**spoiler alert** Mistress of Mourning was the second novel I have read by Karen Harper. It was set in the earlier days of the Tudor dynasty, in the r**spoiler alert** Mistress of Mourning was the second novel I have read by Karen Harper. It was set in the earlier days of the Tudor dynasty, in the reign of Henry VII, and focused largely on the death of Arthur, Prince of Wales. The premise was interesting - a widowed chandler, Varina Westcott, is hired by the queen, Elizabeth of York, to carve effigies of her dead children and her missing brothers, the Princes in the Tower. Varina becomes the queen's confidant and she is hired, along with the king's man Nick Sutton, to go to Wales to investigate the death of Arthur, whom the queen believes did not die of illness but of foul play. Along the way, of course, are the requisite bad guys, traitors, and love stories.
The idea that Arthur was poisoned is intriguing. I am not sure I believe it myself, but Harper makes a compelling argument in favor of it. Given the prince's poor health throughout his life, a Yorkist assassin slipping in a deadly herb that would cause symptoms resembling any number of illnesses isn't too much of a stretch to be unrealistic. I suppose it could happen.
The issue with the Princes in the Tower felt a little rushed in the end. Henry's confession felt a tad contrived, the explanation for their deaths too convenient. But I liked the homage to Henry II and Thomas Becket's feud, and how Henry VII's "confession" was similar to Henry II's "order" to kill Becket.
In general, I liked the characters, though I felt they all needed more development. I thought that was a little odd since the other book I'd read by Harper had extremely well developed characters. Varina and Nick were, of course, the most thoroughly fleshed-out, though they still lacked some depth and had questions left unanswered. It wasn't enough to detect from the overall plot, just something that was a bit strange considering the experience I had with her other book, Mistress Shakespeare.
Overall, a quick, fun read. Recommended for fans of Tudor history....more
3.5 stars. I enjoyed this novel. It was a light, easy read. Since so much about Shakespeare's life is a mystery, there is much that can be done with i3.5 stars. I enjoyed this novel. It was a light, easy read. Since so much about Shakespeare's life is a mystery, there is much that can be done with it from a fiction point of view. While there is some controversy about whether Anne Whateley was somehow a misspelling of Anne Hathaway (seriously, people?) I never subscribed to that and always felt that the Bard had another Anne. It makes more sense in light of his apparent dislike of Anne H, and his long absences from his family. The evidence would seem to support it as well.
A few things, fairly minor, bugged me in this book. The phrase "hang out" didn't turn up until the 1800s, according to the OED. Certainly it wouldn't have been used in Elizabethan England. I was also sad when I read in the AN that she drew heavily on Alison Weir's books for her sources. Weir writes a fun story, and her books are popular, but please don't confuse popular for accurate. They are not.
In general, though, this was a lovely book and I recommend it to fans of Shakespeare or Tudor England....more
There were a few slow parts where I lost a little interest, but overall this was one of the best books on Elizabeth I that I've ever read. I really liThere were a few slow parts where I lost a little interest, but overall this was one of the best books on Elizabeth I that I've ever read. I really liked George's writing, how she gave Elizabeth her voice. It sounded like how I imagined Elizabeth would actually speak and think, much more so than a few other books I've read. *coughAlisonWeircough*
I like how it focused on just the later part of her reign as well, rather than trying to cover the whole 45 years or her whole life. She was bigger than life in many ways, too big to encompass in just a few hundred pages. So I think that selecting just a specific set of years and going into detail with that is a great way to approach a historical novel about her. ...more
Hmm. The story was fine. It was silly, which was the point. Not sure I liked the writing style though that was likely part of the intended silliness.Hmm. The story was fine. It was silly, which was the point. Not sure I liked the writing style though that was likely part of the intended silliness. Overall a light and fun read even though it managed to plod a tad in some parts. I would read more by this author....more
I really liked this book. I don't know much from my own research about Bessie Blount, other than she was one of Henry VIII's mistresses and she did haI really liked this book. I don't know much from my own research about Bessie Blount, other than she was one of Henry VIII's mistresses and she did have a son with him. So I don't know how accurate the research was for this book. But I really liked how Bess was portrayed and felt she was a very likeable person. She would have been someone I would happily know in real life, someone who seemed kind and warm.
I enjoyed, too, the interpretation that Henry actually did love her and the toying with ideas of how things might have been wildly different if he had chosen to marry her when he was young instead of waiting, then marrying Anne Boleyn. I am too fond of Anne, and of course I think Elizabeth is the apex of the British monarchy, to regret that Henry didn't marry Bess. But it was a fun notion to contemplate. But if the interpretation was accurate and he did love her, it could explain a great deal of his subsequent behavior.
I am glad Bess seems to have had a mostly happy life after her affair with Henry, and I really liked her choice of husband at last. He was a good man and I liked his character a lot. I wish more time had been spent on him as well, though I guess since the focus was supposed to be on Bess, it wouldn't really do to focus too much on someone else.
Rosalind Miles' previous books that I have read are wonderful. Her writing style tends to be a little overblown sometimes, but she can tell a good stoRosalind Miles' previous books that I have read are wonderful. Her writing style tends to be a little overblown sometimes, but she can tell a good story. This is the first historical fiction of hers I have read, so it will be interesting to see how many creative liberties she takes. The only other books of hers I've read were the Tristan and Isolde trilogy, although I also have the Arthurian trilogy awaiting my attention. :)
Now that I've finished the book, I can say it wasn't my favorite. I got a little bored with it, but I'm not sure why. I don't know if it was the writing style, although that's never really bothered me before in any of her books. Oh well. It was a decent read anyway, and I would recommend it to any Elizabeth I buffs out there. ...more
I liked this book, but it started to lose my interest about halfway through. It's too bad, since Katherine of Aragon is such a wonderfully interestingI liked this book, but it started to lose my interest about halfway through. It's too bad, since Katherine of Aragon is such a wonderfully interesting person....more
Okay, it took me maybe 100 pages to really get into this one, but once I did, I simply could NOT put it down. This was the first book by Philippa GregOkay, it took me maybe 100 pages to really get into this one, but once I did, I simply could NOT put it down. This was the first book by Philippa Gregory that I'd read. I found her writing style to be academic and intelligent without being at all dry or pedantic. Her research seems to be accurate enough to create a realistic story, and her understanding of the time allows her to write the thoughts and motivations of her characters in a believable manner. Telling the story of the rise and fall of the Boleyn family from the point of view of Mary, rather than a more expected character like Anne, or their father, really brought to life the twisted intrigues and political machinations that went hand in hand with the Tudor court. It gives a different slant to a well-known history. And I have to say that I didn't know a lot about Mary, so I was reading as much to see what happened to her life as I was to see how Gregory portrayed the documented events. This is a book that anyone even remotely interested in Tudor England would love. ...more