REVIEW: The Briar Rose (Vintage Review) by Dinah Dean
This was a nice little book. It’s set in 1540 England during the dissolution of the last monastery by Henry VIII. Now, when’s the last time you read a book with that background? The heroine’s father has been the bailey of the monastery of Woodham which is to be surrendered to the King. I got the impression that a bailey was the man responsible for managing the monastery grounds, record keeping and such. Anyway, the hero is with the Court of Augmentations, the group of men who traveled around the country seeing to the take over of these church lands and property and guess who’s house he’s come to inventory? Not an auspicious beginning for our love story.
Kate is in love with a showy courtier who’s come in the company of the King to Woodham (the fictional town and Abbey which is based on the real Waltham Abbey) to go hawking and enjoy rural life away from London for a few days. She’s upset about the closing of the monastery both for religious reasons and because her father is about to lose his job. Master Matthew Hartwell seems to her to just be itching to take over her home after he’s inventoried it. But she hopes that Amyas, her love, will come for her one day despite the fact that she now has no dowry. But she’s beginning to worry that Amyas is more interested in his advancement at court than he is in her. And why won’t Master Hartwell leave her alone? He knows she loves another. Besides he’s too quiet and dull for her. No matter that he does seem to be a kind man who does her numerous small favors with no ulterior motive in sight. But Matthew is nothing if not persistent in the pursuit of his lady love and Kate learns to tell true love from dross.
Dean writes more quiet, slow romances. She takes her time to set the stage and gives lots of background info on the times and places about which she writes. But she does it in a very subtle, non bashing you over the head style. However, she’s not one for lots of sexual tension and the love story in this one is played out very slowly. Maybe too slowly at times. Still, the period detail of Tudor England is fascinating. So many jobs that don’t exist anymore, so many traditions that have fallen by the wayside, so much pomp and ceremony that has vanished with that age. B for it.