Title: The Steel Beneath the Silk: A Novel
Author: Patricia Bracewell
Publisher: Bracewell Press
Copyright: September 12, 2022
Format: E-Book, 448 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women’s Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Historical Fiction Inspired by Real Historical Figures
A breathtaking conclusion to Bracewell’s Emma of Normandy Trilogy (Shadow on the Crown, The Price of Blood, and The Steel Beneath the Silk) brimming with treachery, heartache, tenderness and passion as the English queen confronts ambitious and traitorous councilors, invading armies and the Danish king’s power-hungry concubine.
In the year 1012 England’s Norman-born Queen Emma has been ten years wed to an aging, ruthless, haunted King Æthelred. The marriage is a bitterly unhappy one, between a queen who seeks to create her own sphere of influence within the court and a suspicious king who eyes her efforts with hostility and resentment. But royal discord shifts to grudging alliance when Cnut of Denmark, with the secret collusion of his English concubine Elgiva, invades England at the head of a massive viking army. Amid the chaos of war, Emma must outwit a fierce enemy whose goal is conquest and outmaneuver the cunning Elgiva, who threatens all those whom Emma loves.
In this third installment in the “Emma of Normandy” trilogy, Emma, queen of Æthelred the Unready has been trapped in a miserable, loveless marriage for years. She survives the best she can with a cold and cruel husband who us haunted by the ghost of his deceased brother. Like any devoted mother, she protects the interests of her children, especially since her husband has so many sons from his first marriage. One of her stepsons, Athelstan, desires her and she is very fond of him. The truth is that Æthelred believes his wife and her sons to be a threat. After all, she is no longer the frightened child that came to England years ago. Now she has come into her own and grown into her queenly role, beloved by the people. Soon Sweyn Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, invade with their army, war erupts across the land. Cnut’s wicked Saxon concubine, Elgiva, has a vendetta against Emma and Æthelred. When it seems like all of England is ablaze, Emma must do what she can to survive the onslaught of war and to safeguard the lives of those she loves.
Years ago when Patricia Bracewell’s first book in the trilogy, Shadow on the Crown, came out, I immediately loved it. I was swept away into a wonderful new world. When I saw that The Steel Beneath the Silk was released, I was rather excited. Bracewell’s writing and characterization is some of the best I have seen. As one reads, one really feels as if they are standing in eleventh-century England with its danger and uncertainty. I think what I fell in love with was her strong depiction of Emma of Normandy. In this protagonist there is so much to admire. Her life is so very difficulty but she has such fearlessness. She is tough because she has to be. Bracewell masterfully illustrates scenes and brings them to life. She explains the culture in a great, approachable way, too.
To crown it all, Bracewell’s evocative writing is interspersed with anecdotes from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. There is an extensive Dramatis Personae that expounds who is who. There is a glossary of useful terminology and corresponding definitions. There are maps to provide context. Finally there is a fantastic Author’s Note at the back of the book.
In conclusion, I adored this book. It is a work of art.
I graciously received this complimentary copy of The Steel Beneath the Silk by Bellastoria Press and Netgalley. All ideas and thoughts expressed herein are my own.