The Sumerton Women

Written by D.L. Bogdan
Review by Ann Chamberlin

When her parents die of the sweating sickness, eight-year-old Cecily becomes the ward of the family living at Sumerton Castle, including Lady Grace and the older daughter, Mirabella, a young woman seemingly destined for the convent life. But this is the time of Henry VIII. The days of convents, let alone many another lodestones of ancient faith – including the callings of Father Alec Cahill, tutor to the Sumerton children, and Sister Julia in the near-by nunnery – are numbered.

The brutality of Henry’s grab for the riches of monasteries throughout England is often glossed over and left impersonal within the glitter of the Tudor court. I was glad this book doesn’t do so, leading to many disrupting, disturbing and engaging twists and turns of plot, treachery and love. Changing viewpoints weave a tapestry richer than the usual romance – which this isn’t. Definitely a step above. Many anachronisms, however, proved distractions: a social life that seemed more Regency than Tudor, some rather modern American religious sensibilities, personal names. And the repetition of “teal orbs” for Cecily’s eyes was over the top for me.