It’s such a pleasure today to be one of the bloggers launching the blog tour for De Bohun’s Destiny by Carolyn Hughes: the third of the Meonbridge Chronicles, it was published as an e-book on 3rd May, available from Amazon in the UK and US, with the paperback to follow later in the summer. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for the advance reading copy. And there’s a bit of good news from Carolyn: to support the blog tour, the book will be offered FREE for just two days – Wednesday, May 8th and Sunday, May 12th – but at its usual price of £3.99 (or international
Carolyn wrote a wonderful guest post for Being Anne back in 2017 about the creation of historical authenticity and the first of the Chronicles, Fortune’s Wheel (you’ll find that post here): then, in June 2018, I read and reviewed the second, A Woman’s Lot (find the review here), and realised I’d discovered something rather special.
I made no secret of the fact that I read little historical fiction, and that the fourteenth century had made me particularly nervous – but reading that book was an unforgettable experience, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve been very much looking forward to the third of the Meonbridge Chronicles – and, I’m delighted to report, I might just have enjoyed it even more.
How can you uphold a lie when you know it might destroy your family?
It is 1356, seven years since the Black Death ravaged Meonbridge, turning society upside down. Margaret, Lady de Bohun, is horrified when her husband lies about their grandson Dickon’s entitlement to inherit Meonbridge. She knows that Richard lied for the very best of reasons – to safeguard his family and its future – but lying is a sin. Yet she has no option but to maintain her husband’s falsehood…
Margaret’s companion, Matilda Fletcher, decides that the truth about young Dickon’s birth really must be told, if only to Thorkell Boune, the man she’s set her heart on winning. But Matilda’s “honesty” serves only her own interests, and she’s oblivious to the potential for disaster.
For Thorkell won’t scruple to pursue exactly what he wants, by whatever means are necessary, no matter who or what gets in his way…
If you enjoy well-researched, immersive historical fiction, with strong female characterisation and a real sense of authenticity, you’ll love De Bohun’s Destiny, the third Meonbridge Chronicle, set in the mid-14th century, in the turbulent and challenging years that followed the social devastation wrought by the Black Death. Discover for yourself if, in Meonbridge, it is Margaret or Matilda, right or might, truth or falsehood, that wins the day…
Still in the vividly created world of rural life in the fourteenth century, this book steps up a tier in the hierarchy: its focus is on the trials and tribulations of the De Bohun family as Sir Morys Boune and his sons try to claim their inheritance by fair means or foul. The complexities of the social structure of the time aren’t glossed over – the precarious position of an illegitimate heir, the rule of law present but side-stepped with relative ease, the casual disregard for life, the lives of privilege offset against the daily realities for their tenants – but the author has an exceptional ability to recreate the environment in a way that makes it every bit as real and familiar as the present day, and she tells a compelling story. While the issues the characters grapple with are the product of the world in which they live, the people are recognisable and familiar – greed and unscrupulous villainy aren’t exclusive to the present day, and neither is behaving badly in the hope of securing riches and a better future.
I particularly liked – if that’s the right word – Matilda, an unlikely companion to Margaret de Bohun given her family history, adding to the family’s problems when she sees a way to escape her lowly destiny and secure a better life for herself and her daughter. The villains are quite wonderful – while Sir Morys Boune is fairly starkly drawn as a dangerous threat to the de Bohuns’ lives and future, sons Thorkell and Gunnar are drawn with considerably more depth and complexity, with real insights into their passions and motivation.
And other key characters are perfectly fleshed out too – Margaret with her initial horror at the lie she’s forced to perpetuate, Johanna’s interventions when compelled to leave her life of seclusion in support of her family, the understandable anguish of Agnes when separated from her son, the steadfast support and loyalty of bailiff John atte Wode.
But as well as being a gripping and well-paced story, with the strongest of characters and some entirely unexpected twists and turns, I particularly loved this book because of the author’s exceptional ability to construct her world in a way that makes it real – this isn’t a book you simply read, but an extraordinary immersive experience.
The descriptions are remarkable in their small details – the way people spend their days, the absence of comfort and general seediness of the castle of the Boune family in stark contrast to the covetable luxury of Meonbridge manor, the day-to-day routine at Northwick Priory, even the simple pleasures of children playing by the stream. The author’s research is clearly meticulous and extensive, but it’s the love and care with which its used to recreate its time and setting that makes this book something particularly special.
Although the third in a series, this book is entirely comfortable as a stand-alone read – it does draws on some of the events from Fortune’s Wheel as background, but I hadn’t read that one and easily grasped the history. If the fourteenth century and the complexities of its social structure might frighten you a little, there is a useful character list at the book’s start, and a glossary of unfamiliar terms at its end – but I doubt you’ll refer much to either, as the story draws you in, the pages turn with ease and increasingly quickly, and the relationships and setting become as familiar as breathing.
You might remember how very much I enjoyed A Woman’s Lot, and wholeheartedly recommended it to anyone with an appetite for something a little different. I must say that I thought De Bohun’s Destiny was even better – that same sense of living in a different world and time, but with a riveting story that grabbed me from its opening pages and held me in its thrall to the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and recommend it unreservedly.
With thanks to the author, I’m pleased to be able to offer the chance to win an Amazon gift card for $15 / £15 / €15, open internationally. Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions Worldwide entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government.
She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
De Bohun’s Destiny is the third novel in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. A fourth novel is under way.