Publication Date: September 29th, 2015
Frankenstein lives on as one of the most fascinating fictional creations of all time, but the true personal story of the women behind this work of genius is equally as compelling. In her new historical novel, The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein (Lake Union Publishing; September 29, 2015), New York Times bestselling author Antoinette May brings to life the tragic story of obsessive love, betrayal, and redemption that spawned an enduring classic. In a story more dramatic and tragic than anything a writer could invent, the lives of Mary Shelley, her great love, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her complex web of family and friends entwine in a chronicle of strange behavior, bohemian attitudes, and unconventional acts as far ahead of their time as the amazing literary work that grew from them.
Mary Godwin Shelley was the daughter of two revolutionary thinkers—political philosopher William Godwin and philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. An unconventional childhood in an intellectual, if impecunious household would shape the young girl’s renegade spirit. When still a teenager, she ran off with the already-married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, an act of equal parts passion and defiance that led to a life of wandering destitution. Espousing free love, the couple would endure its share of tragedies, each of which would add to their romantic legacy. From the darkness that surrounded her life, though, the brilliant and talented Mary imagined a timeless work of fiction that secured her place in history, if not her happiness.
The Determined Heart is a masterful work of historical fiction that reanimates the timeless story of an iconic literary life.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I absolutely LOVE Frankenstein and still think it is one of the scariest yet touching looks at what really makes a monster that I've read to date. When I saw this book come up for review I jumped at the chance to read it as I knew next to nothing about Frankenstein's author, Mary Shelley, and relished the chance to learn how this brilliant novel came to be. While not exactly what I was expecting, The Determined Heart does give the reader a front row seat to the tragic life that would shape this brilliant classic novel.
The focus of The Determined Heart is definitely Mary Shelley's tragic life and doesn't deal with her actual writing of the novel as much as what influenced its writing. From page one you cannot help but feel for Mary and her sister, Fan, as they are living with an emotionally-distant father and a dead mother who's brilliance, as well as her scandals, forever hangs over the girls' lives. It doesn't take long for a cruel stepmother to move in with her two children, one of which will become another of Percy Bysshe Shelley's mistresses, and their lives are forever transformed. I have to admit that I wasn't a fan of most of the characters, save Fan and, to some extent Mary, and really disliked the majority of them as they didn't come across as revolutionary or bohemian to me as much as just plan selfish and mean. Mary's father is the worst of them all, espousing free love and equality for women while disowning Mary when she falls in love with the married Shelley, all while still plying the lovebirds with requests for money. He's a hypocrite who seems to care for little other than philosophy and money and, while Mary adores her father for much of the novel, I can see why she fell for the romantic Shelley as, at least with his affection, he is the antithesis of William Godwin.
I'm sad to say the romance between Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley didn't really work for me. Mary falls hard for the handsome, intelligent poet nearly instantly but, while he clearly cared for Mary and somewhat took care of her and their children, he really was a cad. I can say that he at least held to his beliefs regarding free love, but this just wasn't the love Mary wanted from him and I couldn't help but feel horrible for her many disappointments even as I realized she should have expected it from him the whole time. He wasn't an overly carrying father either and just came off as incredibly selfish.
The novel is written in the third person and while this does allow the reader to learn much about Mary Shelley's life, I think I would have preferred her story told from the first person point of view. Written the way it is feels more like just being told this incredibly sad story sprinkled with tiny bits of happiness, while having Mary tell her own story might have given me a better feel for the actual heart of this captivating woman.
The Determined Heart is at its core the story of the heartbreaking life of a dynamic and intelligent woman. While many of the characters are very dislikable, the fact that these are all real people from history being presented to us just shows have flawed they all really were. While as a fictionalized account of her life I would have liked to feel more connected to Mary I do feel like I have a much more rounded understanding of her life and have a new appreciation for her novels. I recommend this to anyone wanting to know more about the woman behind the classic.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
I think it's absolutely beautiful!! I don't necessarily think it represents the novel perfectly but it is definitely the sort of cover that would make me look twice. The colors are beautiful and the fact that we don't get to see the woman's whole face makes it easy to see my vision of Mary Shelley in this woman.
My Rating: 3.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Determined Heart in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the blog tour and how you can grab your own copy!
Praise for The Determined Heart
“Epic in scope, this is a beautifully written novel about a woman whose story is every bit as extraordinary and gripping as that of the epic character she created, Frankenstein. May’s meticulous research and exquisite prose shine on every page.” —Erika Mailman, author of The Witch’s Trinity and Woman of Ill Fame
“May displays a deft flair for historical fiction…” –BookList on Pilate’s Wife, A Novel of the Roman Empire
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About the Author
Antoinette May is the author of Pilate’s Wife and The Sacred Well and coauthor of the New York Timesbestseller Adventures of a Psychic. An award-winning travel writer specializing in Mexico, May divides her time between Palo Alto and the Sierra foothills.
I am so excited to be able to offer one copy of The Determined Heart up for giveaway, open to US and Canadian residents!! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on October 20th, 2015 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
The Determined Heart TLC Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, September 29th: The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, September 30th: BookNAround
Thursday, October 1st: From L.A. to LA
Friday, October 2nd: Guiltless Reading
Monday, October 5th: It’s a Mad Mad World
Tuesday, October 6th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Wednesday, October 7th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Thursday, October 8th: Outlandish Lit
Monday, October 12th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, October 13th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, Otcoter 14th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, October 15th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, October 19th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, October 20th: Mom’s Small Victories
Wednesday, October 21st: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, October 26th: Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, October 26th: Romantic Historical Reviews