Monday, September 28, 2015

The Miracle at St. Bruno's by Philippa Carr

cover of The Miracle at St. Bruno's by Philippa Carr
When I was a teenager, I loved to read Victoria Holt, Phyliss Whitney, and Mary Stewart. Because I wanted to read more of the genre that I loved, gothic suspense, I checked out other books written by Holt. Victoria Holt's real name was Eleanor HIbbert, and she was quite prolific, writing under several different names. I really got into one of the pseudonyms, Philippa Carr. These books weren't really suspense, although at times, there were suspenseful moments. The Carr books follow the family line through a succession of females from the time of Henry VIII to World War II. There are only 19 books in the series, and I think I only read a handful of the later ones. They are available on Kindle for a reasonable price, so over time, I got all 19 books. I started reading the first in the series The Miracle at St. Bruno's, and it reminded me of the others that I read.

Damask Farland is the heroine of the book, and obviously the start of the line of strong women who get involved with strong men. The miracle in the title is the baby who is found in the crib at the local abbey altar at Christmas one year. The boy is named Bruno, and he is raised by the monks. However, in the time of Henry VIII, there is a good deal of religious upheaval. Henry basically got rid of the church because he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The reader learns about all the things going on in Henry's court and the country through mostly secondhand stories told by Damask and her cousin Kate. Anyway, the abbey is dismantled, and Bruno is exposed as love child between a Damask's female servant and a monk. Bruno vanishes one day shortly after the abbey is emptied, and he is gone for a few years. Kate marries a lord and quickly has a boy. Damask's father is imprisoned and beheaded for harboring a former monk. When Bruno comes back, he marries Damask, and surprises of surprises, he has enough money to restore the abbey. There is a lot of tension between Damask, her step-father, Simon Caseman (who betrayed Damask's father to get her father's lands), and Bruno. Things also don't go well when Damask is only able to produce a female child.

All in all, the book is a classic start to the stories that were published in the Philippa Carr name. There is some romance, some intrigue, some happiness, and some depression. If you like historical novels with strong female characters, you should give the Carr books a try. You will not be disappointed.

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