Saturday 19 October 2019

#BookReview — The Muse of Fire by Carol M. Cram #Shakespearean #HistoricalFiction @carolcram

The Muse of Fire
By Carol M. Cram

Abandoned at birth, the grandly christened Edward Plantagenet rises from London’s Foundling Hospital to take charge back stage at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, only to be blind-sided when he rescues Grace—a young woman escaping an abusive father.

Grace finds an outlet for her passions as a Shakespearean actress, becoming ensnared by intrigues and setbacks that mar the pathway to stardom she craves.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Old Price Riots of 1809, Grace and Ned find common purpose in a quest that threatens to tear both their worlds apart.

Grace’s mother used to say that London was the centre of the world—sanctuary for the very best and worst of humanity.
How wrong she had been.

When Grace flees into the night, she has no thought as to where she would go, only that she could not stay where she was. Since her mother’s death, Grace’s father had become a stranger — the *invisible spirit of wine has seduced him and, like that devil, he hits out with his fists only to later deny it. The streets of London seemed like a better place than staying at home. But London during the night was different than London during the day. For when the inconsistent moon takes flight, the worst of humanity skulks out of the shadows.

It was by chance that Ned stumbled upon Grace. He may talk rough and live in poverty-stricken surroundings, but he is honest. And, above everything else, kind. Ned will not leave Grace, broken and bleeding as she is, to face a cold and dangerous night on London’s streets.

Under Ned’s watchful care, Grace recovers from her ordeal. To her delight, Grace discovers that she and Ned share a common passion — the theatre. And while Grace has only ever dreamt of being an actress, Ned works at the illustrious Theatre Royal, in Covent Garden. Grace would give up everything to walk the boards and perform in a play by her favourite playwright — William Shakespeare. Perhaps destiny was at work, or perhaps, at last, Grace was the master of her fate...

From a desperate escape into the night to the end of the Old Price Riots of 1809, The Muse of Fire by Carol M. Cram is the unforgettable story of a young woman who takes her destiny into her own hands and becomes an actress.

Cram takes us behind the scenes of the Theatre Royal, and what goes on is far more sensational and entertaining than any play —even one of Master Shakespeare’s! The Muse of Fire is a nuanced portrait of life and theatre in the Georgian era. It has everything Shakespearian enthusiasts could want — there is the absurdity of a Shakespeare comedy, but also the poignancy of his tragedies. This book does not gloss over the poverty of the thespians, nor does it take anything away from what it must have been like for those who lived during this time.

With a careful eye on the opulence of the era, and at the other end of the scale, the poverty, Cram has written a fabulous backdrop for her characters, and she has breathed life back into the Theatre Royal. I adored the characterisation of both Grace and Ned. Grace is all alone in the world since her mother died, and it isn’t until Ned stumbles upon her that she realises that all this time she has been living half a life, and although she has only been to the theatre once, her mother had installed a love of Shakespeare in her, and now that Grace has trodden the boards, there is a fire within her that refuses to be quenched. Grace really came into her own through the course of this book. She is a likeable heroine, but also a courageous one who is determined to live her life how she wants to live it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her journey unfold. However, it was Ned that closed the deal on this book for me.

Ned grew up at the Foundling Hospital in London, but inauspicious beginnings did not hamper his success, and he is now the stage manager at the Theatre Royal. Ned loves the theatre, he loves his job, and he is secretly in love with Olympia, a young and talented actress. Ned cares for Grace as he does with everyone. He is a wonderful protagonist and one I enjoyed reading about very much.

Although Grace and Ned are fictional characters, there are a host of historical figures in this book. I thought Cram’s portrayal of Mr John Philip Kemble was sublime. Kemble is larger-than-life in this story. He certainly is a force to be reckoned with. Likewise, I thought Cram’s depiction of the Old Price Riots of 1809 captured the very essence of this time. Wonderfully written and masterfully portrayed.

Cram is certainly a vivacious storyteller and her fast-paced narrative made this book not only utterly irresistible but next to impossible to put down. When I thought I knew where Cram was heading with the story, there would be a sudden plot-twist, and the story headed in another direction. This is a book that will keep you guessing. I absolutely loved it! 

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

*“O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil.”
 Shakespeare, William — Othello Act 2, sc. 3 (first performed 1604, published 1622).

Pick up your copy of
The Muse of Fire

Carol M. Cram

Carol M. Cram is an award-wining author of historical fiction including The Towers of Tuscany (Lake Union Publishing 2014), A Woman of Note (Lake Union Publishing, 2015) and The Muse of Fire (Kindle Press and New Arcadia Publishing, 2018). Both The Towers of Tuscany and A Woman of Note were designated Editor's Choice by the Historical Novel Society. The Towers of Tuscany received the Chaucer Award for Best Historical Fiction pre-1750 and both A Woman of Note and The Muse of Fire were named Best in Category for the Goethe Award for Best Historical Fiction post-1750. The Muse of Fire also received a Bronze for Best Historical Fiction from the Independent Publishers' Awards.

Connect with Carol: WebsiteBlogArt in FictionTwitter.

1 comment:

  1. Set in my favourite period, I'm looking forward to reading this, Carol!


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Mary Anne xxx