Title: A Constant Heart
Author: Siri Mitchell
Release Date: October 1, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: **** (out of 5)
From the publisher’s website:
Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed … at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she’s lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she’ll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.
When I first heard about A Constant Heart, I wasn’t sure whether it would be historical fiction or closer to a historical romance. The title and cover seemed to indicate romance, but since it sounded interesting, I decided to give it a try anyways. I can now definitely say that it is a historical fiction novel; while there are definitely romantic elements (indeed, the romance of Lytham and Marget is arguably the main storyline), I didn’t interpret it as a romance. There was just too much other stuff going on.
The details in Mitchell’s book are amazing. It is clear that a lot of research went into the crafting of this novel; she really paints a picture of what the life of a courtier really was. It was also nice to read the story of a noble, rather than that of a famous personage in history. Indeed, I can’t help but compare this book to The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory. Both are stories of Earls: the Earl of Lytham and the Earl of Shrewsbury. However, The Other Queen has the story of Mary, Queen of Scots lurking behind it; it is not really the story of Shrewsbury or how he lived. Instead, it is the tale of how he dealt with his royal prisoner.
A Constant Heart really is simply a story of how courtiers lived. Yes, Queen Elizabeth makes a few appearances here and there. But really, the value in this book is the glimpse it provides of life in the Elizabethan area for nobles, without revolving around some other famous personage. In my opinion, the life of a courtier was rather desperate; despite all the historical fiction I’ve read, this is the first time that has really been clear to me. All the other books I’ve read seem to use nobles as a foil for the story, rather than the story itself. This makes it unique, and a valuable read.
There are some frustrations in A Constant Heart. The Earl of Lytham and his young bride seem to talk around each other rather than to each other for much of the book, leading to misunderstandings. But in the end, the story is extremely rewarding. The novel itself draws the reader in, and you’ll find yourself lost in the wonderfully detailed world of Elizabethan England that Mitchell provides. I highly recommend this book to any historical fiction or romance fans.