Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: FIGURES IN SILK by Vanora Bennett

2 of 5 stars

I am a fan of historical fiction and when I saw FIGURES IN SILK in the bargain pile, I grabbed it. From the description on the back book cover, I thought I'd be enjoying the story about two sisters, but I was sorely disappointed. The book focuses mainly on Isabel who we first meet as a 14-year-old sheltered girl from a wealthy family and her fears about being forced into marriage with Thomas Claver. In the first scene she is praying/sobbing in church when she meets a "hard" stranger with a "wolfish" smile. She is instantly captivated by him and so begins her decade plus affair with Dickon (aka Richard, Duke of Gloucester). When she agrees to share a meal with him, it feels unbelievable that an innocent girl with no worldly experience would agree to do this.

Isabel goes on to marry Thomas Claver and her life is set on a path of silk merchants. There are some good parts in the book especially Isabel's determination to find her place in the Claver household when her husband is killed after only two weeks of marriage. I was rooting for her at this point in the book, but the endless descriptions of silks, fabrics and the intricacies of the silk trade were boring and I ended up skipping pages at a time.

The author clearly misses the mark in not focusing more on the sisterly relationship of Isabel and Jane. I actually thought Jane's story was quite interesting, but there were only snippets of how she became the mistress of King Edward, survived being arrested as a witch and imprisoned in Ludgate Prison. Even with this turn of events, Isabel remains enamored with Dickon/Richard and never once believes that he has done despicable things to become King. For such a smart business woman, Isabel can't seem to connect the dots.

Another point where the reader must suspend belief is throughout the book both sisters are having affairs for 10+ years, but neither one ends up having a child. That seemed totally unrealistic along with the scene involving the arrest and execution of Lord Hastings. For this one scene only Richard is portrayed as the "mad" king. It was totally out of character with how Richard had been portrayed throughout the story. The ending of the book seemed contrived and not satisfying at all. I didn't care what Isabel did. This book could have been a fresh take on Richard III's rise and fall during the War of the Roses, but it falls short on so many levels that I cannot recommend it