(Review) The Spoils of Avalon, A John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget Mystery by Mary F. Burns

Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press, July 31, 2014.
Genre: Fiction, mystery, Victorian England, medieval England.
Format: Advanced reader copy paperback.
Pages: 304.
Rating: 3 Stars.
Source: Free copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Sand Hill Review Press in exchange for a review.

Link for book tour: The Spoils of Avalon. 

The death of a humble clergyman in 1877 leads amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent into a medieval world of saints and kings—including the legendary Arthur—as they follow a trail of relics and antiquities lost since the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. Written in alternating chapters between the two time periods, The Spoils of Avalon creates a sparkling, magical mystery that bridges the gap between two worlds that could hardly be more different—the industrialized, Darwinian, materialistic Victorian Age and the agricultural, faith-infused life of a medieval abbey on the brink of violent change at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.
First in a new series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends—beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.
Friends from the age of ten, Paget and Sargent frequently met in the popular European watering places and capitals, frequenting the same salons and drawing rooms in London, Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Madrid. Both were possessed of keen minds and bohemian tendencies, unorthodox educations and outsized egos (especially Paget). Their instant, natural bonding led them to address each other as “Twin”, and they corresponded frequently when they were apart.
Henry James once described Violet Paget as having “the most formidable mind” of their times, and he was an active fan and patron of John Sargent, introducing him to London society and his own inner circles of literary and artistic genius. (summary courtesy of HFVBT). 

My Thoughts:
There were a few things I really loved about The Spoils of Avalon. 

  • Quotes from Idylls of the King at the beginning of each chapter. 
  • A beautiful front cover. It reminded me of a medieval illuminated manuscript. 
  • Two time frames. One time setting is in 1877 Victorian England. The other time setting is 1539 England. 
  • A mystery surrounding ancient relics.
  • The Arthurian legend.
  • An English monastery setting during the 1500s. 
  • Henry VIII's rule. In particular, the event surrounding his "destruction" of the monasteries. 
  • A murder mystery.
  • Victorian England. 
What I did not like in regards to The Spoils of Avalon.
  • The story is too busy. It is a whirl of varying elements. I believe it is because the story is too busy, I failed to find a place to connect. Further, I was not able to become apart of the story. 

About the Author

Mary F. Burns is the author of PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, is also being published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders).
Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood. Ms. Burns has a law degree from Golden Gate University, has been president of her neighborhood association and is active in citywide issues. During most of her working career she was employed as a director of employee communications, public relations and issues management at various San Francisco Bay Area corporations, was an editor and manager of the Books on Tape department for Ignatius Press, and has managed her own communications/PR consulting business, producing written communications, websites and video productions for numerous corporate and non-profit clients.
Ms. Burns may be contacted by email at maryfburns@att.net. For more information please visit Mary Burns’s website. You can also connect with Mary on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, or read her blog posts at:

The Spoils of Avalon Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 3
Review at Buried Under Books
Tuesday, November 4
Review at Book Dilettante
Wednesday, November 5
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, November 7
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Monday, November 10
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, November 11
Review at Layered Pages
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, November 12
Guest Post at Passages to the Past
Thursday, November 13
Review at Curling Up By The Fire
Friday, November 14
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Monday, November 17
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, November 18
Review at Impressions in Ink
Wednesday, November 19
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Thursday, November 20
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews
Friday, November 21
Review at Bibliotica