Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: "Mistress of My Fate: The Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot"

Happy New Year folks! My apologies for the radio silence but I was taking a much needed breather during the holidays. But now it is back to work both literally and figuratively. I hope to have more reviews for you in 2014. I've recently acquired an account for Netgalley, and have started reading and reviewing upcoming novels outside of my regular duties for the Historical Novel Society. I'm currently reading Jennifer Chiaverini's "Mrs. Lincoln's Rival". It is always nice to read a novel about the American Civil War. Recently it has seemed to be an untouchable subject in historical fiction, and while I would prefer to see more Southern accounts represented (naturally), it is still good to see some books getting published.

But until then, I bring you a review of Hallie Rubenhold's "Mistress of My Fate: The Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot". It has been on my TBR list for quite some time so when I took a road trip to Virginia in October, I picked up the book on CD from the local library and started listening.

"Mistress of My Fate" follows the triumphs and woes of Henrietta Lighfoot or rather as she began, Henrietta Ingerton. What follows is a fascinating account of a well-bred woman's fall from grace, all in pursuit of love.

Set in the lush and bawdy 18th century, Ms. Rubenhold presents a wonderful historical. It is well researched and thoroughly ensconced in period details. Some authors cannot seem to strike the right blend of historical details; they either go overboard and bore the reader or they casually throw in references in order to maintain the label of historical fiction. Of course she does have a PhD in history with an emphasis on the 18th century so well she should have a good grip on this period. But unlike some academics who try to jump into fiction, she is actually good at writing!

I will admit that the story itself sometimes drags. The author certainly puts the main character Henrietta through her paces, not making anything easy along the way. Things are so hard for Henrietta, that sometimes I was compelled to roll my eyes at yet another obstacle being thrown in the heroine's way. She could be somewhat wishy washy at times as well. I found myself wanting to shake her and scream, "DO SOMETHING!" She whines a lot, but it is so well rendered I could almost visualize her gnashing of teeth and the wringing of her hands.

Despite these flaws, I was compelled to keep reading. Or in this case, listening as I had the audio version of the book. I didn't finish on my road trip (it is very long book) so I was smuggling the CDs into work so I could listen while at my desk! The narrator (Moira Quirk) was brilliant and it was amazing that she could differentiate the large cast of characters. I particularly liked her dramatization of Phillip Quindle.

I am very much looking forward to the second installment of Henrietta's story entitled "The French Lesson" which Ms. Rubenhold is currently working on. For more information on this book, check out Henrietta's website.

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