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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes
ARC, Paperback, 352 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
April 1, 2011
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review
“The moving, tragic story of Charles I, the last absolute monarch of England, during his imprisonment in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. Richly drawn and inspired by the New York Times bestselling author's own experience living on the Isle of Wight, this dramatic retelling brings to life the cavalier king whom Cromwell deposed. But even more fascinating than the account of royal hopes and misfortunes is the tale of a charming servant girl who is as romantic and tender in love as she is bold and resourceful in plotting the king's escape.”

This story was as much a coming of age story as it was a tale of Charles I while at Carisbrooke Castle. Our main character is Mary, who has lived at the Castle her entire life and can never imagine living anywhere else. The Isle is her life. When Charles I and his entourage show up there looking to hide out she is quickly enveloped in a life very different from what she is used to – a world of intrigue, daring-do, and political machinations. We get to see Mary grow from a very naïve young girl to a young woman who knows what she wants and can take matters into her own hands. I didn’t think I was going to like Mary at the beginning of the novel but she grew on me. I think once we got past the super naïve girl I began to enjoy her more. During the story she experiences her first taste of falling in love and her first heartbreak. These scenes were very sweet and developed in a believable manner.

I had never read about King Charles I before this book and I really didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that he was eventually executed. The end portion of his reign is covered in this novel – from the time of his escape to Carisbrooke to his execution. I would have liked to have been given a little bit more background for context purposes to know what led to the divisions between the King and Oliver Cromwell. It was sort of that he just showed up there and you were thrown into it. In terms of the King as a character, he was more of a passive character. All of the other book characters are working to save/rescue him and have conversations about him, but his active role in the novel is rather small. This book was written with a sympathetic view of the King in mind.

This wasn’t a very heavy novel but it was full of intrigue and plots of escape that made it a fun read.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Margaret Campbell Barnes wrote many novels, but many are hard to find.  However, the below have been reprinted by Sourcebooks:

my lady of cleves
My Lady of Cleves

brief gaudy hour
Brief Gaudy Hour

the tudor rose
The Tudor Rose

kings fool
King’s Fool

within the hollow crown
Within the Hollow Crown
[My Review]

the passionate brood
The Passionate Brood
[My Review]

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Thanks for the review, Heather. I've read a few of Campbell Barnes' books - My Lady of Cleves, Within The Hollow Crown and The Passionate Brood - but only enjoyed one of them (My Lady of Cleves). I've been reluctant to read her other books because of this, but your review of Mary of Carisbrooke has me thinking that maybe I should give this one a try.

  2. I still haven't read any Barnes but want to get The Passionate Brood -- that sounds the most promising!

  3. Melissa - I have had a similar reaction too. I have read Within the Hollow Crown (didn't really like it) and The Passionate Brood (which I did enjoy). This one sort of fell in the middle for me.

    Audra - I would recommend The Passionate Brood out of all hers I have read so far.

  4. Sounds like a good one! I may have to check this out in the future.

  5. Lovley review Heather. Thanks you :)


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