Arranged by her wealthy yet untitled father, Marget is to be married to the Earl of Lytham, a courtier to Queen Elizabeth and in dire need of finances to retain his family home and maintain a lifestyle impressive enough to please his Queen. Having suffered at the hands of his first wife, Lytham has no desire to marry, but with his pride and family honour at stake, he accepts the hand of Marget, hoping she is a plain and timid woman.
At seventeen years, Marget is naïve to the ways of men and the court, yet is thrust unceremoniously into the viper’s pit that selfish ambition has bred in Elizabeth’s court. Lytham offers no advice or assistance as she is insulted by the Queen and subsequently shunned by her peers. Desperate to please the Queen and advance her husband's standing, Marget follows the fashions dictated by the Queen, plucking all her eyebrows, painting her face white, frizzing and colouring her hear until she is nothing more than another imitator captive to the whims of the Queen and her court.
As Marget’s health deteriorates along with other women who paint their faces with paint infused with lead, another threat rises that is even more deadly. If the Queen discovers her courtier is falling in love with his wife, the tower or even death, beckons.
Siri Mitchell has penned a compelling and moving story of a young girl striving desperately to please her husband and appease the whims of an jealous Queen. The pursuit of physical perfection as decreed by one woman resulted in disfigurement, miscarriage and early death of many women. Set in the sixteenth century during the reign of Elizabeth 1, A Constant Heart sadly reveals that not much has changed in five hundred years with society today still enforcing an unnatural expectation of acceptable beauty and woman, young and old alike, tormented by it's pursuit, even unto death.
Written beautifully in the first person, Siri has captured a sixteenth century feel to the dialogue without resorting to thees and thous. Descriptions of the court and society of the day are excellent and Siri’s characterisation shines. Lytham, is particularly well developed, torn between his devotion to his Queen and his blossoming love for his young wife. His desperation to climb the social ladder to gain wealth and acceptability is palpable and seems destined to fail.
There are many contemporary truths exposed by this novel which are challenging yet the story is ultimately uplifting. A Constant Heart is an excellent start to Siri’s new series and I eagerly look forward to Siri's next book, Love's Pursuit, set in a Puritan community in Massachusetts.
Relz Reviewz Extras
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Character spotlight on Lytham and Marget
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