Steeped in naval history and courtly intrigue, this fast-paced historical novel tells the true story of a dangerous sea voyage from Britain’s tumultuous Georgian past. When Admiral George Anson sets off to circumnavigate the globe in search of treasure and prestige, he leaves his mistress to fend for herself in the dangerous court of George II. In the years that follow, the lovers each face life-changing journeys: one filled with mutiny, storms and unimaginable treasure, the other with gossip, love and the battle for true friendship. While daring escapades play out at sea, the exotic Donna Consuelo and her witty, outspoken ward Grace Lively must navigate the tumultuous world of court back home.
Summer’s Grace by Vanessa Hannam Review
Historical Fiction at its Best…
The historical novel: for me it conjures up bleak and depressing imagery of battles and bloodshed, poverty and an ever-pervading grey blanket of doom, gloom and hardship as peasants scrape gruel from stone bowls whilst the royals and gentry lord it up with their feasts of swan and triple-tiered blancmanges. That was until I read Vanessa Hannam’s exquisitely vibrant, page turner, “Summer’s Grace“… and as if by magic, I think I may have been converted.
Summer’s Grace is the fifth novel in the former journalist’s repertoire, and its intricate storyline, characters and evocative settings make me want to dive headfirst into all the books which came before it.
Summer’s Grace is a heady mix of all the key ingredients which make a novel truly great. Without wishing to give too much away – because I implore you to read it for yourselves! – the story is based on real historical events from Vanessa’s own family, which in turn fired up her imagination and bloomed into an epic tale of seafaring, coming of age, love in all its guises, devilish deeds, humanity and humility.
The author depicts the era in an inimitable way. The precision and enchantment of her language takes the reader right there to the heart of the drama; be that in the court of King George II with all its debauchery and shenanigans taking place right beneath HRH’s nose, or the homestead of the Lively family, who wait with baited breath to discover if their loved one will return from his epic circumnavigation of the globe. And this in turn makes for a book which you simply cannot put down – try as you might.
I am in awe of Vanessa. The amount of research she must have painstakingly carried out to execute this project with such poise and detail is beyond impressive. The historical novel is without a doubt one of the trickiest works of art. Not only do readers expect a pacey tale filled with obstacles and protagonists, near-misses and short-lived triumphs, they also expect to learn something of the period; they also expect to swoon over some delicious writing, and they also expect to develop an instant empathy with the characters whose sub plots should effortlessly intertwine. Vanessa delivers on all of the above.
I particularly adored her depictions of the fabulously exotic Lady Consuelo and Pepe (perhaps that’s slightly biased of me as I live on the Iberian Peninsula!). Yet equally, I couldn’t help but chuckle out loud at some of the images her descriptions of King George II’s ‘intellect’ and Sir Hartley Slinkwell’s devious nature evoked. For not only does the author offer up a novel which ticks so many of the great story telling boxes, but she does so with a fabulous peppering of wit.
And Summer’s Grace is also a book which makes you feel a renewed kind of gratitude that you’re living in the 21st century (even amidst these politically unstable times), because just one glance back in History at the way the world used to be, at the issues such as scurvy, women dying in childbirth, and unsuspecting teenage girls being lured into the snares of older men who should know better, makes you realise just how good we really do have it today; just how much humanity has actually evolved.
So if you are looking for a riveting new read, something entertaining, educational and unique, look no further. Summer’s Grace will not disappoint.
Summer’s Grace is published by Quartet Books