The Chosen Man ISBN: 9781942756057 Penmore Press LLC, an adventure/Romance copyright 2015 and written by J. G. Harlond.
Time and Place: The first half of the seventeenth century was a period of intense political and religious intrigue. The Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand had vowed to impose Catholicism throughout the empire before his death and was harrying the Spanish monarch, Don Felipe, to regain the Netherlands. Cardinal Richelieu of France signed a treaty with the Dutch, and French ships raided the Spanish galleons as they brought supplies to their troops as they attempted to regain the lost terrain. The Vatican aligned with the side espousing Catholicism, of course, and wide-ranging attacks by the Mediterranean corsairs known as Turks in such places as Cornwall estates in England for plunder and slaves was a constant concern throughout Europe.
Plot: John Hawthorne, a somewhat frail English priest is given the assignment by a conniving Cardinal of the Vatican aligned with Spanish Noblemen to make an offer to the “chosen man” to manipulate the tulip market in Holland so it eventually would collapse. The underlying idea was to take advantage of the “Tulip Mania’ affecting the country by undermining the country’s monetary system, thus a need to curtail funds for continuing war with Spain. “In the 1636 tulip bulbs in Holland were weighed on ‘goldsmiths’ weights but many of the bulbs were worth more than their weight in gold. One Dutch merchant paid 6,650 guilders for a dozen bulbs at a time when 300 guilders would have kept an entire family for a whole year.” The priest finds the ‘chosen’ Ludovico da Portovenere, a large, handsome, competent, purported Genoese Merchant who also appeared to have an unexplained working relationship with the Mediterranean corsairs. The story develops following Ludo’s activities but simultaneously rather equally interspersed with those of several others: Marcos Alexendro, son of a Spanish tavern keeper with ideas and hopes of upward mobility beyond his present station in life; Alina, the oldest daughter of a deceased mother and still living Spanish Grandee father impoverished by his constant attempts to continue court life, has dreams of romantic rescue and return to the life she had known; Sir Geoffrey, owner of the large estate, Crimphele in Cornwall England; Thomas, frail son and close friend of John Hawthorne since childhood who inherits the land. Additional interesting characters that contribute variously to the story include: Crook-back Aggie, the estate’s hunchback (?) cook who has occult powers; Meg, a young maid: Molly, another and sometimes caretaker of the young heir-apparent to the estate with her husband; McNab, the estate’s hired controller who had a hidden dark background and numerous nefarious plans; Elsa, a wealthy widow now enamored of the tulip market, as well as Ludo; and even more characters with still lesser influence on the plot, or rather intermingled plots.
Discussion: This is a tale consisting actually of quite complicatedly interwoven plots with a large number of characters. They are wrapped together in a manner that provides details of a most fascinating occurrence in history in just as fascinating and chaotic period of world turmoil. If the prospective reader is interested if fictionalized history with action and romance thrown in, this book is for you.
5* For readers as designated.