I've always been a big fan of "whodunits" and of course you know of my love of historical novels, so I was pretty excited when I saw this book come ou...moreI've always been a big fan of "whodunits" and of course you know of my love of historical novels, so I was pretty excited when I saw this book come out and immediately had to snatch it up. Summerscale writes a great novel of a murder mystery set it gothic Victorian London, where the family are the only suspects. The case proves to be very captivating with various theories laid out for the reader to examine. The author is very good at making it not feel like you're reading a non-fiction book that just is crammed with facts, even though she has obviously done her research and has her share of documents pertaining to the case. I could've maybe done without the deeper information she gives into Whicher's life and the history of detective work, although some of it was insightful. Recommended to anyone who likes a good, real-life murder mystery! (less)
If I was given the choice of writing a novel on a certain historic event, you can bet the event at the bottom of my list would be The War of the Roses...moreIf I was given the choice of writing a novel on a certain historic event, you can bet the event at the bottom of my list would be The War of the Roses. I don't think I could deal with such a convoluted, tangled story, with an ungodly amount of characters to keep track of...it would likely drive me mad. But, thankfully Alison Weir was of a different mindset and took the monster head on. And what a supurb job she did! Weir merged enjoyment and learning expertly and I can see how it would take a lot of work to not have it read as a text book. It was by no means a fast read, as it's all fact and no dialogue, but boring it was not. Nor was it one of those books that feels like a chore to read.
Weir starts the novel with the early origins of events that would eventually lead to the thirty-year battle for the throne of England, which dates back to King Edward III. The War of the Roses ends after the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Battle of Tewkesbury, fought on what is now known as Bloody Meadow would be the last meeting between York and Lancaster. The future of Lancaster, Prince Edward, was slain, his father King Henry VI had long been in prison (and shortly after this battle, the grave) and Queen Margaret was in hiding, then imprisoned in the Tower of London and finally ransomed by the King of France. For a woman that spent her a majority of her life surrounded by court and it's many minion and was quite comfortable in the role as a ruler, she lived her last days dependent on the meager funds she received from the King of France and died alone.. TWOTR is a sad note in England's history; sons fought fathers, brothers fought brothers, there was rampant betrayal and lies, lawlessness and violence ruled and havoc was wreaked upon towns, such as Towton.
I would recommend this to any history nut! Weir has a great writing style and it was very readable non-fiction. I admit I don't really care for her fiction novels; I thought Innocent Traitor was so-so and I couldn't finish The Lady Elizabeth, but now that I've read this one I'm excited to read the rest of her collection!
What I found most interesting (just shows it was more scheming and waiting to see what the other side will do next than actual fighting):
"There were, at most, thirteen weeks of fighting in the thirty-two years covered by both of the War of the Roses, while the total time spent campaigning amounted to approximately one year. Some of the battles were short, and non lasted longer than a day."(less)
Italy, 1542. Isabella de Medici was born very shortly after the death of her father, Cosimo's, first daughter Bia. And subsequently was most cherished...moreItaly, 1542. Isabella de Medici was born very shortly after the death of her father, Cosimo's, first daughter Bia. And subsequently was most cherished, cosseted and spoiled by her father . Her mother, Eleanora bore Cosimo seven sons and four daughters, with eight surviving til adulthood. They were all housed at the Palazzo Vecchio with the children's special apartments taking up several floors above Cosimo and Eleanora's chambers, which had private access to the children's rooms above.
In 1558 Isabella is wed to Paolo Giordano Orsini, member of the Roman Orsini family. Cosimo immediately sends the groom away to Spain to secure diplomatic commissions which allowed Isabella (and her dowry) to stay in Florence with her father. In Cosimo's opinion if Paolo wanted to see his wife he could come to her. Isabella and her father were very close...some wondered how close (although nothing was ever proven).
Isabella's husband, the Duke of Bracciano was a careless spendthrift, accruing enormous debt and living way beyond his means. Despite the letters that survived that time which Murphy quotes from, there was no love between Paolo and Isabella, just business. He saw her as a means of paying off his debts and she saw him as someone weak enough to use to her liking. Isabella did not want to leave her father in Florence and husband and wife did not spend a night alone until four years after their wedding. It's a wonder she had multiple miscarriages and bore two children. Although she had a lover, Troilo Orsini (her husband's cousin), are thus uncertain who the father is. Something Paolo would store away and use to his advantage later on.
When Cosimo dies, Isabella's eldest brother, Francesco, becomes Grand Duke of Tuscany. Her protector and provider is gone - suddenly Isabella is vulnerable and subject to her older brother. Francesco and Isabella have never been close; Francesco begrudging Isabella's freedoms and indiscretions, her "loose" ways. They begin a tug-of-war of wills in regards to Cosimo's will and providing for her children now that he was gone.
In the past, she used illness and deferment when dealing with Paolo's requests for her to come home to him to Bracciano. Her long-lasting affair with Troilo Orsini, Paolo's cousin, was a spurn in the side of her brother Francesco. Immediately after Cosimo's death, Francesco wasted no time, throwing his step-mother in a nunnery and he began proceedings on getting Isabella back to her husband.
Paolo had been humiliated and de-masculinated for years because of Isabella's disregard for his authority and her affair. Everyone knew he had no command over his own wife. Murphy's argument is that Francesco, disgusted with his sister's behavior and generally not liking her, gave permission to Paolo to murder her. At the same time it is said that he also gave permission to his brother, Pietro, to do away with his unfaithful wife, Leonora (friend to Isabella). The women died within a week of each other, both last seen in the company of their husbands.
I had been looking forward to this book - having a liking for historical fiction and murder. But I found myself scanning pages and skipping paragraphs, which is not something I make a habit of doing. It felt inundated with facts at times, although I did find some of it very interesting, such as, the day to day expenses of Paolo Giordano and Isabella's - the income that is needed to sustain a household the size of theirs was enormous. About three-quarters of the way through, I found myself wandering, actually anxiously awaiting her death...at that point, I needed some action! And when the time did come for her demise it was...well...anti-climactic.
I think I would have been friends with Isabella de Medici - she was smart, had a great sense of humor, light of heart and at times could be a smart ass. She was unconventional in a time when women were not.
Murphy is one talented writer and it is obvious that a HUGE amount of research went into this book, but I wish it would have been focused more on just Isabella and less Cosimo's politics. Just my opinion. I found it well-written, not overly intellectual like some non-fiction can be. Nice reading flow.
In Royal Affairs, author Leslie Carroll, chronicles the many scandalous infidelities of the English Monarchs. From Henry II in the 12th century to the...moreIn Royal Affairs, author Leslie Carroll, chronicles the many scandalous infidelities of the English Monarchs. From Henry II in the 12th century to the current heir to the throne, Prince Charles, Royal Affairs is an entertaining excursion through the lives of our favorite salacious sovereigns!
Due to the fact that royal marriages were for solidifying political alliances between countries and strengthening royal families and NOT designed with love in mind, there comes the unfortunate by-product of infidelity. For the most part, neither the bride nor groom wanted each other and were just doing their royal duty. And infidelity is not only on the part of the the Kings, but Queens also.
Royal Affairs covers staples such as Edward II and his two lovers – Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser, Henry VIII and his gaggle of mistresses, Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley and Mary, Queen of Scots and Earl of Bothwell.
Also included were a few interesting tidbits that I didn’t know prior:
Every English monarch from 1461 is descended from Katherine Swynford, the mistress and eventual wife of John of Gaunt. Mary II was in love with a woman in her youth. And one thing I found particularly amusing was that King James, who lent his name to the English-translated King James Bible, was a homosexual.
Carroll lends her incredible sense of humor to each story and it makes for a much more engaging read. Non-fiction can be stuffy and fact-filled, but not so with Royal Affairs! For example, she compares the 2 mistresses of George I to the ugly step-sisters in Cinderella and speaks about the fabulous upper “assets” of Caroline of Anspach – wife to George II.
With concise and succinct chapters, Royal Affairs is great to pick up when you have a few minutes or equally awesome to devour in one sitting – trust me when I say, it’s not easy to put down! I heartily recommend to anyone who likes a juicy story!
Many thanks to Leslie Carroll for sending me this fantastic read! Be on the lookout for her upcoming release called Notorious Royal Marriages! (less)
After reading and loving Leslie Carroll's Royal Affairs, I just HAD to get my hands on her follow up non-fiction book, Notorious Royal Marriages: A Ju...moreAfter reading and loving Leslie Carroll's Royal Affairs, I just HAD to get my hands on her follow up non-fiction book, Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire! And, it did not disappoint! You see, Leslie has this great sense of humor that resonates throughout the book, making you laugh out loud and wishing high school history was taught this way! I, for one, would've stayed awake for sure! In Notorious Royal Marriages, Miss Carroll covers infamous Royal couples throughout history; from the tempestuous Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the 21st century love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. What's really great about NRM, is that the chapters are nice and condensed, making it easy to pick up when you've only got a few moments and also, it is easy to jump around to certain chapters depending on what piques your interest. And even though some of the couples are well known, Leslie adds the most interesting tid-bits. For example, Mary Tudor (Henry VIII's youngest sister) had a wardrobe worth $30 million dollars in today's money when she was sent to marry King Louis XII. Yowza!! Can we say DIVA? She puts Paris Hilton to shame! The only thing that I think would bring a lot to the book is pictures. Not only because I am aesthetically stimulated, but also because I think it would be nice to have a visual reference when reading about a particular couple. Yours truly highly recommends Notorious Royal Marriages to all!
FTC: my copy of Notorious Royal Marriages was provided by NAL Publishing for review. (less)
Author Leanda de Lisle has written an utterly captivating account of the lives of, Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey in The Sisters Who Would Be Quee...moreAuthor Leanda de Lisle has written an utterly captivating account of the lives of, Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Seriously, this is how non-fiction is done!
The fate of the Grey sisters exemplifies the danger of being born perilously close to the throne of England. All three would eventually fall victim to the English crown, though in different ways.
Lady Jane, the most notable of the Grey sisters, was born the eldest and as such was the one the family vested much time and money in. In a sense, she was the son they never had and she was ever mindful of the responsibility placed upon her. She was deeply religious and had a passion for learning.
One thing that de Lisle opened my mind to was that perhaps Jane wasn’t the total helpless pawn when she was offered the throne. Although Jane was very hesitant to take the crown and bypass Mary and Elizabeth and even her own mother, she nonetheless saw this as the only way to keep the Catholic Mary from ruling England and destroying everything that her brother, the Protestant Edward had done. Jane was just as strong in her religious convictions as Mary was, which was proved when after the plot to place Jane on the throne failed and Jane was give a chance to spare her life by converting to Christianity, she drew strength from her own faith and was executed on February 12, 1554.
De Lisle then goes on to tell the stories of Katherine and Mary, whose own lives would prove just as tragic as their sisters’. The remaining Grey sisters would dare to defy queens of England for love and would spend the rest of their lives suffering the consequences. One thing is for sure, Tudor queens are not to be messed with!
I highly recommend The Sisters Who Would Be Queen to anyone who enjoys an exquisitely researched and well-written historical account, and of course, lovers of the Tudors!! I really enjoyed de Lisle’s writing style and was entranced in the story of the remarkable, yet heartrending, Grey sisters.