The Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles series. Brendan Prescott is caught between trying to show loyalty to PrThe Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles series. Brendan Prescott is caught between trying to show loyalty to Princess Elizabeth and trying to stay alive with Queen Mary. His mission is to help hide a letter of Elizabeth's that may potentially have her arrested or killed as part of a treason plot against Mary. His comings and goings between the two women are made difficult because of a shady ambassador and a beautiful woman (isn't there always) who may or may not be all that she seems (....but isn't there always?). Brendan himself has secret ties to the royal family and struggles to keep his true self out of harm's way.
Perhaps me not reading the first book in the series is the reason for feeling a little disconnected from the characters. It would probably help if you read the first book of the series, The Tudor Secret, before reading this one. I think I was missing a large plot piece in this book: how was Brendan involved with the Dudleys and why do they hate him so much now? There were a lot of characters that I think were in the first book and got some good development, yet here fell a little flat without knowing their backstories. Elizabeth, one of my favorite historical women, didn’t seem that interesting to me, yet I loved the portrayal of Queen Mary. She was still a bit crazy, but she’s very sympathetic and seems simply misguided and lonely.
I thoroughly enjoyed having a male narrator. I made a mental list of the fiction books I've read this year so far (81), and except for Fight Club, a John Green book, and Harry Potter, NONE of them have had a male narrator or main character. My two favorite genres, historical fiction and YA, seem to be severely lacking in attempts to get into the male brain. This fact made The Tudor Conspiracy so refreshing, though I did quite miss detailed descriptions of the women's dresses, as are usual in historical fictions! I really loved C.W. Gortner’s other book on Queen Isabella of Castile and enjoyed his writing style; this carried over to his recent book as well....more
I received Bitter Greens about a week ago in the mail and was pretty worried that I wouldn't get it finished in time. However, even at almost 500 pageI received Bitter Greens about a week ago in the mail and was pretty worried that I wouldn't get it finished in time. However, even at almost 500 pages, I finished it in less than 12 hours! It was simply - and I don't EVER use this word lightly - unputdownable and is already a contender for my favorite book of 2013.
Bitter Greens is a retelling of the fairy tale about Rapunzel, but it still so much more than that. It's the story of three women: Selena, a great Venetian beauty in the early 16th century, who in order to preserve her youthful looks, kidnaps Margherita (of course not named Rapunzel, but that still has a part) in order to feed off of her youth, and Charlotte-Rose, a former lady in the court of French king Louis XIV who has been banished to a nunnery and is having the story of Selena and Margherita told to her. Sound confusing? It may be at first - if you need a better explanation, click HERE for the book's goodreads page. The POVs are not sequential and jump around a fair bit, but soon enough you'll get used to this. Kate Forsyth is one of the most wonderful storytellers I've come across - everything from the decadence of Versailles to the stink of Venice was written so vividly.
Charlotte-Rose's story is by far my favorite. Of course I love reading about kings and their courts, but Louis XIV is one of the best and Charlotte-Rose's role in it all was intriguing. She is a person who really existed and is a wonderful person to read about. She wrote books, was sassy to the king, and rescued her lover by dressing up as a bear. It was interesting to see her change from a fancy, liberal court lady to a humble woman in a nunnery. I can't wait to check out some biographies about her! In all three stories, witchcraft plays quite a big role, and as a historical novel, there is always some danger in those stories. Bitter Greens is a great look into the beliefs and laws of the times. God forbid if you were anything but Catholic in either France or Italy during these times! You'll certainly read about these wars and prejudices as well. I love that I received subtle history knowledge while reading an entertaining story....more
I was so excited to receive a book about Margaret Tudor! As the title suggests, she is often a forgotten historical character (she doesn't even existI was so excited to receive a book about Margaret Tudor! As the title suggests, she is often a forgotten historical character (she doesn't even exist on the TV show The Tudors!). There are plenty of books about her sister Mary and in books about her brother, Henry VIII, she may appear early on but quickly disappears, never to be mentioned again. It was wonderful to find a complete and lengthy book about her life....even if Margaret herself wasn't the most likable character. She is portrayed as very naive, selfish, and troubled. When Margaret is young and sent to Scotland to be married, she imagines herself as the savior that will unite Scotland and England through her power and sons. Even when none of that happens (at least in her lifetime) she is still under the impression that she is a great and mighty queen, all while the nobles of Scotland want nothing more than to see her gone. She also has the irritating quality of falling in love with every man she meets, or expecting that he is falling in love with her. This tendency leads to many problems (and many husbands). A lot of parallels were drawn to her granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots (the husband troubles, alienation from her child, ineffective rule, her entire country upset with her, etc). Funnily enough, these two mostly disliked women, who never met, were the ones that would actually bring Scotland and England together.
Slightly unlikeable queen aside, the story overall was very engaging, well-written, and informative (that last word sounds a bit boring, but it's true. I learned a lot and sometimes that's the best thing you can take from a book). Some of the side characters were the most interesting to read about. I especially liked Margaret's father and mother (Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, a couple who don't have nearly enough fiction written about them) and her African maid Ellen. We all know that Scots, especially historically speaking, are a crazy, eccentric bunch, and The Forgotten Queen is a wonderful little glimpse into that world!...more
This is going to be a difficult book to review, as I feel that most points of the story could be called spoilers. The back cover and descriptions giveThis is going to be a difficult book to review, as I feel that most points of the story could be called spoilers. The back cover and descriptions give away an awful lot of the plot, so much in that nothing surprising or shocking ever happens because you are already expecting it. So, I'm going to attempt to summarize as vaguely as possible! Rinette Leslie has been under the wardship of Mary of Guise (Mary, Queen of Scots' mother) for many years.Upon her deathbed, Mary of Guise entrusts Rinette with a box containing important secrets/information for the young Scots queen when she returns to Scotland. A while later, when Rinette goes to deliver the box to the queen, her husband is brutally murdered. Rinette then is able to use the box as a pawn: she will only give it to Mary when her husband's murder is avenged and Rinette knows she will be safe. Needless to say, the contents of the box are of special interest to many people (Catherine de Medici, Elizabeth I, etc.), so Rinette must stay on her toes and keep alert as danger constantly surrounds her.
Books about Mary Stuart are usually pretty iffy for me. She annoys me most of the time because she is either portrayed as a misunderstood martyr or a whiny brat. In The Flower Reader, she is very realistic. She is still an 18 year old girl with childish tendencies, but she is also smart and powerful. As the author wrote in the afterward, this portrayal of Mary in the few years before all of the excitement she is most known for (the husbands, exile, death) gives us an entirely different view of her. I really liked Nicolas de Clerac, the man helping and protecting Rinette. As for Rinette herself, I mainly liked her because she didn't always win. She was not perfect, but she was able to learn from her mistakes/defeats.
My only problem has to do with the title. Rinette is a flower reader -- she can associate people with flowers and deduce their personality traits and future. It's SUCH an interesting concept that wasn't used nearly enough. I loved the meanings associated with each flower and how what they meant went along with each person. Rinette's reading of Mary and Henry Darnley was just plain spooky. I wished we could've seen a lot more! Overall, The Flower Reader was exciting, romantic, full of mystery, and just plain fun. 4 stars....more
The 16th century, Italy, art, spying, and mysterious men....combine that with an absolutely gorgeous cover and count me in! (Click HERE to view the coThe 16th century, Italy, art, spying, and mysterious men....combine that with an absolutely gorgeous cover and count me in! (Click HERE to view the cover up close in all it's glory). The King's Agent, the newest release from the fabulous historical fiction author Donna Russo Morin, sounded promising, but didn't quite live up to the hype.
When Battista della Paglia steals art from her protector's home, Aurelia does the logical thing: she joins him. Battista is a way to escape the Marquess of Mantua's watchful eye and travel and have adventures. She learns Battista is an agent for François of France for whom he 'retrieves' the greatest artistic works of the day. He will do this by any means necessary (i.e. murder, seduction, tricks). After running away with Battista, he and Aurelia are sent on a mission to find a mysterious sculpture with potentially sinister effects. We are then sent on a journey through Renaissance Italy and meet a wide range of colorful characters, both unfamiliar and well known (Michelangelo, for example). This all culminates with an epic, not easily forgotten climax
I absolutely loved the relationship between Battista and Aurelia! They both have fiery spirits and worked well together in their missions. You can really feel both the Italian culture and the time period through the writing, it's all very authentic. I did have trouble grasping the supernatural turn towards the end of the book that seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere. It was hard to take in and was somewhat over the top. Though it took awhile to get into the flow of events and get used to the author's writing style (LOTS of Italian words, but you can always figure out what they mean by context), I enjoyed the story overall. Even though it's not being put on my re-read pile, I am still open to reading more of Donna Russo Morin's novels!...more