Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Woman in the Shadows - Carol McGrath - Powerful and Groundbreaking ~ 5 Stars ~

"When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realizes she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband… 

Security – and happiness – comes when Elizabeth is introduced to kindly, ambitious merchant turned lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect…but it isn’t always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII’s London. The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights – and Elizabeth realizes she must adjust to the life she has chosen…or risk losing everything"

I have called this novel "powerful", and it was to me..and "groundbreaking" because few facts are available to the public about the wife of Thomas Cromwell, excepting for her name and her death date. Additionally, again for me, this family has not been "overdone" in fiction although the Tudors themselves perhaps have been.

I preface this review to say two things: one is that I received this ARC for a review and secondly, that I hope there is a sequel of some sorts ( Gregory Cromwell  and/or Richard Williams). This author's prior work that I am most familiar with, was a family series involving three book.

This evocative story begins with a preface, that shows how Elizabeth's life will be in 1526, then jumps to Part One, which is when she is widowed from Tom Williams. On that occasion she is reintroduced, as an adult with Thomas Cromwell ( who she may have met in childhood).

Carol McGrath,in her fine author note, indicates that any "inventions" are  a  novelist's prerogative, but emerge from facts which are in existence, from her historian perspective. She also handles "time jumps" adroitly and in a way that enhances the story.

It was very satisfying to me to be able to read about the Cromwells' life together, and to put flesh  on their bones, as the saying goes. It seems to have been a good life lived in very difficult times, poised as they were on a religious reformation with many societal norms being thrown asunder.

Many of  the associates and staff of Thomas Cromwell and "Lizzie", as she was called, had their life station rise as their employer's did. We do know that in these perilous times life was precarious. This family dared to challenge some norms and consequences occurred.

I recommend this book to all historical novel lovers as well as some Tudor fans, although Henry and his queens were only backdrops to how this story is told. Masterful!

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