Helena Soister Prophecies

ISBN 13: 9780553058789

Prophecies

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9780553058789: Prophecies
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Rich, evocative, suspenseful, and with an authentic sensibility that is at the same time strikingly contemporary, Prophecies is sophisticated historical fiction that will appeal to readers of novels as diverse as those of Umberto Eco and Ellis Peters.

Prophecies
is a powerful, deeply involving novel of a time and place when women were men's equals in matters of business and the heart, a time haunted by religious torment and doubt, and a time of mystery-laden forces that inspired fear and exultation.

The place is the teeming merchant city of Antwerp. The time is the sixteenth century. The women are two English widows, Sara Lathbury and Bess Marwick, aunt and niece: one middle-aged, kind-hearted, capable, and staid; and the other tempestuous, impulsive, strikingly beautiful, and young. Their late husbands were both prosperous Merchant Adventurers, and if the women are to continue their trading businesses, they need an agent to act for them on the Continent. It is to Antwerp that they come to seek him, and the man they choose, the respected Bartholomew Catlin, is capable indeed.

But Catlin is also a man tortured by ghosts and a past that still haunts him, and the more they come to know him, the more uneasy Sara becomes. She has good reason to do so. Catlin is smuggling pamphlets that invite the terrible charge of heresy from a powerful, unforgiving church. A watchful and dangerous friar is too often on the scene, clearly suspicious of Catlin and hostile toward Sara and Bess. And then there is Catlin's too-frequent companion, a crafty doctor who practices astrology and the blacker arts, and who takes salacious pleasure in reading Bess's astrological chart and prophesying an ominous future for her.

All this spells danger--danger arising from Catlin's own actions, from those of others who watch him so relentlessly, and from supernatural forces. Above all, to Sara, this spells danger for Bess. Helplessly she witnesses the charged intimacy surging between her niece and Catlin; yet try as she will, there is no stopping the younger woman's headstrong passion.

Three lives--now irrevocably entwined.

When Catlin becomes the victim of treachery, it is Bess and Sara who must try to save him--and themselves--as they flee for their lives to escape the Inquisitors of Rome, to bring Catlin surcease, and to free Bess from the fate laid upon her by the doctor's prophecies.

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Review:

From Booklist

Soister's remarkable first novel is set in Antwerp during the mid-1500s. The narration by English merchant Sara Lathbury, a widow who has taken over her husband's trading business, draws the reader straight into the congested streets of the Flemish port and straight into the most threatening elements of the Reformation. Ruled by Philip II of Spain, Flanders is as dangerous a locale for Protestant mutterings as Sara's native England under the rule of Philip's bride, Queen Mary. Sara has come to Antwerp to find a new business representative and happens upon one who is not only engaged in smuggling heretical pamphlets but is also haunted by the ghost of his father's partner. To complicate matters further, Sara is traveling with her widowed niece, who falls in love with the new representative and is determined to rescue him from his haunted state. Political and religious intrigue are drawn with heart-stopping tension; the scenic and period details are just as engrossing. Soister has made a stunning debut.

From The Denver Post

... Soister's... characters struggle with the issues of self-control and fatalism. They dabble in astrology and question the wisdom of God and man's actions, all within the boundaries of a readable love story.

From The Pittsburgh Press

Set in the Middle Ages, "Prophecies" is a strange, memorable novel whose story elements include religious intrigue, treachery, astrology and various "black arts." ... Helena Soister has done an impressive job creating the mood of 16th century Antwerp. She is a skilled writer who hopefully will be heard from again.

From Publishers Weekly:

Uneven pacing and extraneous subplots outweigh interesting facets of narrator Sara Lathbury's personality in this romantic suspense novel set during the Reformation. In 1556, English widow Sara takes her young widowed niece Bess Marwick to Antwerp to find a new factor, or representative, on the Continent for Sara's inherited shipping business. Handsome, intelligent Bartholomew Catlin agrees, also allowing Bess to train in his countinghouse. Romance blooms slowly between Bess and Catlin, impeded by the young man's conviction that he's bring haunted by the ghost of his father's vengeful business partner, by his fascination with quack physician and astrologer Nicolas van Wouwere, by his continued dalliances with whores and by his own belabored indecisiveness. When van Wouwere cheats Catlin and flees to Rome, Bess and Sara follow to retrieve the money and exact revenge for an evil horoscope. Their triumphant return proves Catlin's ghostly obsessions are unfounded. While there is some interesting period detail, first novelist Soister fails to provide adequate background on the Inquisition, which figures in the plot. And Catlin's inordinately lengthy psychological torment leaves the reader with lttle sympathy for his struggle.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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