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The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
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The Tenth Gift (2008)

by Jane Johnson

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A romance/adventure of a girl from Cornwall who is abducted straight from her church by Barbary pirates, and sold into slavery.
This book was published as 'The Tenth Gift' but I read an ARC which still had the 'Crossed Bones' title on it, and I'm putting my review here because, seriously, I never would have picked it up with the 'Tenth Gift' title on it. Is there even a 'tenth gift' in the story? I don't think so! I want to hear about Pirates!
Anyway, the book is vivid and well-researched. Apparently, the story was inspired by a family legend that a member of the author's family was kidnapped by pirates, and during her research trip to Morocco, the author fell in love with and married a local man. Her love of Morocco comes through loud and clear - too loud, in fact.
The string of unbelievable events and portrayals includes too many things that are solely the province of romance novels; not reality (and this is, at heart, a romance novel.) Too many aspects of the story are quickly whitewashed over. Even if the main character was treated better than the other slaves due to her skill at embroidery - really, you think she's going to forgive and fall in love with the man who caused her family & friends to die in torturous conditions? Sure, Stockholm Syndrome exists, but the way it's treated here is all lovey-dovey and happy, and I can't help going, "uh, what? really?" I suppose there is a faint chance that life as a female slave in Morocco might have been better than life as a free woman in 17th-century England... but if you're gonna try to convince me of that, you're going to have to convince a bit harder.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention anything about the modern-day, 'framing' story, which has to do with a modern woman finding the 17th-century woman's diary, which was given to her accidentally as a parting gift by her friend's husband, with whom she has been having an affair... He turns out to be a frighteningly huge jerk, but all-in-all, the present-day portion of the book is sort of boring and forgettable. I do love connecting antique items (like the book, and a panel of embroidery) to the stories of the past, but really, the 17th-century story is the one you're reading this for.

Oh!! I also forgot about the haunty-ghosty part at the end. That was just dumb, and should have been removed.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I really enjoyed my reading of The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson. The story swings back and forth between two women, Julia in modern times and Catherine from the year 1625. Both stories were interesting and although neither would have fully sustained a book on their own, this blend worked.

Julia came into possession of an antique book that turned out to be Catherine’s journal describing how she was taken captive by Barbary pirates in Cornwall and spirited away to be sold as a slave in Morocco. The connection between the two women was credible and I liked the fact that it was never fully confirmed that they were related. Also, having both women involved with embroidery was both different and interesting. Julia eventually decides to follow in Catherine’s footsteps and travels to Morocco to continue to trace Catherine. Both she and Catherine seem to be destined to find their future in this exotic country.

I felt the contrast between the two women could have been more defined. For all her modern ways, Julia didn’t seem that different from Catherine, who, in turn, seemed a little too “with-it” to be a totally credible 17th Century woman. I would have liked both these characters to have been a little more developed. Overall however, The Tenth Gift was a fast-paced, highly readable story that shines a light on a little known piece of history. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Aug 1, 2015 |
Interesting, but not compelling. I liked the flipping back and forth between the stories of the two central characters, but never formed a strong affinity for either. Learned a bit about embroidery, though. ( )
  bookczuk | Mar 26, 2015 |
Jane Johnson's Crossed Bones has come at a great time - it seems there have never been so many good historical writers on our shelves and there is always room for one more. From the intriguing first line to the end of the novel this is exciting, entertaining and extremely enjoyable.

I've seen various people describe it as a 'rip-roaring read' and a 'swashbuckling pirate tale' and I would agree with both. Jane Johnson has weaved an excellent story into a well-researched historical backround. If you doubt the extent of her reading, check out the back of the book where a list of further reading sources is provided.

The writing style is clear, catchy and accessible and the characters are excellent. This enchanting mix of past and present is a real winner.
( )
  donnambr | Nov 27, 2014 |
I will begin by stating that this is not my usual type of book; it was lent to me by a friend and then a member of my book club mentioned it, so I decided to read it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy it because I was so bothered by the unbelievable events and characters.

There are two stories. In the present, Julia Lovat is given an early 17th century book of needlework by her lover as a gift to end their seven-year affair. She soon discovers that a lady’s maid used the book as a diary. This young woman, Catherine Ann Tregenna (Cat), wants more than anything to become a master embroiderer and to escape the confines of Cornwall. Her latter wish is granted when she is one of the 60 people taken captive by Barbary pirates and brought to Morocco to be sold into slavery. Julia, fascinated by Cat’s diary, makes her way to North Africa to find out what happened to her.

One of the aspects of the book that really bothered me is that both Julia is so stupid. She becomes obsessed with Cat’s diary and while reading it comes across the name Annie Badcock (89), yet when she hears it again, she doesn’t remember it: “Annie Badcock. The name was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I’d come across it” (131). In the diary she also sees the surname Bolitho (24), yet she doesn’t remember that an aunt, the mother of her cousin and best friend, is a Bolitho. She has to be told: “’Well, Alison’s mother’s a Bolitho, isn’t she? You should know – she’s your cousin’” (322). And this is after Julia has several conversations with Alison about the diary and its contents! And she’s so inept in her conversations, at one time telling a Muslim man that his ancestors were “’such barbarous people’” (346). And the author never thought of a connection between the derivation of the adjective “barbarous” and the Barbary Coast of North Africa?

The other problem is that the number of parallels between Julia and Cat’s stories suggests excessive contrivance. They both look best in red dresses, and even their handwriting is similar. Both are experts in embroidery. Both have relationships which are unsatisfying. Each encounters a fortune teller who accurately predicts her future.

The number of coincidences is also excessive. Julia, who comes from Cornwall, has an affair with a man whose wife comes from Cornwall. Crucial letters which reveal the end of Cat’s story are found in Alison’s Cornwall home and a sample of Cat’s work is owned by the wife of Julia’s lover. And in Morocco Julia meets someone who also seems to have a piece of Cat’s embroidery from almost 400 years ago. The coincidences just go on and on.

This book would be classified as a historical romance so obviously there will be romantic relationships, but it would be better if these romances were credible. Is it likely that a woman would fall in love with someone who orchestrated the capture of 60 people including her family members, who tortured and killed captives, and who sold them into slavery? Julia also seems to move from a bad relationship to an unlikely one.

The one interesting aspect of the novel is its discussion of embroidery, a handicraft practiced by women around the world for centuries. The author seems to have done considerable research into embroidery in Medieval Islamic culture.

This is a work of fluff. It has the romantic element in an exotic location and a historical context which will appeal to readers of escapist fiction. It did not appeal to me. ( )
  Schatje | Mar 21, 2014 |
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In an expensive London restaurant, Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. At first glance, it looks like a book of exquiste seventeenth-century embroidery patterns belonging to a woman named Catherine Ann Tregenna. Yet in its margins are the faintest diary enteries; they reveal that "Cat" and others were stolen from their Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves. Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat's mesmerizing story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia will discover buried secrets. And in Morocco-just as Cat did before her-she will lose her heart. Set almost 400 years apart, the stories of these two women converge in an extraordinary and hauntings manner that will make readers wonder: Is history fated to repeat itself?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307405222, Hardcover)

The art of embroidery uncannily links two fascinating women of different eras and their equally passionate love stories


In an expensive London restaurant, Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. At first glance it is a book of exquisite seventeenth-century embroidery patterns belonging to a woman named Catherine Ann Tregenna. Yet in its margins are the faintest diary entries; they reveal that “Cat” and others were stolen from their Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves. Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat’s mesmerizing story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia will discover buried secrets. And in Morocco—just as Cat did before her—she will lose her heart.

Set almost 400 years apart, the stories of these two women converge in an extraordinary and haunting manner that will make readers wonder—is history fated to repeat itself?

A literary mystery, historical adventure, and dual love story, The Tenth Gift literally crosses genres with narrative ease and prose that is as captivating as the characters who people this unforgettable tale.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:08 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A volume of seventeenth-century embroidery patterns that also contains faint diary entries brings together the lives of two women of different eras--Cat Tregenna, kidnapped by Muslim pirates in 1625, and Julia Lovat, a modern-day woman out to authenticate Cat's story.… (more)

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