I’ve long been a fan of fellow author Siri Mitchell’s style. She’s smart, witty, creative and she knows how to massage words into images that appeal to the senses.
I knew the moment I saw the cover of her newest, A Constant Heart, that I wanted to get my hands on it. It’s a stunning cover, front and back. You can almost reach out and feel the lace on your fingertips. The inside pages are as much a sensory delight.
Historical fiction intrigues me when it meets me in the here and now. Tall order, I know. When an author wants to whisk me away to another century, I always stop to ask what I get to bring back with me. If it feels like a history lesson only, my interest wanes. If I want a history lesson, I will read a biography. Fiction for me must not only take me some place interesting but also send me home with party favors. Siri delivers.
I knew she had a flair for making the past come alive when I read Chateau of Echoes (loved that book). With A Constant Heart, Siri invites us to the 16th century, and to a young courtier’s outwardly elegant, inwardly turbulent world. Marget, a knight’s daughter in an arranged marriage, finds herself in the court of an aging, narcissistic monarch obsessed with beauty and self-preservation. It’s a world where silk and satin rubs up against politics and posturing and you find yourself looking with admiration upon the life of the poor peasant who gets to choose what kind of crust of bread he will eat and whom he will share it with. Imagine learning to truly love the courtier you’ve been given in marriage to, and to find to your utter joy that he has learned to love you as well, and yet fearing that the Queen might learn there is love in her court that she is not a part of. The Tower awaits those who love someone more than their Queen. And imagine, on top of everything else that you are pretty. The Tower could easily await you, too. Just for that.
There is a scene in Siri’s book involving a salad where each ingredient communicates something. (In this blog interview, Siri reveals where in her research she learned of the love salad.) The ingredients go like this:
Borage = You make me glad
Bugloss = I am pleased with you
Scallion = I love you not
Cabbage lettuce = Your love feedeth me
Bitter lettuce = I love you not
Olives = Your love annoyeth me
Rosemary flowers = I accept your love
Winter savory = I offer you my love
Radish = Pardon me
So, picture Marget and the husband she is learning to love, and who has wounded her, looking at each other across a banquet table, eating the famed love salad. She knows she is beginning to love him, she does not know he feels the same about her. He is looking at her and choosing a radish, over and over again. Pardon me, Pardon me, Pardon me. It’s a great scene. My favorite, actually. It’s the first inkling we get that Marget will learn that love trumps everything; that it’s better to live a pauper’s life and love and be loved than to live in wealth and finery and owe your soul to the court of vanities.
The faith thread is subtle and organic, just the way I like it. It speaks to how we live our lives most of the time anway. Who we are within our faith shows up in the choices we make. And everyone knows actions speak louder than words. What the marketplace might call “inspirational principles” Siri wove seamlessly into the prose, making it a natural part of the fabric of the story. Fabric like that has a nice touch.
On Friday, I hope to have all my ducks in a row so that I can launch The Shape of Mercy Blog. I am pretty excited about it. Ever wanted characters to live on after you finish the book you met them in? Well, then. Stay tuned. . .