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REVIEW: The Morning Gift by Diana Norman

Morning Gift

“A Norman heiress was a chattel to be sold in marriage to the highest bidder. If one husband died she was up for sale again. Only the first of Matilda de Risle’s husbands gives her anything back. His is the customary Saxon morning gift — the present to a wife if her lord finds her sexually pleasing on their wedding night. Matilda’s morning gift was Dungesey in the Fens…”a bolt hole my, dear somewhere to hide should trouble come.” And come it does. As the war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda in the 1140s tears England apart, Matilda de Risle has to fight for her land, her son’s safety–and her own life. Matilda, snobbish, bossy, inquisitive, realistic, competitive, and tough, is at once a powerful and endearing central character in Diana Norman’s splendid new novel of medieval English life. It is set in a barbarous civil war and is by turns violent and very funny. Above all it fills the pages with real people, with the scents of the Fens in all seasons, and tells in the end a heartwrenching love story.”

Dear Mrs Norman,

This blurb really tells why I’ve enjoyed all of your books I’ve tried so far. The characters are real. Sometimes noble and wonderful and sometimes pettish and jealous. Readers might get mad with them but they can understand why the characters act as they do. You have a delicious, subtle sense of humor which had me laughing out loud several times.

You research appears to be meticulous but is never hurled at us in chunks just to prove you did it. Plus it’s not too disgusting in portraying medieval life. And I love the way you don’t hit us over the head and take us by the hand to lead you to these facts. You also make religion an integral part of the story.

Things which may put some people off: The heroine is fourteen when the story starts, which is not unusual for medieval child brides. It spans a 20 year period of time. The heroine is married three times before she finally hooks up with the hero. It’s more a historical novel with a romance threaded through it then a true romantic historical.

Finding out about life in the Fens, the marshland around Ely in Cambridgeshire, was fascinating. How they lived, what they ate, how they hunted and wove reeds to provide things needed for day to day life. And watching the clash between Norman and Saxon showed how the two sides were still settling in. It’s a detailed snapshot of the era and one I thoroughly enjoyed. A-

Here is the full sentence from which the blurb quote is taken:

“I just wanted, my dear, for you to have a bolthole, somewhere to hide should trouble come, where you and our children will always be safe and hidden and have plenty to eat. I know it seems an odd little gift to you and it will take time to get used to its people–these are the true English and nobody is odder than they–but I shall feel happier that you have it.”


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Marg
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 01:59:10

    I have heard good things about Diana Norman’s books but have never read any of them yet. Adding this to my list! One question though. Do all her books link together or are they stand alones?

  2. Jayne
    Jul 18, 2006 @ 07:26:49

    Marg, the only three books of hers that I know tie together are the latest three. Which, lucky you, are the easiest to get your hands on. They are (in order) A CATCH OF CONSEQUENCE, TAKING LIBERTIES, and coming this September, THE SPARKS FLY UPWARDS.

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    Jul 18, 2008 @ 06:29:11

    […] delightful to again visit the people of the Fens, the true English as you described them in “The Morning Gift” and at times they are odd. They can also be fanatical, prejudiced, desperate, shrewd, […]

  5. Chris Davis
    May 30, 2010 @ 22:57:13

    I just finished reading “Mistress of the Art of Death”, and was unaware that it was second in a series. A very good read, compelling and vital. I don’t usually enjoy being locked into a series, but this is one of those cases where the book stands alone, and knowing there are others out there with the same lead character is encouraging. I will seek them out, confident that they too will stand alone.

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