Blog Book Tour | “The Semper Sonnet” by Seth Margolis

Posted Friday, 27 January, 2017 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Semper Sonnet” direct from the author Seth Margolis in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why this title interested me to read:

I am not your typical reader for this particular type of Thriller as I shy away from the stories mentioned in being within the framework of similarity to this novel; so much so, I honestly surprised myself in wanting to read this one – except to say, I have a soft spot for Shakespeare – and a personal goal to read through his Sonnets and Plays whilst refuelling my participation in The Classics Club over the score of the new few years.

When I read one of the Sonnets themselves was the cipher key to this mystery, I was quite hooked! I love ciphers and codes – as much as I love a tautly written suspense novel! I decided to take a chance on this title and see if I could find my next favourite thriller author! I’d be curious what drew others to read this title and if they had known about the publisher Diversion Books prior to finding it?! I noticed they are publishing a lot of different kinds of stories – I am sure I will be reading more by them in the future.

This marks my first review past The Breedling and the City in the Garden (see also review) and You’re the Cream in my Coffee (see also review) as I am re-aligning myself back into blogging after my family’s medical emergency. Although, I had attempted to read this story in December – later than I had planned to post my review on the blog tour itself, I simply could not alight into the chapters nor focus on the narrative. Novels at that point in time were a struggle for me to find footing inside – which is why the novellas by ChocLit (see also #MidnightChocLit) helped heal my bookish heart and provided a way for me to reclaim my bookish life. Since then, I’ve been treading water – dipping my toes back into literature one story at at time; whilst being honest with myself about which stories I can alight inside and which ones I simply needed to ‘hold over’ until I could honestly enjoy reading them. This is one of those stories I knew I needed a bit longer to appreciate and am thankful I had the breathing space to read it – even off-tour, to where I could properly give the story a chance to resonate with me.

I’m starting to find my way back inside stories and finding the words to express what I’m reading – as you can denote from my anthology review of Gifts of the Magi (see also review) and the audiobook Halfway Dead (see also review); however, all things being equal it was a bit more of an uphill climb than I first thought possible. I appreciate everyone’s patience in me – as I had to re-shuffle my blog’s schedule this December by pushing reviews in January. In many ways, I’m past deadlines for several reviews whilst posting within the tours which are still running (i.e. Illusions of Magic (see also review) and Beyond Derrynane (see also review) this January. One review I postponed into January (The Egg & I) will be  posting in conjunction with my review of The Plague & I; two memoirs I’ve been listening to on audiobook. Each new post I’m featuring is a journey back to my blog and a lift of spirit for the girl who loves blogging inasmuch as she loves reading. Here’s to resuming where I left off and finding new stories to appreciate as well.

NOTE: The one blog tour I’m still working on amending with a review this January is Who Is To Blame? as this tour ran the week my Dad was in the hospital recovering from his stroke. Meanwhile, I hope everyone is had a merry December whilst enjoying Winter’s reprieve from Summer.

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Blog Book Tour | “The Semper Sonnet” by Seth MargolisThe Semper Sonnet
by Seth Margolis
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

In this stunning thrill ride, perfect for fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry, a long-lost manuscript, written for Elizabeth I, holds the key to unlocking the past—and to eliminating the future.

Lee Nicholson is ready to take the academic world by storm, having discovered a sonnet she believes was written by William Shakespeare. When she reads the poem on the air, the words put her life in peril and trigger a violent chase, with stakes that reach far beyond the cloistered walls of academia.

Buried in the language of the sonnet, in its allusions and wordplay, are secrets that have been hidden since Elizabethan times, secrets known only to the queen and her trusted doctor, but guessed at by men who seek the crown and others who seek the world. If the riddles are solved, it could explode what the world knows of the great Elizabeth I. And it could release a pandemic more deadly than the world has ever imagined.

Lee’s quest for the answers buried in the sonnet keeps her one step ahead of an international hunt—from the police who want her for murder, to a group of men who will stop at nothing to end her quest, to a madman who pursues the answers for destructive reasons of his own.

As this intelligent thriller moves back and forth between Tudor England and the present day, Lee begins to piece together the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words, carrying the story to its gasp-out-loud conclusion.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9781682300558

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Thriller


Published by Diversion Books

on 19th April, 2016

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 374

Originally Published By: Diversion Books an imprint of Diversion Publishing Corp.
Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #HistFic + #Thriller

About Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis is a writer whose most recent novel, THE SEMPER SONNET, was published on April 19. He is the author of six earlier novels, including LOSING ISAIAH, which was made into a film starring Halle Berry and Jessica Lange.

Seth lives with his wife, Carole, in New York City. They have two grown children, Maggie and Jack. Seth received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

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My review of the semper sonnet:

Alighting as we were into a man’s internal thoughts as he inks and blots them against the pages of his journal, we are assaulted by the urgency of his words and of the manner in which he is disclosing his secrets; for he is speaking ill about someone – a woman – of whom he knows if word was let out about his sharp honesty; his life would be on the block. You have to wonder why he would take the chance? Why broker fate and health against the will of the truth? He appears to be an honourable bloke – one who is not given to fanciful thoughts without first reasoning out both sides of how truth and words can become misconstrued or even used against oneself if one were dishonestly set to cause harm. His heart is heavily weighed down by the loss of his wife and young child; taken far before their time, by the illness of his century (the Plague) and thus, I think; as his life has altered in scope quite a bit from that depth of personal loss, he doesn’t foresee what he’s doing as inherently dangerous but rather, pertinently meaningful.

As a prelude to an ominous plot – we drift backwards to how a son was bourne out of wedlock to the Queen’s daughter locked away in Hatfield. It was the age of Tudors, of where conspiracies and secrecy remained at a fever pitch and how an infant babe bourne out of legitimacy might prove too much to be accepted by both society and the Crown. Herein, we view our narrator in a different light; of a man hardened by life and time but with a resolute resolve about him nonetheless. He doesn’t let people get to him too easily but he also has a sombering world-view and of the situations which put marks on those around him. Even during this re-telling of an event already passed, we peer through his eyes to see the desolation and the distrust of how truth formed to a lie and how that lie could quickly re-set history.

If the opening door to this novel was curiously written, than the re-alignment back into the modern era was just as pulsed to leave you a bit winded! As we begin to acknowledge the women who found the missing sonnet of Shakespeare, we’re on the foot-heels of a death gone fowl; where a break-in by all accounts to have only led to an untimely death was proving to be more sinister than what could be observed. If you take into account how Lee questioned her own memories; of how she felt in her flat vs how her flat appeared after the crime; you could read between the lines of how she’s trying to knit together what was happening whilst trying to not piece the puzzle together at the same time. It’s not something easily done; to fully accept the reality in front of you and then, re-align the clues to where something quite reasonable can be assessed out of the emotional response of finding someone dead!?

Dare I say!? I was truly worried for Lee – she was at a crossroads in her story, where if she went against the police she could perhaps save her sanity & her soul by unearthing more clues to understand the coded sonnet but if she did this – how much would her life be in jeopardy if she became everyone’s top suspect who happened to be beyond innocent and horrifically framed!? You always worry for these characters; the ones who are in quicksand and don’t have a straight way out of their circumstances. This is the moment my mind flickered back to ‘The Fugitive’ starring Harrison Ford.

You see, once the police had concocted the timeline of events, they sadly didn’t bend in Lee’s favour; if anything they swung in the wrong direction entirely! The curious thing is – you barely have time to re-think back on the evidence and the misdirected investigation, because this thriller has a high level of octane pushing it forward – to where you feel you’re right in step with Lee as she takes drastic measures to find a way to save herself and the history she intends to defend at all costs. To her, it’s more than a mere sonnet – it’s a crucial missing piece out of history; something that is worth defending and sorting out the myriad of clues to uncover it’s truer purpose. This is another reason why loved Anthony Edwards ill-fated series Zero Hour; there is something quite wicked about how history and time can enfold themselves around historical mysteries to such a layer of cover, it takes ballsy actions such as what Lee is doing to right the wrongs or at the very least shine a bright light on what was lost to the dusts of time.

By the time Lee arrived in England – her pursuit to the sonnet’s origins and meaning became electrically charged with new information! She not only traced down that infernal word left in her flat (Henford) but she sorted out why it was being referenced whilst not understanding properly ‘to whom’ it was addressed so directly. Herein the past and the present interlocked together in the dance they had been entertaining for more centuries than Lee could fathom possible. The same woman in the 16th Century was now re-harbingering herself into the modern era as a secreted ghost (i.e. a shadow of a living person, just tucked out of sight; not a paranormal spectre).

The sharpness of Margolis’s intention to carry the reader further into the conspiracy of why Elizabeth I hid the identity of her son and how this hidden ancestral history was in-part hidden by name is quite champion of the author! He eludes to pieces still held in sight of scholars in the present century (where Lee finds them quite haphazardly) but he also arches his discourse backwards – weaving real-time disclosures of the 16th Century back inside the heart of the narrative itself. One moment we’re caught up in arms at Hatfield present day; seeing the alarming recognition by Lee of the inscription on the chest and then, we’re reading the diary accountment of the gift of a chest by Elizabeth I to this particularly odd gentleman in his early twenties whilst Elizabeth I was on a progress through her countryside. If you are an amateur ancestral sleuth (such as I) in your family, you get a giddiness about you, the closer the past draws itself to circle back into the present. So much so, the presence of delicate historical records, the chase to find the archived placements of such records and the winding cipher of understanding ‘what it all’ pulls together is wicked fun!

Moreso to the point, the harrowingly emotional anguish of what Elizabeth I must have felt is paramount to the story; to disown and then re-envow her son without ever actually owning him as her heir in public must have took a steeled and resolute conscience. A personality quirk now seen in Lee, as she took the ballsy step forward to clear her name whilst evading the authorities who were investigating her as the central lead in their case. As you walk alongside Lee, even as she travels abroad to shake the leaves of history’s mysterious corridors of long-lost truths, you wonder if the roles were reversed, how you’d fare in her shoes just now. To be bold enough to re-identify yourself without a net of safety but a stalwart belief in the truth uncovered in a lost sonnet? It’s beyond bold – yet Margolis makes it feel so very ordinary as if these circumstances could be realistically lived that your heart is pulsed past it’s due.

As I read the story and in turn, learnt more about the Tudors themselves and how they loved metaphors and turns of phrase – to lean on hidden messages within language or rather the artful skill of hiding their direct meanings into a shadowed cloud of ciphers; allowed me to recollect my own childhood where I spent a considerable spell toying with ‘metaphoric symbolism’. In fact, my peers used to say I would tangle conversations with so many metaphors it had become an art form in of itself to understand what I was conveying to them but to me, it was the inter-exchanges of metaphoric thought and the sybaritic hintings of a wider scope of purposeful discussions that encouraged me the most to twist and pull language in on itself until it formed something new. I clearly was destined to love Shakespeare; and of course, I fell truly in love with the Bard by freshman year (high school, not college). It felt like I had returnt home to the originator whose muse had preceded my own folly and who continues to inspire me today. I never quite laid thought or mind on how words and the playfulness of their meanings or their inevitable ways of breaking the rules of alignment could inflict such a curiously spun riddle!

Small Fly in the Ointment:

As most of my readers will already be firmly aware of, I prefer less vulgarity in literature than most readers today; however, despite the few sparkly words appearing here or there within the pages of this novel, I was most encouraged by how Mr Margolis relied more on his tenacity to tell a convicting story without leaning on vulgarity but rather, sophisticated narrative and compelling dramatic arcs to root you directly into the heart of the intrigue he’s penned. This is something I champion because his writing is so very strong and illuminated through the situations his characters are facing, the best dramatic emotional response is to feel as if you’ve survived right alongside them! The very reason why I love reading well-conceived Thrillers such as The Semper Sonnet!

Bigger Fly in the Ointment: note on content

Aside from the pepperings of vulgarity which were at first blessedly few before they became a bit more frequent, what disturbed me a bit was the strokes of violence and of grisly scenes – as honestly, I think the Tudor version of interrogation, I could have done without. This happened halfway through the novel and despite my earnest enjoyment of the first half, as I was quite attached to the ‘cat and mouse’ chase of sorting out the historical relevances to the clues of the sonnet itself, something inside me ‘changed’ on the enjoyment level when I learnt the truer truth of what ‘semper’ referred too and why the sonnet was cast out of history.

It was at this point where I honestly could go no further with my reading of the novel itself – it was too heinous and particularly visual. I wished it could have kept the pulse of the first-half – the investment on Lee herself, trying to root out the clues to save her own sanity whilst clearing her name. Even the inclusion of Mark as her partner in crime; to have someone to take this journey with her, keeping ahead of the pursuers of the sonnet’s hidden treasure was something I loved seeing organically knit out of Lee’s journey. I was disappointed it took such a steep turn into the kind of thriller I avoid reading, as it’s a firm step towards something too insidious to read. A brilliant build-up and then, a mark inside the half turn into the ending, and I find myself disillusioned.

on the historical thriller styling of seth margolis:

One of the pleasurable joys of mine in reading time shift and time slip narratives is how writers have found equal confidence in writing the duality of eras presented throughout their stories. In this vein of thought, Mr Margolis has found a convincing way of presenting the 16th Century alongside modern day, as if no time not had elapsed at all, except for how the circumstances of the characters presented started to find their paths intersecting with the other. The tone of the narrative is smartly written but so too, is the equality of place and setting; of owning both to their timescape and of finding ways to knit into the narrative telling truths where your mind can transition between both without effort to feel convinced about the journey. This is a rare treat indeed – to find a writer who can write a thrilling story anchoured throughout history and given such a rare gift of pace and voice.

Margolis is an expert in thrilling historical suspense whilst putting a time capsule on the revelations of how everything knits back together. He places key references to the larger story in distinctive chapters – where both his contemporaries (ie. Lee and the Professor Eddings) and his historicals (ie. Elizabeth I, Lady Kat and the good Doctor) all walk in this historical dance of daring to reach through time and speak the truth never allowed to be known until now. Whilst reading his narrative, you get lost in his descriptive details – he etches out the timescapes very well, so much so, you either fully believe you’ve lived in New York City or Tudor England – depending on which era you’ve slipped inside whilst rooting out more details to piece together yourself ahead of his characters.

His descriptive narrative arches over the modern and Tudor moments with the ease of a mind wholly impassioned by it’s subject, setting and era. You can fully immerse yourself in the details; to gain entrance and root around for the time it take to unfold the hidden layers of the suspense itself – thereby bridging the beautiful gap between the historical past and the contemporary world. The nuances are well placed but so, too are the descriptions of the settings and the internal framework of Lee herself. Lee has such a cunning role to play; as it’s on her shoulders to bring the realism of the suspense to life by augmenting the vitality of why there would be a chase on her heels to silence the truth she is uncovering. Mr Margolis goes into great detail in foreshadowing key moments of his novel but also, in pulling back, allowing the reader to feel guided but not exclusively shown the path where all secrets will eventually let out in the end.

Most of the cipher is related to word play – how words can be hinted at by ‘first’ letters in a listed sentence or how words can be related to each other in backward motions; if you play word searches and are familiar with how words can become bent out of sight of one another you have a head’s up on The Semper Sonnet. Of course, ciphers were all the rage during most centuries where information had to be secreted away for it’s own protection; to where information that was once known had to be ‘lost’ inside time itself before it could be ‘re-found’ and ‘reknown’ again at a point fixed in the future where the information would not be sacrificed or disenvowed.

Margolis always likes to throw you off a bit by the rudimentary details of ordinary life – such as Professor Eddings’ parents having dual residences – one in Florida and one in Maine. How does this pertain to the plot? It isn’t so much the point of the references but the anchouring of how his characters have quite ordinary lives who have suddenly become ‘caught up’ inside a historical suspense of where truths are cleverly erased (or here, truly ‘secreted away’; stored if you will) and how due to the scholarship and detective eye of their scholarly natures – Lee and the Professor have a profound impact on untangling the sonnet’s truer message.

What is further interesting, the Tudor era isn’t one of my favourites – I yield to the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian periods of English History whilst finding the pre-Revolutionary era of France (and it’s successive eras thereafter) to be more of a keen interest of mine; however, having stated this, Mr Margolis has given me a reason to re-think my stance on the Tudors. He’s allowed the era of the Tudors to feel more alive somehow, and not fall into that heady category of Tudor literature that seems quite predictable and sometimes rather stale. In other words, his narrative is refreshing – owning it’s heritage and duality of place whilst grounding the Tudor era itself into a work of believable written history. I might have first been smitten by a Shakespearean angle of intrigue but I staid for the thrilling suspense of a well-thought out plot with an unexpected heroine at the centre of it’s heart. In this vein, as I could not continue to the conclusion of this novel (despite my original desire to do so) the only other author thus far whose encouraged me about the Tudors is C.W. Gortner (see also review); I am thankful for the cross-introductions to an era I might have overlooked and never read!

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

The Semper Sonnet blog tour via HFVBTs.Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Reader Interactive Question: Dear my! What is it about Thrillers that give us that pulse of excitement for a thrilling story-line to consume but at the very *same time!* give us palpation’s of anxiety!? Is it because we feel as if we’re surviving the same fate OR because we’re eagerly hoping the person living this life is going to somehow beat the odds & survive!? Methinks it’s a combination of both! What about you!? Why do Thrillers give you a heap of joy to read?!
Posting concurrent to this review, is my takeaways from readings within Holy Shakespeare, wherein I delighted in the quotations & cross-references of what truly inspired the Bard himself! (see also review)

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Semper Sonnet”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Seth Margolis and the tour badge were all provided by HFVBTs (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours) and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 27 January, 2017 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 16th Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Castles & Estates, Content Note, Crime Fiction, Elizabeth I, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Thriller Suspense, Indie Author, Tudor Era, Vulgarity in Literature, William Shakespeare




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