top of page

Recent Reviews

Kirkus Review

"An exuberant fairy-tale homage with sly commentary about gender, class, church, and state."

Tudor-era sweethearts gather a crew of “Holy Pirates” to push back on tax corruption and retrieve stolen monastery treasures in Conlan’s romantic historical adventure novel.

Morwenna Goodwin, who’s 19 and “now of wife age,” receives courtship gifts from her childhood pal Henry Truelove, the 20-year-old son of a family wealthier than hers, residing in Truelove Manor near her family’s small freehold farm. Morwenna puts the gifts—which begin with a partridge in a pear tree and proceed as in the anachronistic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”—to practical use. She uses some of the bounty to hire former monk Tom to teach her how to write and learn about equitable marriage contracts. Henry, who’s been away at court, returns home after learning that his father is facing ruinous taxes; he brings eight milkmaids along with him. One of them, Daisy, becomes a servant in nearby Blount Hall, helping to expose and resolve the misdeeds of the tax collector and his oafish son. Blount servant James, a former monastery student, shows Tom a bejeweled holy book given to him for safekeeping after monasteries were disbanded under Tudor rule. A former abbot also arises, having stashed a cache of books and other stolen treasure in the area. All’s well by novel’s end, thanks to a festival play created by the town’s wealthy sisters that results in several marriages and opportunity for the main couple and their band of “Holy Pirates” to spirit away the books to a protected new home. In this amusing, action-packed tale, Conlan effectively combines the loving parody of William Goldman’s classic The Princess Bride (1973) with the feminism of Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy (1994). It encompasses a colorful cavalcade of characters, which also include a former, actual pirate; a formerly enslaved sailor; and displaced nuns, one of whom was once a pirate hostage. Many of these characters get to express snarky social criticism during their adventures, including Tom, who notes that church officials are “sneaky and venomous as snakes, and ever changing what be true and what heresy.”

An exuberant fairy-tale homage with sly commentary about gender, class, church, and state.

Read full review HERE

"A pleasant romance and an exhilarating adventure infuse Conlan’s roaring novel. To pay for his endless wars and lavish court, Henry Tudor has seized England’s rich monasteries and convents. Thousands of illuminated manuscripts are stolen and destroyed. Squire Henry Truelove of Cornwall has made his way to the court much to the pleasure of his father but otherwise he has simpler ambitions: to win the hand of his childhood friend and reluctant ladylove, Morwenna Goodwin. When his family’s estate faces ruinous taxation, Henry, Morwenna, old Tom, and a few others form a band of “holy pirates” to bring down the corrupt taxation official, and to rescue the precious lost books supposedly hidden on Henry’s family estate. The prose is crisp, and Conlan’s dialogue is sharp and witty. She richly describes the Tudor setting, capturing what it was like for ordinary people as they faced atrocities of corrupt authorities, as well as the prevalent class and gender inequality of the era. Henry is a complete darling; romantic, persistent, and utterly sincere. Feisty Morwenna is an endearing heroine. The secondary cast is fully fleshed-out and authentic. The plot is clever and intricate, exploring questions of love, passion, friendship, greed for power and wealth, violence, gender disparity, solidarity, and fate. At once swashbuckling and romantic, this is a rollicking good time."  See full review here.

Midwest Book Review

"Delightfully evocative from the start, it's immediately evident that this is no ordinary historical novel or romance..."

From D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review:

 

“Historical novel readers attracted to tales set in Tudor times will find the characters, background history, and events that play out in The Lost Books – Romance and Adventure in Tudor Times a draw, but the real surprise of this story lies in its attraction and accessibility to those not well versed in this era.

 

From its opening descriptive paragraph, Mo Conlan sets an atmosphere and history that seamlessly winds into surprises to draw readers gently into the times and the challenges one woman faces in navigating the romantic and political threads of her world:

 

"When the large parcel arrived, Morwenna Goodwin was busy in the barn helping Da repair the sheep pen. She heard a commotion and ran to the front of their cottage, adjusting her kirtle and cap as she ran. This was a fine winter day in north Cornwall, a blessing amidst so many killing freezes that battered England in this reign of the Tudors."

 

The unexpected humor that immediately follows is just one fine example of a story in which romance does not evolve on expected paths, but fully embraces the devices of irony, wit, and a foray into different choices than is usually portrayed by historical novels depicting this era:

 

"On the doorstep, Morwenna found a pear tree. In its branches sat a fat partridge, giving her a rather cheeky look. A scroll at the base of the tree read. “I would wed ye, dear heart. H. Truelove.”

Well, isn’t that just like him? she thought. Henry Truelove must think I am going to cook up this partridge into a pie for him and make him a pear posset. Hah!"

 

Delightfully evocative from the start, it's immediately evident that this is no ordinary historical novel or romance, but a romp through Tudor times, culture, and expectations that involves men and women in a dance of discovery and transformation.

 

Religious figures and nefarious objectives towards wealth-building opportunities are not immune to Conlan's descriptive touches, which lay hands on the special interests that swirl through these times:

 

"As he wound down his thunderous tirade, the Abbot made a small, dismissive gesture of his hand and in a less wrathful tone said, 'We ought, in Christian charity, give a tithe to holy folk turned out and beggared. I will attend to it.' He was thinking in terms of pence, not pounds."

 

From the special trails of navigating "an upturned world in which popes and queens and holy houses did come and go" to Mistress Morwenna's foray into danger and a search for holy books that could change this world, Conlan creates a vivid saga of tumultuous times, political moves, social conundrums, and Henry Tudor's treatment of illuminated manuscripts, which are destroyed when he takes over England's rich monasteries and convents.

 

Conlan's intersection of personal and political special interests creates a vivid account of the times which is unexpectedly witty, historically enlightening, and a pleasure to read as Tom, Morwenna, Daniel, and others become immersed in the fate of holy books and their own souls.

 

Libraries interested in choosing historical novels for genre readers that hold the rare potential to reach into a wider audience will find The Lost Books – Romance and Adventure in Tudor Times especially attractive for its lively characters and a sense of purpose and humor that makes the times come to life in unexpected ways. Simply delightful!”

Literary Titan

"I would highly recommend this novel to enthusiasts of historical fiction."

"The Lost Books: Romance and Adventure in Tudor Times by Mo Conlan commences with an engaging narrative focusing on the steadfast Morwenna Goodwin, a young woman resolute in preserving her independence. The tale is set in motion when her long-time acquaintance, Henry Truelove, seeks to win her affection, regardless of the personal sacrifices involved. However, his ambitions are thwarted when his family estate is overburdened with taxes implemented by the stringent tax collector Godfrey Blount. Concurrently, the narrative unveils the looting of monasteries, leaving the priest, Tom, and the nun, Hilda, devoid of a home. These seemingly disparate events converge ingeniously towards the novel’s end, revealing how the discovery of the lost, intricately jeweled holy books rectifies the hardships endured by all.

This engrossing narrative captivates readers with its unpredictable plot twists. In addition, the authentic dialogue effectively transports readers back to the Tudor era. Furthermore, Conlan deftly avoids the clichéd character tropes typically associated with this historical period, resulting in a cast of intricately woven personalities. Morwenna, in particular, stands out as a compelling protagonist, breaking from the conventions of her era with her unwavering determination to maintain her autonomy. Similarly, the unconventional Henry Truelove, willing to relinquish traditional marital expectations for his beloved, will be a source of intrigue for readers who appreciate unique characterizations.

While I enjoyed this novel, I would have liked the author to have enhanced the transition from Morwenna and Henry’s romantic storyline to the lost books’ subplot. Additionally, given Morwenna’s resolute nature, it would be plausible for her to exhibit a more questioning stance regarding the legitimacy of a document that could significantly alter her life. 

The Lost Books: Romance and Adventure in Tudor Times is an engaging and humorous read, particularly for those who are captivated by narratives set in the Tudor era. I would highly recommend this novel to enthusiasts of historical fiction."  See full review here.

bottom of page