses from her children. People are people and their perspective and behavior is varied, but I saw her children showing different responses to her life.
8. Inner and outward conflicts.
9. Revelations is one of my favorite types of historical fiction: women in history.
10. There is a building of sensory, imagination, fear, anxiety, and tension.

Themes in Revelations: death and dying, bravery, courage, kindness, innocence, shame, suffering, judgement, injustice, conformity, charity, and hope.

(Review) A King Under Siege: Book One of the Plantagenet Legacy by Mercedes Rochelle

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Publisher and Publication Date: Sergeant Press. January 5, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction, British history, medieval, Richard II, biographical.
Pages: 310.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from the author, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of medieval, British history, kings of England, and historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

The Plantagenet Legacy (Book 1)

Landing page for the book tour: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Amazon link 
Available in paperback, audio, and Kindle. The Kindle unlimited is 0.

2019 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Further links of interest:
Britannica-Richard II
Medieval Chronicles-Richard II-be careful with the clickbait
Archives.history-Richard II
The Freelance History Writer-Anne of Bohemia
The Freelance History Writer-Isabella of Valois

03_Mercedes Rochelle Author
About the Author:

Born and raised in St. Louis MO, Mercedes Rochelle graduated with a degree in English literature from the University of Missouri. Mercedes learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
Goodreads page for Mercedes Rochelle. In addition, webpage, Facebook, 

Richard II found himself under siege not once, but twice in his minority. Crowned king at age ten, he was only fourteen when the Peasants’ Revolt terrorized London. But he proved himself every bit the Plantagenet successor, facing Wat Tyler and the rebels when all seemed lost. Alas, his triumph was short-lived, and for the next ten years he struggled to assert himself against his uncles and increasingly hostile nobles. Just like in the days of his great-grandfather Edward II, vengeful magnates strove to separate him from his friends and advisors, and even threatened to depose him if he refused to do their bidding. The Lords Appellant, as they came to be known, purged the royal household with the help of the Merciless Parliament. They murdered his closest allies, leaving the King alone and defenseless. He would never forget his humiliation at the hands of his subjects. Richard’s inability to protect his adherents would haunt him for the rest of his life, and he vowed that next time, retribution would be his.

“This story is rich in historical detail. It has so obviously been meticulously researched. I cannot but commend Rochelle for this exceptional work of scholarship. A King Under Siege: Book One of The Plantagenet Legacy is one of those books that once started is impossible to put down. This book is filled with non-stop action. There are enough plots and conspiracies to satisfy any lover of historical fiction. This is storytelling at its very best.” Mary Anne Yarde from Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots Blog


Richard II (1367-1400)

My Thoughts:
When the book begins Richard II is a teenage boy. He was not yet the age when he was able to reign without the regency council. He’d come to the throne at age 10. In A King Under Siege, I was shown Richard’s feelings of inadequacy because of his age. He has a loneliness and a yearning for someone to understand and be loyal to him. His reign showed me the difficulties of trying to please his subjects, both the common and wealthy classes. Richard’s early success during the Peasant’s Revolt was short lived, he later suffered a deep humiliation, and he wanted to show himself a strong and capable leader. I was shown his role as king but also Richard’s character. The person he was. He was a complex character.
A King Under Siege is a compelling read because of Richard II’s climactic early years of reign.
The story is strong in dialogue-conversations between the various nobility. For example: Robert de Vere, Michael de la Pole, Thomas Mowbray, Henry of Bolingbroke, and John of Gaunt. Each of these men have strong stories that reflect their own aggressive ambitions.
At times while reading A King Under Siege, I imagined a game of chess. It’s a game of strategy. The players in this true historical period were each a strategist. They looked for weakness and opportunities to gain power over the opponent.
I saw Richard’s feelings from the first about his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke. These glimpses will lead to a change in monarchy later. I imagined a curtain drawn back to reveal just a brief glimpse of the future. Richard does have something to be envious about, and this makes me anxious to read book two!

Giveaway: This blog doesn’t host giveaways. At the end of this review is a link for the giveaway. 
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 paperback copies of A King Under Siege! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
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(Review) The Way of Glory by Patricia J. Boomsma

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Publisher and Publication Date: Edeleboom Books. November 14, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 406.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to write a positive review. Complimentary paperback copy provided by the author, Patricia J. Boomsma.
Rating: Very Good.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction. Readers who love medieval history. Adult and young adult audience.

The Kindle Unlimited ebook is free at this time
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Blog Tour Landing Page at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Praise for The Way of Glory:
“One of the many impressive things about The Way of Glory is how lightly it wears its scrupulous research. This fine novel invites you to lose yourself to the compelling character and tumultuous life of a young woman trying to find God and love at the heart of a crusade rooted in greed and hate. This is a remarkable debut by a writer to watch.” -Naeem Murr, author of The Perfect Man
The Way of Glory convincingly portrays a place, a time, and a people vastly different from our own. Historical fiction is a fantastically difficult genre to get right, but Pat Boomsma manages it with aplomb.” -Pinckney Benedict, author of Dogs of God
The Way of Glory is a riveting read from first page to last, as it expertly traces the trajectories of several compelling characters caught up in the Crusades. As the protagonist, Cate will steal your heart; she’s as complex a fourteen-year-old as you will ever meet, and the fate she struggles against is a complicated and often frightening vortex of forces, made ever richer by the intense evocation and very thoughtful depictions. This is a remarkable novel.” -Fred Leebron, author of Welcome to Christiania

03_Patricia Boomsma

About the Author:
I grew up in a far southwestern suburb of Chicago among the trees and sloughs of the Cook County Park District, then attended college in Michigan. After graduating, I dreamed of an academic life teaching English literature and began a Ph.D. program at Purdue University. There I concentrated on medieval studies, receiving a Master’s and continuing on for four more years before realizing that no one I knew was finding a permanent, let alone tenure-track, position. So, instead of writing my dissertation I went to law school. I moved to Arizona to escape the brutal midwestern winters and have been practicing law there for over thirty years. My first novel, The Way of Glory, is, in part, an extension of my love for all things medieval.

Cate, a teenage girl from twelfth century England, joins her brothers and aunt on a crusade to save Jerusalem that stops in Hispania to battle the Moors. Life on a battlefield strains the family’s closeness as they confront the terror and contradictions of holy war. Cate’s dreams of sainthood change to those of a husband and children when she falls in love with a soldier, but she finds no peace even after the family settles on land taken from the Moors. Cate’s friendship with a conquered Moor soon leads to impossible choices as she faces the cost of betrayal and the loss of all she’s known.

My Thoughts:
Medieval history is one of my favorite genres. I sometimes go through periods of reading time where this is the only type of book read.
The main reason I gave The Way of Glory a very good rating is because of the details of life during this historical period.
The main character is Cate. She is 14. She has two older brothers, a knight, and a future priest. They have other siblings and parents who do not have strong parts in the story. Cate’s aunt, Mary, is a strong character. Mary is a mature anchor in the story versus Cate’s impulsive immaturity.
Cate’s immaturity is irrational, selfish; and is in itself a theme that later leads to a disaster. Cate is the main character but I disliked her to the point of annoyance.
Mary is a character I’d like to read more about. She has knowledge and wisdom behind eyes that take in a mature perspective. However, making Mary the main character would change the whole story.
Cate wants to be given a mature responsibility. Mary is going to travel as a pilgrim with the soldiers who are “fighting for Christ” against the Moors. Mary can cook. She has knowledge of medicinal arts. And, she will care for the wounded soldiers. Cate and Mary will work together as a team ministering to the men who are fighting. However, Cate’s immaturity will display itself.

Reasons why I love The Way of Glory:
•The descriptions of everyday life in England: family life, church, food, role of women, priesthood, and knights training. And, early in the story a mystery surrounding a death. The village sheriff gave me a view of how a crime is investigated.
•The descriptions of how injured people were cared for during battle.
•Through Cate’s fresh lens I saw her world. The traveling by ship, plants, animals, buildings, bridges, ports, and a lighthouse.
•The people of Hispania. Their language and culture is interesting. Their culture versus the English culture was shown in the story.
•The feelings people had about the crusades. How they felt in England versus how they felt after arriving in a new land, and later, after the fighting began.

(Review) The Monastery Murders: A Stanton and Barling Mystery by E.M. Powell


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02_The Monastery Murders

Publisher and Publication Date: Thomas & Mercer. September 27, 2018.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Series: Stanton and Barling #2.
Pages: 288.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend. Good.
Audience: Readers of mystery books and medieval history.

The ebook on Amazon Kindle Unlimited is free right now.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours Landing Page

Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.
Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.
Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.
When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

03_E.M. Powell

About the author:
E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.
Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.
Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

My Thoughts:
Early in the book there is a story about a bear being attacked by dogs. This was a source of entertainment for the townspeople: a bear being attacked by dogs in a pit. It’s not that I like this sort of thing, but it is an ingenious sub-story. This event gave me a perspective of that era. Their type of entertainment and sport was bear-baiting. This leads me to my first reason for liking this book: The Monastery Murders gave me a strong view of life in 1176 in North Yorkshire, England.
The mystery of the book is deaths that take place in a monastery. A monastery is not the sort of place where gruesome murders are committed. And, all of this begins at Christmas time. So, the opposite of what I’d expect in a murder case is turned upside down by the date and place. I like this unexpected aspect of the story.
Hugo Stanton and Aelred Barling are the two men who work together to solve the murders. Barling is a senior clerk in the court of King Henry. Stanton is a messenger with the law court. They’d solved a case several months ago (this must have been in book one.) Stanton is the pupil of Barling. Stanton is a younger and handsomer man. Stanton has charm and is a physical type man. Whereas, Barling is described as “pale skin” and “thin face.” Barling comes across to me as a brooding, secretive type man. Later in the story a personal mystery about Barling will be revealed that explained my suspicions.
I enjoyed reading The Monastery Murders, but was not swept up in the story as I’d liked, and this is why I gave the book a good rating.