Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: Mary of Carisbrooke

Mary of Carisbrooke: The Girl Who Would Not Betray Her King by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Publication Date: April 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 352pp
ISBN-13: 9781402255953
ISBN: 1402255950

(Received for review from Sourcebooks)

Synopsis (Book Blurb):


Charles I, king of England, thought that Carisbrooke Castle would be safe, an Isle of Wight refuge far from the madding crowd of Cromwell. But Charles ran straight into the arms of betrayal, his retreat morphing to prison and his allies few and far between.

Mary, a quiet servant girl in awe of her king and country, vaults into intrigue and danger as she heps to plot the king's escape.

A moving story of royal hopes and misfortunes, Mary of Carisbrooke is at its heart the tale of a charming girl who is as romantic and alluring as she is smart and bold. Loyal to herself and to the Crown, Mary's brush with history reveals just how quickly fate can shift the paths of power.


Mary of Carisbrooke originally published in 1956 by author Margaret Campbell Barnes is being re-released by Sourcebooks to a new audience. The authors death in 1962 did not diminish the huge success she had garnered for her work in England and around the world. Margaret Campbell Barnes is known for her three dimensional characters and her insight into the lives of royalty. This book describes the unusual relationship between King Charles I and a Mary, a servant during his imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight in 1647. Readers will be swept away by this story of adventure, betrayal and true loyalty.

Mary Floyd is the daughter of the sergeant in charge of the garrison at Carisbrooke Castle. When King Charles I retreats to the castle in hopes of compromising with Oliver Cromwell he is greeted with betrayal and left imprisoned. Mary, who is loyal to the Crown must figure out a way to help him if she can. She begins to transfer letters between the king and Royalists who are planning his escape, at great danger to herself. What would you do for king and country?

Set against the backdrop of the English Civil War this novel is told through the eyes of a young girl who stepped out of obscurity and became a loyal follower and friend to King Charles I. Mary is a courageous young girl who is willing to do whatever she can to see that King Charles I escapes from Carisbrooke Castle. She is a smart, bold girl who understands the consequences if she should be found out. She would be hailed a traitor and die for her transgressions. Yet she somehow plucks up the courage to do what she can by sending and receiving letters that will aid the escape efforts of the Royalists. I thought the author did such a wonderful job of making it seem plausible that a young girl could have such an impact on the course of history.

Margaret Campbell Barnes is long been considered one of the great names in historical fiction and that is once again proven by this moving account of King Charles I, the last true monarch of England. Her portrayal of Charles was compelling and made him come alive for the reader. Readers are used to hearing droll accounts of this king or that king and what happened during their reign. But Campbell Barnes had a way of making the most illustrious and huge characters seem human, more than just a name on a list. Charles comes across as real and unforgettable in this book. He and his family are drawn in great detail and the reader will see his benevolence and his joviality. He was a king with a good heart and that is very evident from the writing of this novel. I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between the king and Mary, a servant. It seemed realistic and very heart felt.

One of my favorite things about historical fiction is the way an author can take a person who just brushes history and make them into a character that both educates and entertains the reader. Mary of Carisbrooke takes a servant girl and lets the reader follow her adventure and intrigue as she changes history and I thought it was very well done. It's not an extremely lengthy book as a lot of historical fiction titles are. It can be read in a couple of days easily and it is fast paced and full of surprises and twists, along with the pinch of romance as Mary experiences first love.

I recommend it to lovers of historical fiction. This is a novel that exemplifies what historical fiction is all about: telling history in a way that excites the reader and makes them want to learn more.

Mary of Carisbrooke is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my bookbag!

New York Times bestseller Margaret Campbell Barnes, now deceased, wrote several historical novels including Brief Gaudy Hour, My Lady of Cleves, King's Fool, The Tudor Rose, Within the Hollow Crown, With All My Heart, Isabel the Fair, The King's Bed, Lady on the Coin, and Mary of Carisbrooke. Her novels have sold more than two million copies worldwide.

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