The Red Velvet Turnshoe

By Cassandra Clark
Publisher:Minotaur Books, (11/24/2009)

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.67 out of 5 (6 Clubie's ratings)

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In the midst of a long, bleak winter in the year 1383, flooding brought famine, famine brought disease, and The Black Death visited town after town.

Into this watery world, against a background of plague and the turmoil of the Hundred Years’ War, a brave and brilliant nun, Abbess Hildegard, embarks on a quest for a precious relic, the Cross of Constantine.

Strong-willed and independent, she will need remarkable skills to survive. For with the English Crown at stake, there are many who want her mission to fail—and one, above all, who plans a deadly revenge.
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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
updated on:1/17/2010

I enjoyed reading this book both for the mystery and for the Medieval setting. There was a variety of characters. It was also difficult to determine the true nature of these characters which was a task also faced by the heroine, Hildegard. I have not made up my mind yet if Hildegard is too modern a woman to be placed in this setting. She faces many conflicts both external and internal. I am also puzzled about why Hildegard is sent on her long journey to obtain the cross of Constantine. There was a short glossary at the end of the book which was somewhat helpful, but I needed to look the meaning of several words to enhance my enjoyment of reading this story. However, most of the important Medieval terminology was somewhat understandable from the context. Reading this book also sent me to review this period of European history.

Very Unleashable

Sam's thoughts on "The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
updated on:1/7/2010

There were a lot of reasons that I disliked The Red Velvet Turnshoe, but all of them were personal. The story itself has great potential; Hildegard, an attractive and magnetic force of nature, braves a long and dangerous journey to retrieve a valuable religious relic. I can fully acknowledge that all of the elements of an interesting read are represented, and that it's my own distaste for midieval period pieces and murder who-dun-its that made it extremely difficult for me to finish out this book. Before beginning, I didn't know much about that time frame of English history, and I wasn't interested enough in the story to do additional research that would have led to a better understanding of this story. I tried to get past my personal preferences on this one, and I am sure that the conversations we have about Turnshoe at our book club meeting will be interesting, but I wouldn't recommend this book. It's just not my thing, even though I wouldn't mind being a modern-day Hildegard for a day or two!

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Reese's thoughts on "The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
updated on:1/4/2010

This book was an entertaining mystery romp through medieval times with mostly enjoyable characters. I have to be honest…I don’t know much about nuns beyond the norm, but I’m thinking that if Hildegard, the main character of the Red Velvet Turnshoe, was a modern day nun she would be considered “hip and kick butt-cool”. She could do it all...traverse Europe in the cold of winter on a dangerous mission...befriend everyone along the way...make all the men fall in love with her...conduct important business transactions...solve murders and political mystery…train her hounds to the letter…save a young boys life…and look good doing it in a beautiful blue cloak! Oddly, the main purpose of the plot…to attain the precious relic, the Cross of Constantine, seemed to be the smallest drama of the whole book! Could have been a little more intrigue with that part. While the history references of the time are complex and complicated as to making most of us read things twice, i.e. the 2 popes(one being false of course), kings, lords, earls, archbishops, abbots, priors, who actually bears the titles and add in the politics of, it all fascinated me….but then I love history. So while the time period gave the book a sense of heaviness, for the most part I though it was actually a fun storyline.

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
updated on:1/1/2010

As a mystery, I think this was suppose to be a story about an intriguing nun who befriends an accused murderer and navigates the Medieval twists and turns with enough finesse to make you say, "move over 'Murder, She Wrotes' Jessica Fletcher - you got some competition!" It was that, but there was so much more! There is a mystery and also: an adventure, some violence, some threatening diseases, more murder, a romance of sorts (with other possible multiple love interests to boot - pretty damn good for a nun), a stalker, politics, the church politics, and all this told through the eyes of an intoxicating nun trying to unspin all the spin and figure out what was what. What a world and time to explore! What fun! With all that going on, the mystery in fact was pretty much irrelevant to the book but merely served as the loose backbone of a story that wove together so much more. It's loose story plot is on par with what I call "comic porn style" - Comic porn style being funny scenes loosely tied together with a flimsy plot (sort of like porn). But this wasn't a comedy, so I guess this would be more of a "Medieval History Porn Style" with a backbone of a mystery... or was it a backbone of the adventure to get the cross? Or was it the backbone of all the historical references that tied together the pieces of the mystery? I'm not sure. Either way, it's a whopper of an interesting story set in a fascinating time.

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Ceci's thoughts on "The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
updated on:12/30/2009

Here’s one with a little something for everyone. Mystery! Romance! Adventure! Travel! Medieval times! Hildegard is the Nancy Drew of the convent set. She crosses the Alps in the heart of winter and survives a blizzard. She practices archery, intuits fine points of law, and never gets seasick. In her spare time she tends to lepers. And, every man she meets falls in love with her, wishes she was his mother, or wants to kill her. The subtitle of this book is “A Mystery,” and I have to say, this was one mystery that really kept me guessing. Unfortunately, I think that had more to do with my ignorance of the political deception surrounding young King Richard II’s reign over England, than with this being a particularly well-crafted whodunit. I definitely appreciate any author’s decision not to pander to her readers, but I wonder how many readers will be able to get through this one without resorting to a little side research.

Mildly Unleashable

Nick's thoughts on "The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
updated on:12/30/2009

"Who's on first?" I gotta say, that was pretty much my feeling the whole time I was reading this one - Who are they talking about? What does that word mean? Why am I reading about these people? What is the significants of this? - yet, despite that, I still found the book to be an enjoyable overall. Couple of points to make: 1. There is A LOT of English history.... most of which was lost on me, but it did make me more interested in all the medieval schenanigans. Overall, the whole book felt like a sneaky way to try to teach English history. And that is concept I actually like a lot. Cause who really wants to learn about that stuff from a history book? Infuse it in a book with a hottie nun who solves mysteries and goes on secret missions and now we have something that my ADHD might learn some English history with! 2. The mystery was of the murderer was ok, but overshadowed by the maneuverings of it's characters and the many many sub plots. I think I would have enjoyed all of the sub plots more had I read her first book, "Hangman Blind" beforehand. When taken in context that this is a series it all seems quite interesting. On it's own, the book seemed scattered. 3. Hildegard must have been one hot nun! All the guys wanted her. This I like too- that she was interesting. I like that she is strong, devoted, can take care of herself, has two faithful hounds, and must be sexy as all get out in that habit and red leggings. 4. Overall interesting read and though I was confused much of the time, I liked traveling with Hildegard and would consider reading more.

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"The Red Velvet Turnshoe"
By Cassandra Clark

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.67 out of 5 (6 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

Reader's Guide from BookBundlz


The Cross was believed to "confer almost supernatural powers on those who possess it" how does that fit with the teachings of the church? Why would Alexander Neville, the Archbishop of York, request a nun to go get it?


Hildegard fears that as Pierrekyn is a "sodomite" he does not stand the chance of a fair trial. Do you think Pierrekyn stood a fair chance back then?


Pierrekyn asks Hildegard what she wants for helping him. He states that "Everybody wants something." Hildegard says, "There is another view." Who do you think is more accurate? Is there nothing in it for Hildegard to help Pierrekyn?


Pierrekyn's lute is important to him on many levels and in many ways. What does Pierrekyn find in his lute?


p. 60 Pierrekyn says, "I was introduced to the secret life of the Church when I was seven years old. I'd had precious little kindness till then. And there it was - for a price, of course?" What do you think he meant by that?


p. 186 What truth is there in the prioress' comment that, "We are players in a game of chance. We must all submit to the game or weary ourselves like birds dashing themselves against the bars of a cage. We can only do what we must, in ignorance of the greater plan." How does that fit or not fit with the teachings of the church? Does that logic give people an excuse to act as they do?


The abbot imposes strict living, working and eating conditions on his monks to the point where the monks appear pale, tired and sick. What is the abbot trying to accomplish by all of this? Do you think it was working? Why do the monks accept these conditions instead of revolt?


p. 193-194 Brother Thomas comments that he deserves all of the treatment they are receiving as "I am truly the most terrible of sinner" and that he is unworthy of Sister Hildegard's concern. How has your interpretation of your worthiness altered how you allow others to treat you?


p. 215 While in court, it was convention that the witness "would prove the truth of his statement by engaging in armed combat with the accused." (It was waved here.) How do you think that custom would effect court proceedings?


p. 218 How did Hildegard know about the significance of the rings?


Hubert de Courcy goes to extreme measures to deaden his desire for Hildegard. None of it seems to work. Hildegard is equally attracted to Hubert, but restrains herself for fear if they declare their love Hubert would face castration, solitary confinement, disgrace and humiliation, as that is what happened to another abbot who fell in love with a nun. Do you think it would be all that bad? How would loving each other conflict with their love of God? and vows?


p. 270 Hildegard lightens as the prioress informs her why she has kept the cross at the priory at Swayne. The prioress says, "The views of that sacristan, its guardian, appeal to me. ... I think we can acquit ourselves with a similar purity of purpose. Such a sacred relic should not be used to further worldly ambition." Do you think that was the prioress' intentions all along? Does the prioress have her priory's worldly ambitions in mind in keeping it?


Who was Sir William? What did Sir William gain from having Reynard killed and Pierrekyn impressioned?


What was the significance of and the role each of the following played in the development of the story:


Lord Roger de Hutton

Ser Ludvico & Lady Phillippa

Sir Talbot

The hounds - Bermonda and Duchess

Escrick Fitzjohn

The three mining mercenaries -Jack Black, Harry, The Scot

Ser Vitelli

La Gran Contessa

Sir John Hawkwood, and what was the point in trying to get him to help?

Lady Sibilla & Sir Ralph


King Richard

Alexander Neville

Constantine's Cross

The Anomenalle

Lady Milisen's purchase requests

Red Velvet Turnshoe, Is it deserving enough of stature to be the title of the book?

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CASSANDRA CLARK, who lives in London, introduced Abbess Hildegard in her acclaimed first novel, Hangman Blind.

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The Red Velvet Turnshoe

January 2010’s BB Book Club Book Pick:
The Red Velvet Turnshoe By Cassandra Clark

As Hildegard travels to Italy, so do we with our wine selections. One thing we definitely discovered is that these old world wines definitely need to breath. So be sure to open them early or decant for best tasting.

Monte Antico Rosso

Monte Antico 2006 Rosso - Red Wineicon
($10 category - Was $11.99)
The winner for this month is a Tuscan wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet was this month's winner. On the opening taste it was very tight, dry and closed on the nose. I would definitely decant this wine well before you drink it. Once it opened up we enjoyed this wine with some food. It really excited us with tastes of dark black cherries, leather and a very smooth finish. At this price point it's a very good deal and should be enjoyed soon.

Uncorking Rating:
"Very Uncorkable"
Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana

Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana IGT 2006 iconicon
($15 category - Was $17.49)
This was another blend from Tuscany, but was very different from the Monte Antico Rosso. We experienced a very smooth and full bodied wine as soon as we sloshed it into our glasses. This wine originally started out as our number one pick right out of the gate. It was great with food and it has a very nice berry flavor and a vanilla note, but then it just seemed to fall a tad shy compared to the Rosso. Other tastes our wine tasters were getting: caramel and whiskey - what an interesting wine!

Uncorking Rating:
"Uncorkable to Very Uncorkable"

Argiano Non Confunditur
Argiano 2007 Non Confunditur - Red Wineicon
($20 or more category - Was $23.99)
In this third wine from Tuscany, we tasted earthy and leather notes in this very dark colored wine. It is only an '07 and may have showed its youth and should be much better in a couple years. We had some of this wine left over and after trying it again the next day, it again and it showed a huge change. It really turned out to be a lovely smooth wine with potential to age nicely!

Uncorking Rating:
Uncork it"
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