Tag Archives: character building

Review of The Heretic’s Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

I like historical fiction because not only do I enjoy a good story but I also learn more about history. In the book, The Heretic’s Wife, I got the best of both worlds.Previously, I researched about the life of William Tyndale,martyred for translating the Bible for the common people of Henry VIII’s England for a non-fiction manuscript I wrote. In this story, I learned more about one of his friends and fellow martyrs, John Frith, who is not recognized as widely as Tyndale.

This book bases itself on a character named Kate Gough, who runs a bookshop with her brother. Her brother ends up imprisoned for having copies of the Scriptures in their bookstore, which were illegal at the time. Because her brother also had a wife and small child, he recants while in prison so he can get back to his dependent family. Kate, his sister, was disappointed in her brother for backing down on his Christian stand in exchange for his freedom.

She went to help (disguised as her brother) to receive illegal copies of the Scriptures that came into England from Germany by boat. In this dangerous and risky mission, she met John Frith, a Cambridge scholar and writer. Their lives become intertwined from that point on, although Frith, like Tyndale, had become a fugitive from England because of his Protestant sympathies. Her fate was to be a fugitive with him in Antwerp, Belgium, hiding from the English crown and its spies.

The setting of this book is the 1500’s, when England was a Roman Catholic country and Henry was still married to his first of eight wives, the Roman Catholic Katherine of Aragon. However, the king was tired of her and her inability to produce a heir for him. Henry desired Anne Boleyn to be his wife instead. Anne insisted that she would not go to Henry’s bed unless he was divorced from Katherine, who was the widow of his brother. Henry sought an annulment ¬†from the Catholic Church, but the Lord Chancellor Thomas More will not permit it. Thus More fell out of the king’s good graces.

The story of political intrigue was woven with the narrative of the fugitive and his wife. Because More did not give the king what he wanted, he ends up resigning his position in disgrace. More took out some of his own vengeance on the Protestants, the ones influenced from the writings and Reformation movement of Martin Luther in Germany.

Frith wrote against the doctrine of transubstantiation and the doctrine of purgatory in rare acts of courage when he resided in Antwerp. In the meantime, reports came out of England that Protestants were being burned at the stake. Frith went back to England on a short mission, and left his wife Kate in Belgium. After that happened, the book was quite hard to put down, as any reader would discover for him or herself.

Like I said, I love the fact that I learned history while I was also reading for pleasure. I enjoyed learning more about Anne Boleyn, who had Protestant sympathies, Thomas More and his fellow Catholics who persecuted the Protestants, Henry the Viii who both loved and beheaded some of his wives. And I especially enjoyed reading about the courage of Frith, how the Lord gave him grace to endure to the end without recanting. As persecution increase all the more in the day and age we live in, it is good to learn of those who went before us, leading the way in a Hebrews 11 “hall of faith” kind of way.

I look forward to reading more of ¬†author Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s books.


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Review of The British Josiah “Edward VI the Most Godly King of England” by N. A. Woychuck, M.A., Th.D.

As I have learned bits of British history as an adult I have found that truth can be just as exciting as fiction. In fact, I prefer non-fiction.Here is a book that is great for the homeschooling crowd. You can learn about how the Protestant Reformation began to change the nation of England. I wish I would have known about it when I was homeschooling my kids. It is the fascinating biography of the Protestant King Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, who lived from 1537 to 1553. In his short life, Edward took a stand for the truth of God’s Word, making it available to the people, and salvation by faith in Christ.

Edward did not live a long life, nor did he reign long as England’s monarch, but he was a child prodigy. He was compared to the Old Testament King Josiah, the boy from Judah who reigned hundreds of years earlier. Henry, his father, provided the best Protestant tutors for his son even though he was Catholic. Henry died when his young heir was just nine years old. Edward made a special request on the day of his coronation for an additional sword, representing the “Sword of the Spirit.” Edward soaked in the Bible teaching from his tutor and at age 11, wrote a “Treatise against the Primacy of the Pope.” The entire treatise is printed in the back of the book as an appendix. I was amazed at Edward’s reasoning and logic in writing this hefty pamphlet against the established religion of his day . Also included in an appendix are prayers from an excerpt from the Edward VI Primer.

The author of this biography viewed Edward in a favorable light, especially with regard to his faith, in comparison with secular biographers. Surrounding young Edward were those who decidedly took advantage of him and because of his age, Edward was limited in what he was able to accomplish in his reign.

I will not give away how Edward’s reign was cut short, but it has some mystery surrounding it.Upon Edward’s death, another (tragic) short-lived reign followed, by Edward’s Protestant cousin the Lady Jane Grey. (Lady Jane Grey’s story is also quite interesting to read.) Grey’s reign was brought to an abrupt end by Bloody Mary, Edward’s oldest half sister, who seized power. After Bloody Mary’s reign ended, Edward’s other half sister, Elizabeth, continued the reforms that Edward started. It is fascinating history.

This book could be read by junior high age students or be used as a read aloud. The author also includes an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. It was published in 2001 by SMF Press.


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