REVIEW: The Bridled Tongue by Catherine Meyrick
Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Alyce Bradley has few choices when her father decides it is time she marry as many refuse to see her as other than the girl she once was–unruly, outspoken and close to her grandmother, a woman suspected of witchcraft.
Thomas Granville, an ambitious privateer, inspires fierce loyalty in those close to him and hatred in those he has crossed. Beyond a large dowry, he is seeking a virtuous and dutiful wife. Neither he nor Alyce expect more from marriage than mutual courtesy and respect.
As the King of Spain launches his great armada and England braces for invasion, Alyce must confront closer dangers from both her own and Thomas’s past, threats that could not only destroy her hopes of love and happiness but her life. And Thomas is powerless to help.
CW and Trigger warnings – miscarriage, unwanted sexual advances
Dear Ms. Meyrick,
Ever since I finished your first book “Forsaking All Other” and it ended up on my best of 2018 list, I’ve been eagerly waiting for your next one. “The Bridled Tongue” takes us back again to the late part of Good Queen Bess’s reign. It’s 1586 and a young woman tries to gain some agency in her life before she has to fight charges that might take it from her.
Alyce Bradley was bundled off by her parents after her grandmother’s friend was accused of and hung for witchcraft. Alyce had learned much about salves and other healing remedies from her grandmother – who thankfully died in her bed before she could be charged with anything. Fearing for her and wishing her to learn how to manage an estate, Alyce was sent by her parents to twelves years of purgatory in the household of a stern old Lady. Alyce’s recollections of her time there paint a grim picture of life in the country, under the thumb of a dictatorial mistress.
Life at home is a little better but Alyce’s hopes of finding a position as a companion and lady in waiting in a great house are waylaid by her father’s decision to marry her off. He does offer her some degree of right of refusal but Alyce sees the way the wind is blowing when a gentleman offers for her. Since her other choice is a journeyman who works for her father and whom Alyce despises, she agrees, hoping that the little she knows about Thomas is a sign of his true nature. Both of them are in agreement that love isn’t entering into this but that they will honor and cherish and respect each other. Alyce discovers that being mistress of her own home and bearing a daughter bring her great happiness. Too soon, past enemies begin to circle and Alyce must struggle to defend herself from charges of murder and witchcraft.
As with “Forsaking All Others,” I found myself immersed in late 16th century Elizabethan England. Goodwives and Goodmen populate the towns (though not all are actually good), apprentices and journeymen work for masters, people still believe old superstitions, women could actually be bridled if thought to be scolds, death could strike anyone, and children were especially vulnerable. Marriages were made thinking only of alliances and property and women were lucky if they had any say in their lives.
By the standards of the day, it’s unfortunate for her that Alyce is not one to hold her tongue. While she did learn to bite her lip while away being schooled (and beaten), once home she speaks her mind. She also tries to help people with the remedies she knows including her sister – for all the good that does Alyce. She also finds that her marriage is a better bargain than she hoped for even if Thomas is away far more than he’s at home. I was hoping for more inclusion of the battle against the Spanish Armada but yeah, I can see that this would have increased the length of the book and taken away from the danger Alyce faces.
Wow, 16th century prisons were no joke and I could feel the terror that Alyce endures as she’s cut off from everyone, left in a stinking cell, served swill, and in fear for her life. If only cell phones had existed, her husband might have learned there was trouble earlier on. He says he’s going to stay home more now but at least I hope he’s learned to leave a forwarding address.
Frankly, for a while, I thought Alyce was a goner as every accusation against a witch seems crafted to prove guilt. The trial was riveting and the way it was decided turned out to be not only educational in English Common Law but also (at times) just a bit amusing. After reading your historical notes, I do wonder what was going on in the Norfolk area that lead to the number of pardons for witchcraft that Elizabeth I issued.
One thing that got a tad annoying was all the men trying to seduce Alyce. I realize two had an ulterior motives but the other one had me muttering, “what, him too?” The inclusion of the immigrant family friends of Alyce was educational as I had no idea this had happened but given what I know about the treatment the Spanish meted out to the Dutch, it makes sense and gives the English more reason to know they must fight off any Spanish Invasion. The obvious love the de Jong family has for Alyce and she has for them is heartwarming.
Thank you for setting these books in the (now unusual) time frame of Elizabethan England. Those used to be a dime a dozen but now … finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The historical detail is excellent, yay for commoner main characters, and though I would have enjoyed a bit more page time for the hero, seeing a strong but not anachronistic heroine is a treat. B