Book Review: “The Last Daughter of York” by Nicola Cornick

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The mystery of the Princes in the Tower has inspired many myths and theories for centuries. It has captured readers’ and historians’ attention that numerous books have focused on this topic and solved the mystery. But what if the mystery of the princes extended to the modern-day and caused another disappearance? Serena Warren’s twin sister Caitlin went missing years ago. When Caitlin’s body is discovered in a tomb that has been untouched since the 18th century, Serena must recover her memories to discover the truth. How does the story of Caitlin’s disappearance and death connect with the famed Princes in the Tower? These mysteries are explored in Nicola Cornick’s latest gripping historical fiction novel, “The Last Daughter of York.”

I want to thank Graydon House and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this novel. When I read the description of this title, I was intrigued by the concept. Having dual timelines, with one story being in the past and one in the present day, can be tricky to maintain balance, so I wanted to see how well Cornick can combine Wars of the Roses history with a modern-day story.

Cornick begins her novel with the tale of the Mistletoe Bride, the mysterious woman who stole a mystical artifact and faded into the dark on her wedding night. We then jumped ahead to Serena Warren’s story as she tries to live her life while being haunted by the memories of her twin sister Caitlin, who disappeared without a trace. Serena is the only one who knows what might have happened to Caitlin, but she has cognitive amnesia, which prevents her from remembering the night her sister vanished. Serena starts to search for the truth when Caitlin’s remains are discovered in a tomb from 1708.

A while later, we jump back to the middle of the Wars of the Roses, where we get to know Anne Lovell, the young wife of Francis Lovell. Anne is only five years old when she is married to Francis Lovell. Their relationship develops from an arranged marriage to friends, and finally, to deeply in love. Francis is best friends with Richard Duke of Gloucester, who would become King Richard III. When Richard’s brother King Edward IV unexpectedly passed away in 1483, Elizabeth Woodville turned to Francis and Anne to protect her youngest son, Richard of York. When Richard III died two years later, Francis and Anne had to do everything in their power to protect Richard of York.

I found both stories engaging, but when they combined, I found them thrilling. The stories that Cornick was able to craft are stunning, and the characters are so believable. I loved both female protagonists, Anne Lovell and Serena Warren, as they were strong and determined to figure out the truth and protect the ones they loved. The romantic elements of this novel are enough to make you swoon. The ending was so satisfying, and Cornick kept me guessing until the bitter end on who Caitlin’s killer was, which when it was revealed made perfect sense.

Overall, I loved this book. Before I started it, I did have reservations about the dual timelines, but Cornick does it masterfully. It is a smashing story that combines the past and the present with mysteries and romance. This was the first book that I have read by Nicola Cornick, but it will not be my last. If you love historical fiction and contemporary fiction, you will adore “The Last Daughter of York” by Nicola Cornick.

Book Review: “The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King” by Keith J. Coleman

cover156859-mediumA king who died on the battlefield and his remains were never found. His story and his legacy went through many revisions throughout history. This sounds like a certain English king, King Richard III, but this story actually takes place decades after Richard’s death in Scotland. This is the story of King James IV of Scotland, who died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. It was this event and how James IV was viewed afterward which Keith J. Coleman explores in his book, “The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King”.

I would like to thank Chronos Books for sending an advance copy of this book. I was not very familiar with Scottish history before reading this book so it was a very interesting read.

Coleman explains why James IV’s reign is so unique and why there were some who questioned whether the king actually died at Flodden:

Whispers about James IV defying fate and living on after his catastrophic last battle were a widespread reflex to unexpected tragedy common with many countries. Other kings are said to have cheated death and gone into hiding, or become religious penitents who went to Jerusalem or Rome. Some of these lost leaders shared another of the king’s rumoured fates: murdered by some person they knew and trusted. But very few have been believed to be actually resident in another, supernatural dimension, as one tradition of James IV insisted. This was the destiny of the truly elite, such as the primal warlord Arthur.  No ruler, not even the great emperor Charlemagne, attracted so many diverse tales about himself so immediately after his apparent death. (Coleman, 5-6).

Coleman begins his book by exploring the relationship between James IV and his father James III, as well as exploring what James IV’s reign was like. James IV did not have the best relationship with his father since James IV became the figurehead of the opposition party who wanted to see his father dead. After his father’s death, James IV became king and is said to have worn an iron belt to atone for his sins against his father. James IV was something of a ladies’ man and had numerous illegitimate children, but he did marry Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII, and had legitimate children with her. Under their marriage arrangement, James IV was not to attack England and vice versa, but James IV decided to attack while Henry VIII was away fighting in France. The one flaw in his plan was the fact that Henry VIII had his wife Catherine of Aragon take over military command while he was away and she was not going to let James IV invade. The Scottish and English armies met at the Battle of Flodden on September 9, 1513.

Since we don’t have accurate records of the Battle of Flodden, Coleman explains how the Scottish viewed the battle versus how the English and the rest of Europe viewed this event through literature. It is a very typical historiographical study, but what makes it unique is the addition of the legends and folklore about the king that came after his death. In some parts, this book does read like a ghost story combined with history. It is different, but it does capture the fascination with the supernatural that the Scottish had. In addition, Coleman explores how other historical figures received similar treatments throughout history.

This was the first book that I have read solely on Scottish history and it was a compelling read. It was a bit confusing at points when the history and supernatural elements combine, which was different to be sure, but overall it was a thought-provoking book. This may not be the best book for those who are being introduced to Scottish history, but it is one for those who are familiar with the eclectic approach of Scottish history and those who are interested in King James IV. Keith J. Coleman achieves a unique balance of the historical and supernatural elements to this specific king’s life and legacy in his book, “The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King”.

“The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King” by Keith J. Coleman, published by Chronos Books, comes out on April 26, 2019. If you are interested in ordering this book, you can find more information about how here: https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/chronos-books/our-books/afterlife-king-james-iv