From Goodreads: "I was born in the September of 1523, nine months after the monks had discovered the child in the crib on that Christmas morning. My birth was, my father used to say, another miracle: He was not young at the time being forty years of age. . .My mother, whose great pleasure was tending her gardens, called me Damask, after the rose which Dr. Linacre, the King's physician, had brought into England that year."
Thus begins the story narrated by Damask Farland, daughter of a well-to-do lawyer whose considerable lands adjoin those of St. Bruno's Abbey. It is a story of a life inextricably enmashed with that of Bruno, the mysterious child found on the abbey altar that Christmas morning and raised by the monks to become a man at once handsome and saintly, but also brooding and ominous, tortured by the secret of his origin which looms ever more menacingly over the huge abbey he comes to dominate.
Dear Diary: Damask Farland, the only child of lawyer William Farland and his second wife, Dulce. Her father wanted her to be educated and so she had tutors. Damask is very close to her father and he confides in her his worries about the way things are heading with King Henry and the church.
This day in history: My notes from an earlier re-read are filled with important dates in Henry's, Edward's, and Mary's reigns. The book spans from 1522 to 1558. Damask was born in September 1523 and is ten years older than Elizabeth I.
How history played a part: Damask's father was a lot like Sir Thomas More -- initially intended to be a monk and left that life to have a family, though still strong in his faith. Henry's split with Rome and proclaiming himself head of the church upsets Lawyer Farland and his household, which is next to St. Bruno's Abbey. Damask and her family suffer through the political and religious changes each reign brings.
Bruno -- found in the Christ's crib, Christmas morning 1522, at St. Bruno's Abbey. The monks believe he is a miracle child with some higher purpose. Well-educated, but very proud and arrogant, he refuses to believe he is just an ordinary man after the truth of his parentage comes out. He's hardly the romantic hero; yet Damask truly loves him, at first, and clings to the hope he'll eventually accept the truth.
Rupert -- the orphaned son of a distant cousin. Rupert and his sister come to live with the Farlands when their parents die. Rupert is steadfast and loyal, and is in love with Damask. She turned down his proposal because her feelings for Bruno, at the time, were stronger than her feelings for Rupert. As she falls out of love with Bruno, she realizes that her feelings for Rupert are deeper than she ever thought.
Other significant characters (not all-inclusive):
Simon Caseman -- Lawyer Farland's apprentice. He, too, desired Damask's hand in marriage. Makes an enemy of Bruno, which eventually leads to his downfall.
Kate -- Rupert's sister. Beautiful, haughty and determined to get everything she wants, no matter what, she marries a much older man because he's titled, rich, and didn't care about her non-existent dowry. Damask's closest friend and rival for Bruno's attention.
Keziah -- Damask's nursemaid. Her actions have as much impact on the people at St. Bruno's and the Farland estate as any royal degree.
Verdict: I still enjoy the overall back drop of the story. How the lives were changed by the whims of the king. I still felt a real sense of the time and place: the clothes, the settings, the barges on the river.
However, there were some discrepancies/inconsistencies. One that really stood out for me was Mother Salter telling Damask that she hadn't set eyes on Bruno since he was a baby. However, several chapters earlier, she party-crashed the housewarming ball he threw at the newly refurbished Abbey estate -- like the uninvited fairy from Sleeping Beauty.
There was a lot of repetition, too. Some repetition is okay, if used properly, to remind the reader of important details. However, there was no need to mention, every time Damask saw them, that the pallets in the monks' rooms were left behind by those who stripped the Abbey of its treasures because they had little value. Part of me wondered, especially in scenes where everyone is reminiscing about the past...again, if it was all just padding, to fill pages until the next significant historical event. It certainly felt that way at times.
Despite this, I could see myself re-reading the book again, someday. Recently, the entire Daughters of England series was released in e-book format. My plans are to read the rest of the series in that format. I've already read the second book and found it much easier to read. I'm using The Miracle at St. Bruno's ebook cover in this post, even though I did not read it in that format.
Start: 26 January 2013
Finished: 28 January 2013
Disclaimer: I purchased this book.