Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell

publisher: Bethany House

And in this week’s This Christian Book Didn’t Suck segment, we have Siri Mitchell whose glorious foray into historical Fiction, A Constant Heart was pleasantly pleasantly received by this reader! I loved it! I did! I did!

I have to tell you, before Mitchell I could not think of one Christian author ( save the late Jane Orcutt) who could have done Elizabethan dialogue well. Most would have tried to get every third word or staved from it altogether. Not Mitchell. She wrote gracefully and with seeming effortlessness.

It is a beautiful historical with enough romance and intrigue and resonance of life as a courtier in the court of Elizabeth I to keep this picky reader titillated. No Courtier can love another woman save Queen Elizabeth I : not even his wife. And from this simple idea, Mitchell weaves her spell-binding and oft-poetic plot.

I have to admit I almost scanned this book on the shelf due to a.) my preconceived ( and obviously ill-founded) notion that a Christian writer could not broach the Elizabethan era and b.) due to the title ( which, surprisingly is strewn from a rather poignant moment in the development of a complex relationship between our hero and heroine).

This book is severely well-written: especially for its format. It criss-crosses from the perspective of the Earl of Lytham ( the flawed and human romantic lead ---expect a lot of dimension to characters here, even those in periphery ) and Marget his new and beautiful wife. I have never previously known this device to work well. Even in that now-pulp favourite “the Time Traveler’s Wife”, this is done forcefully and confusingly. Mitchell pulls it off with flair.

There is a Sir Walter Raleigh cameo …but not a stupid one. And, any moments where Elizabeth I plays into a scene are done surprisingly well, subtlely and without over-indulgence.

Impressively, the book is infused with historical accuracies without "a cut-from-this-source, paste here" feel that plagues so many writers of the genre.

The dialogue is spot on, the romance plot keeps you in “Elizabeth/Darcy will they EVER get together” mode and I learned a lot about the Elizabethan Era. Mitchell does a magnificent job of delving into the problem of face painting and the toxic ceruses and cosmetics that plagued Elizabeth and the women of her court.

On picking up this title I thought, due to the synopsis on the back, that it might be a romance of disparity of ranks: perhaps a lady of the court and a stable boy… and I was in the mood for that.What I got in its stead far exceeded my expectations.

There is nothing rash, crass or hasty here. Instead, we are given a thought-provoking expose of court life.

I had previously skipped Siri Mitchell's work because it seemed far too chick-lit for me. However, I hope she recognizes that she has found her niche.

You have all heard my treatise that I like one out of every five Christian novels I read ( and the other four are sometimes abysmal ). Siri Mitchell has leapt into my "Writers To Follow" list and I cannot wait to read more of her fresh and engaging prose.

One of the best Christian novels I have read this ( or any ) year.

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