Another Jodi Picoult book for me, this time it’s The Storyteller. The dust jacket summary of the novel didn’t really say much about what this book isAnother Jodi Picoult book for me, this time it’s The Storyteller. The dust jacket summary of the novel didn’t really say much about what this book is about. I thought it was a book about euthanasia at first. Turns out it’s something completely different. It’s actually a World War II related story. I have sort of mixed feelings about the novel, now that I’m finished. Some parts were extraordinarily excellent; other parts were quite dull and cliche.
The Storyteller starts with Sage Singer, a young woman who is a baker. She’s a loner who has taken to working/baking through the night and sleeping through the day. Her only friend is Mary, who is also her boss. She dates Adam, a married man, because if he ever left, well, she could say she didn’t lose someone she never truly had. She has been harboring a lot of guilt ever since her mother died, for which she blames herself for. She attends a grief therapy group, where she doesn’t participate all that much to be honest, but still finds herself frequently going.
It is at the grief group she meets Josef Weber, an elderly 95 year old man, who is beloved by the small town. They strike up a friendship of some sort and it is then that Josef confesses something incredible to Sage: he is actually a former SS Nazi officer. He then proceeds to ask Sage for a huge favor — to end his life. Sage is Jewish, you see, and Josef hopes to gain forgiveness from what he has done during the war and to be put out of his misery, so to speak.
With this book, it feels like all the good parts are in the middle. The beginning and the end were really quite lackluster, in my opinion. I feel like Sage’s ex-nun of a boss and co-worker, the whole ‘Jesus bread loaf’ subplot, etc. that was present in the beginning was made intentionally quirky to try to make the beginning more interesting. Which didn’t really work for me, it just seemed kind of strange. Also, Sage and Josef’s relationship wasn’t really explored too much in depth. Like, he meets her a couple times then drops this HUGE bomb on her, “Oh and by the way, could you please kill me because I really want to die.” And then Sage kept entertaining the idea! What the heck?!
The middle of the book was a different story though — literally. We have two ‘biographies’, one from Josef’s time as an SS Nazi officer, and one from Sage’s grandmother as a concentration camp survivor. Hands down, this part of the book was the best. It was super interesting read about World War II from two vastly different perspectives. Lots of emotion combined with wonderful prose led to a very late night where I could not put the book down. Now, I’ve read a few things around the Internet where people were saying small parts of Picoult’s story aren’t historically accurate but I think I’ll give her a pass on it because she’s not normally a historical fiction writer. Might even be her first try, as far as I know. Anyway, from what I’ve read, it’s really small, minor details, so I’m not going to be super nitpicky about stuff like that.
Threaded throughout the entire novel, is another story that is written by Sage’s grandmother. Without mincing with words, it’s essentially a vampire love story, that she wrote during her time in the concentration camp. There’s supposed to be some allegory comparing the Nazis to vampires or something, I think, but I didn’t really get it. It wasn’t really a good story, to be honest. Every time I encountered another small section of the book dedicated to continuing this vampire story, I was tempted to just skip it over. I probably could have, but I also didn’t want to miss anything.
After the fantastic middle portion of the book (which is the bulk of the novel), we come back to the present day where Sage has enlisted Nazi hunter (a federal agent), Leo. Okay, here’s where the story went all wonky again and just felt too Hollywood for my liking, if you kind of know where I’m going with this. (view spoiler)[Sage and Leo fall completely in love with one another. Sage ends up doing Josef the favor and helps ends his life. Which I think was moronic; after all the trouble she went through trying to get him to confess to certain crimes and stuff so that Leo could arrest him or whatever, Sage just does her own thing and kills him anyway. And how was she planning to get away with this murder?! Because like it or not, it’s still murder and it’s not like Sage is a mastermind criminal. Someone is definitely going to figure out that Sage did it. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, I have gripes with this book, if you can’t tell. However, I cannot stress enough how wonderful and emotional the historical portions of this book were. It did feel like it was two/three separate stories wrapped in one book. I don’t feel like this is one of Jodi Picoult’s best novels but it was okay. If are a Jodi Picoult fan, I am sure you would read this anyway. If you are looking for a WWII novel, there are better ones out there, I would think, but this one is pretty good if you ignore the present-day parts.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is one of those books that have been sitting on my bookshelf forever and I finally got around to reading it. I have been trying to read less histThis is one of those books that have been sitting on my bookshelf forever and I finally got around to reading it. I have been trying to read less historical fiction lately because I totally burned myself out on that genre. But, I thought, it's been a while since I read a his-fic, so let's give this one a go. This one if pretty different from my usual his-fic anyway (British, queens/princesses as main characters, time period of usually 1500-1700's ...) I'm so glad I did because this was an amazing book. And to think I had this diamond of a novel just sitting on my shelf, unread!
Insurrection starts with King Alexander of Scotland dying in an unfortunate accident during a particularly bad storm. The throne of Scotland is open and now the Scottish nobles fight over who should rule, as Alexander has no heirs. Robert is just a child in the beginning. Robert's grandfather, a respected Bruce, tells Robert that another king, long ago, made him the heir should he die with no heirs. Robert's grandfather holds on to this in his bid for the throne, and tells young Robert that it is their family's destiny to have one of them become the King of Scotland one day.
The new king is chosen by the King of England, Edward, who acted as a guardian of Scotland while the throne was empty, and it is not any of the Bruces. Because the king was chosen by Edward, Edward enjoyed a lot of power in the Scottish kingdom, especially since he chose someone that was very malleable. You see, Edward has his own mission: he is working on conquering or taking over all the kingdoms of Britain, to unite them. To do so, he is searching for four relics, one in each of the four kingdoms -- Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. He believes once he has the four relics and has united the four kingdoms, he may be able to avoid the doom prophesied by Merlin ages ago. Edward has already taken over Wales, and is working on Ireland and Scotland.
Seeing that Edward has the most power in Scotland at this point in time, Robert's greedy father sends Robert and his brother (also named Edward) to England to serve King Edward for a time, and also look over their English lands. Robert grows close to many of the young nobles his age there. So close, in fact, they invite him to join the Knights of the Dragon, which is pretty much a secret club ran by King Edward who helps the king hunt down the relics.
Robert was never fully understanding of the Knights of the Dragon's purpose but was pleased to have become a trusted friend of the King's and of the other English nobles. However, when he realizes Edward is turning his sights to Scotland, capturing the Scottish king and invading the kingdom, Robert feels conflicted. He eventually decides to go back to Scotland, his home, and fight with the Scottish people against King Edward's invasion. The Scottish are suspicious of him, given that he's spent so many long years in King Edward's court and was rumored to be a very close friend to the king and his nobles. The English are furious of Robert, declaring him a traitor. The Scottish throne still sits empty. Robert remembers his grandfather telling him it is their family's destiny to become the King ...
Everything about this book was so good! The author, Robyn Jones, is a seasoned historical fiction writer. She writes very well, no question about that. She's spent a lot of time researching for this book and it shows. I love how at the end of the book, in the Author's Note section, she talks about the differences between her book and the real events that happened (because, of course, this is historical fiction and there's bound to be some made-up stuff for the sake of storytelling). I love a his-fic novel that doesn't have too many liberties taken with it, and I felt Robyn Young did a great job balancing history with fictional ideas. Most of the fictional parts were just toying around with the timelines (certain events happened earlier or later than in real life), I think.
What was particularly exciting about this novel was the fact I knew nothing about Scottish history. Nada. I had no idea who Robert Bruce was going into this book. Absolutely everything was new information to me and I think that's what made this book even more interesting to read. (But after I finished, I was so desperate to know what happens later in the trilogy, I Wikipedia'd Robert Bruce ... -_- I'm sure I'll still be in love with books 2 and 3 though, even with the knowledge of what happens later).
There's a lot of action packed scenes in this book. Many, if not most, of the battles and wars fought place the reader directly in the action. I, personally, am not the biggest fan of reading battle scenes. Reading about how this knight swung his sword high and that knight jabbed someone else through their mail or whatever, has always been rather dull to me. If you love battle/fight scenes that are detailed out to you, you will definitely enjoy this book. I'm not squeamish or anything, I just don't find reading about action sequences all that thrilling. That would be my only complaint, and even then, it is a complaint that I know most other people will not have.
If you are looking for a well thought out, brilliantly written historical novel, look no further. I will most definitely be reading the rest of this series!...more
I bought this book right when it was released, but didn’t get around to reading it till now. Well, I did try once but I think I was getting a bit burnI bought this book right when it was released, but didn’t get around to reading it till now. Well, I did try once but I think I was getting a bit burnt out with so many Tudors-related novels, so I had to take a break. I took a very long break … Anyway, I finished this book over the course of two days. While I normally love Philippa Gregory’s books, this one just seemed kind of “meh” to me.
The White Princess is about Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen. The story begins right when Henry VII has claimed the throne of England by conquest. The previous king, Richard, who is also Elizabeth’s lover (and also her uncle) was cut down in battle and thrown into some unmarked grave. Elizabeth is not only distraught over the death of her beloved, but very unhappy that she is to marry her lover’s killer, Henry Tudor.
Henry initially tries to delay marrying Elizabeth, as she is from his rival family, but eventually is forced to by his mother and by Parliament. It is necessary that they wed so that the families can be united and hopefully no more wars will come about. Elizabeth and Henry hate one another at first, but as they begin their family together, slowly come to love one another.
Despite marrying Elizabeth, Henry is not safe on his throne. Elizabeth’s cousin, Edward Warwick, has, what some might say, a better claim to the throne to Henry. And there is a great pretender to the throne claiming to be Elizabeth’s long lost brother, Prince Richard, who has the greatest claim of all. As this pretender befriends the great monarchs of Europe and rallies to his side many, many supporters (many more than Henry has), Henry becomes increasingly paranoid and suspicious of everyone. As for Elizabeth, she wonders if this pretender could really be her brother? And if he is, how should she react to him trying to reclaim his throne from her husband, and her sons?
I have read every book in this series of The Cousins’ War so far. I think the problem is, the entire series is telling the exact same story, but through the perspectives of different characters. I think that is why I did not find the story in The White Princess very interesting. I mean, history is interesting, but there is so much overlap in the books’ stories that I feel like I have read the exact same story four times before already. I don’t think it helps that her female characters all have a very similar voice. Elizabeth narrates very similarly to her mother Elizabeth from The White Queen, Jacquetta from Lady Of The Rivers, to Anne Warwick in The Kingmaker’s Daughter, etc.
Elizabeth, in fact, is a completely unmemorable character in this book. Her character has absolutely no agency, she passively watches events unfold around her, and all she ever seems to say to anyone is, “I don’t know, I don’t know” when asked what she thinks is happening. Her character was rather disappointing.
The second half of the novel is much better, at least, because the stuff with the pretender to the throne, the boy pretending to be Prince Richard, is all new stuff that was not presented in any of the previous novels. It made me very interested in this pretender, and I actually went to look up more information about him after I finished this book. I knew very little about this pretender business during Henry VII’s reign, so I liked reading the fictionalized version of it in this book.
Overall, it was a decent read but nothing to write home about. The next, and final, book in The Cousins’ War series is going to be about Margaret Pole, Elizabeth’s cousin. Since Margaret spent much of her life with Elizabeth, I am predicting a considerable amount of story overlap again, but I will still give the book a chance when it is released....more
For my next Royal Diaries book, I decided to read about Empress Elisabeth of Austria. I don’t really know anything about her, so I didn’t have any preFor my next Royal Diaries book, I decided to read about Empress Elisabeth of Austria. I don’t really know anything about her, so I didn’t have any preconceived expectations or anything like that.
I’ve read a fair number of Royal Diaries books (including this one on Elisabeth, I have read 12 of the 20 books in this series), so from my experience so far, I think this book is the most put-together one. Some of the other diaries were just, well, diaries, where the princesses talked about their day to day activities and barely any plot happens. This series is meant to educate kids about not only these historical figures, but also about what life was like back in their respective time periods, so I understand why some of the books were written that way. I was very pleased to find, when reading this book, that it managed to fit in an actual story as well, instead of just talking about what Elisabeth did every day.
This book on Elisabeth begins with herself, her mother and her sister being summoned to meet the Emperor of Austria and his mother, Princess Sophie. The reality of the meeting is that the mothers have paired up the 23 year old emperor with Elisabeth’s 18 year old sister. However, when everyone met, the Emperor found himself smitten with Elisabeth instead. He asks for her hand in marriage, which shocks Elisabeth. She had not expected this at all, and what’s worse, she’s afraid her sister will hate her for this. However, she, too, really likes this handsome young emperor so she accepts — well, also because her mother really wants Elisabeth to accept so at least ONE of her daughters can become Empress of Austria.
Even though Elisabeth is happy to be marrying the Emperor, she is absolutely intimidated by her future duties as an Empress. As the day of the royal wedding approaches closer and closer, Elisabeth finds herself more and more uncomfortable with imperial life. Yet, she must endure …
Like I said, it was great that this book actually had a story and I enjoyed reading it. It’s extremely short, only about 100 pages — the rest of the book is the epilogue, historical notes, family tree and pictures, which is roughly 50 pages on its own! While the story presented in this book is interesting, Elisabeth’s life after she was married would have made an even more fascinating story, I think! In a tragic sort of way. Of course, the Royal Diaries series focuses on the princess’ and queens’ childhoods since it is a series aimed at children.
Anyway, I digress. This is definitely one of the better Royal Diaries books of the series, short and sweet!...more
Book number three of The Accursed Kings series. Last we left off, Louis X was still on the throne, his wife had just conveniently left the picture forBook number three of The Accursed Kings series. Last we left off, Louis X was still on the throne, his wife had just conveniently left the picture for him, and he was setting his eyes on Princess Clemence of Hungary. Louis had already shown himself to be a bumbling idiot of a king who cannot handle being wrong on anything, so let’s see how he continues to ruin his father’s legacy in this book.
In The Poisoned Crown, Louis successfully becomes betrothed and then, married to Princess Clemence of Hungary. Clemence thinks she is a pretty lucky lady, given that she is already 22 (an old age to be married at in those times, for a noble) and had thought she would end up going to a convent. However, she soon realizes being Queen of France doesn’t make her very happy and her husband isn’t as charming as he seems. Louis, continuing his streak of bad decisions, decides to go to war against Flanders, which ends disastrously.
In the meantime, Robert of Artois and Mahaut, Countess of Artois, are still arguing and bickering over lands like they have been since book one. This time, however, they have involved King Louis into the matter. Louis wants to resolve their differences peacefully, but is forced to pick sides when they refuse to relent in their accusations against one another. Mahaut is outraged at the conclusion and plots the downfall of King Louis.
I definitely liked this book better than the last one. The last one was centered on the rivalry between the Charles, the Count of Valois the Rector-General of the kingdom, Enguerrand Marigny, and was very political in nature, which is sometimes hard for a non-political person like me to understand, even though I did overall enjoy that book. This one is more about family ambitions, which is more up my alley. If you want pure family drama, this book is it.
Clemence is a new character introduced in this book. Even though she’s a solid goody-goody kind of girl, I liked her because she seemed to have an uncanny ability to bring out the best in others around her. And she is so innocent and sweet, no one would try to harm her. Of course, sometimes it was frustrating that she cannot see, or refuse to see, the ‘evil’ that is in the hearts of others. In such cases, it was a little frustrating having a character that’s so solidly in the “Good People” camp. However, I do hope that she and her baby will make it out of this story alright, considering what usually happens to the royal family in this series!
The most infuriating (and I say that in the best way possible) part of this novel is Mahaut, the Countess of Artois. I was like, “God damn it, just give your nephew [Robert of Artois] back some parts of his lands!!” And it’s not like I particularly like Robert that much either, but I do feel really bad that his inheritance got stolen by his greedy aunt. In the previous two books, she was merely an annoying old lady (to me, anyway), but in this book, she has definitely become more selfish. Her daughter was imprisoned a couple books ago, and instead of simply wishing for her safe return like any loving, caring mother would, she thinks about if her daughter is released, and is Louis dies with no heirs, her daughter could get a shot at being Queen of France (since she is married to Louis’ brother). What a strange way of thinking about things like this! Ugh, I hate Mahaut, I hope she meets her end soon (but I don’t want to Wikipedia her actual historical self to spoil things for myself, haha).
Definitely looking forward to the next one....more
I discovered this series via Goodreads’ “Readers Also Enjoyed …” recommendation section. The combination of a promise of exciting espionage by a femmeI discovered this series via Goodreads’ “Readers Also Enjoyed …” recommendation section. The combination of a promise of exciting espionage by a femme fatale kind of character and the gorgeous cover had me persuaded to give the book a try. Also, I love the time period this book takes place in, during Queen Victoria’s reign.
Bizarrely enough, despite the word “mystery” being used to describe this book (it’s right on the cover!), it’s not a mystery novel at all. At least, I don’t think so … The story is about a woman named India Black who is a madam that runs a whore house in London, called the Lotus House. She becomes pulled into an international crisis of some sort when one of the clients of her establishment dies inside Lotus House. Said client is a pretty high ranking government official, who was supposed to be carrying a briefcase with top secret military documents that could be very detrimental to Britain should they fall into the wrong hands — such as Russian hands. India is forced/blackmailed by the Prime Minister of Britain and a government spy agent nicknamed French (real name is confidential) to help them in retrieving this briefcase that was stolen from the Lotus House. India becomes engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase with Russian spy agents as they both race to be the first to retrieve these documents.
If any part of it is a mystery, I suppose it’s when India was just trying to figure out who the gentleman was that died in her brothel, but that was solved very early on. I really don’t think this is a mystery at all. It’s certainly a thriller kind of novel though, and action oriented. Another thing about this novel that might throw you off is that the plot summary and even the cover of this book look “serious” and “cool”– however, it’s actually humorous. I read some reviews where people said the characters were kind of ‘idiotic’ and certain plot points is nonsensical or bizarre, in a “why the heck would they do that?” kind of way. I really think it is all intentional, as my impression of the novel is that it’s all meant to be sort of comedic. No, I don’t buy the reason why the British government would recruit a brothel madame to help them retrieve top secret documents and various other events in the book, but I never, for once, felt this was a serious, realistic espionage novel. So I was able to easily suspend my belief and enjoy the ride.
With all that being said, I actually found myself quite enjoying the story. Mainly because I found it funny. The plot is kind of predictable, but India’s wittiness, sarcasm and humor held my interest. And you know what, it was just a plain ol’ fun novel to read. It didn’t take itself seriously, and it was so easy to slip into the story.
I think the main shortcomings of this novel is that it was packaged all wrong (not really a mystery, looks too serious on the outside); as well, the official book premise includes a promise of India starting to develop feelings for the British spy agent French … but that never happened in the book!! To be fair, I did get a vibe that India and French were to be an item in the future, however, this vibe came from my own ‘intuition’, if you will, about how characters in such novels usually end up. I don’t think I could find much contextual evidence to support this vibe I have. I think there was only one scene where the two of them had a slightly meaningful conversation, but 99% of the time, they were just bickering at one another.
So, all in all, initial expectations from the book’s premise and book cover could be potentially disappointing, especially if you thought you were getting a certain story but really wasn’t. However, overall, a very fun book and a series that I would love to continue reading....more
This time around in my reading of The Royal Diaries series (one of my absolute favourite childhood series, though I never managed to read ALL of themThis time around in my reading of The Royal Diaries series (one of my absolute favourite childhood series, though I never managed to read ALL of them when I was a kid), the focus is on Queen Victoria from England. I am really interested in Queen Victoria, but it’s hard to find historical fiction on her (I only know of two novels that are about Queen Victoria, including this one). There are lots of books that take place in the Victorian Era, but very few where Queen Victoria is the main character … sad!
This book is about Victoria when she was 9 to 10 years old. The book centers around her childhood and her relationships to the various people in her lives. In particular, she is fond of the king of her time, George IV, who she calls Uncle King. She doesn’t have the strongest relationship with her mother, but does love her; unfortunately she is under the influence of John Conroy, her mother’s comptroller, who also is hoping to rule over Victoria (through her mother). For unbeknownst to Victoria, Uncle King’s heir (his brother) is most likely unable to have children with his wife, making Victoria, their niece, very likely to become Queen of England one day.
One thing that stood out to me in this Royal Diaries installment is that the writing actually feels more authentic to its time period than others. I mean, I understand some of the Royal Diaries are going to have a difficult time making the writing seem authentic to the time period when the princess writing it isn’t even supposed to know English. But some of the other Royal Diaries do take place in European countries and none of them had writing that felt as “real” as this one.
Like most of the other Royal Diaries books, this book is also mainly concerned with the day to day life of little Victoria in 1800′s England. Maybe that would be more interesting to a child reading this book (which I realize is its intended age group); I thought it was just okay. I wouldn’t say I’m really knowledgeable in what life was like in 1800′s England, but I probably know more than a child reading this book, so probably the educational portion of this novel would be much more fascinating to a kid. This book has not much action, I’m afraid. Towards the end, it gets a little more exciting (though I use that word in the relative sense) when Victoria begins to piece together how the inheritance of the throne of England is going … and her shock when she realizes it could be her, though she tries to brush it off at first.
All in all, it was a solid read with both pros and cons. I’m just glad to read something on Queen Victoria, there should be more his-fics on her life!...more
This is the second book of Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series, titled The Strangled Queen. I was a little disappointed in the title as it is aThis is the second book of Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series, titled The Strangled Queen. I was a little disappointed in the title as it is a big fat spoiler … okay, I suppose actual history is not really a “spoiler”, but I am not familiar with French history so it was a spoiler to me. So, the entire time I was reading this, I kind of expected that the queen was going to be, well, strangled. This, of course, removed some element of surprise from this novel. Still, it was an enjoyable read and I am excited to continue on with this series.
This second book picks up almost immediately after the events of the first book: King Philip IV, known as Philip the Fair, is dead, and his son, Louis X, ascends the throne. However, the son is not like the father at all. Louis X has trouble asserting his authority and is rather unsure of himself. He will be a weak king, those close to him can see this, and they try to take advantage of this. His uncle, Charles, Count of Valois, and the Rector-General of the kingdom, Enguerrand Marigny, become involved in an intense rivalry. Both the Count of Valois and Marigny bitterly fight with one another to try to become King Louis X’s most important advisor, and with Louis X being so inexperienced with authority, whoever rules Louis X will certainly be the most powerful man in France.
Besides the rivalry between the Count and Marigny, there is also the matter of Louis X’s wife to consider. In book one, his wife, Marguerite, was imprisoned (presumbly for life) for adultery; their daughter was declared a bastard. This would mean that Louis has no heirs, and would need to remarry in order to produce heirs. His attempts at getting Marguerite to admit that their daughter is a bastard and that they never consummated their marriage (which is pretty much the only legitimate reason they could get an annulment for) prove to be futile, as Marguerite refuses to admit to such lies. Well, I’m sure you can see how that plotline ended for Marguerite, based on the title.
Marguerite’s storyline is the most interesting part of this book for me. It’s kind of weird how in book one, I thought that Marguerite (and her cousin, Blanche) kind of got what they deserved, with the context of history kept in mind (I would never advocate for imprisoning adulterers for life in today’s society, hahaha). In book two, suddenly, I felt very sorry for Marguerite and Blanche. I suppose the book does this on purpose to make Marguerite’s inevitable death have more of a sorrowful effect on the reader. Though I never found the two ladies particularly likeable, I did feel bad for them, especially given the fact that they could have survived and lived their rest of their days out in a convent or something, if not due to a streak of stubbornness. I couldn’t help but think, “Take their offer! Save yourself!” I wanted her to live! Imagine finding out that you are now technically the Queen of France suddenly, the ultimate promotion in rank for a female in that time, but not having any power whatsoever. I suppose her refusal to admit to the lies is her only way of asserting any power at all, no matter how little. And then there was Blanche, who was growing loopier and loopier every day with imprisonment. All in all, I just felt really bad for these two ladies. Even though they were immature and tactless girls to end up where they were, I was hoping they would manage to survive the ordeal, despite the foreshadowing of the title.
As for the rivalry between the Count and Marigny, I must admit, I didn’t understand a lot of the political-ness of their rivarly. I don’t even really know what a Rector-General of the kingdom does, I just assumed it was a super important role since he got his own statue in the hall of kings (or whatever that room is called). I wouldn’t say the rivalry, which was a large portion of the story, was boring or anything like that. I just liked other parts of the book better.
Overall, book two certainly lived up to my expectations of the series. I liked it a teensy bit less than book one, but still, a great read. I am excited to read book three, The Poisoned Crown. Which, again, is a kind of spoiler-y title … But even with such obvious hints given in the titles of the books, the drama of the historical French royals is worth reading....more
My sister spotted the “This is the original Game of Thrones” — George R. R. Martin tagline thingy at the top of this book and immediately thought of mMy sister spotted the “This is the original Game of Thrones” — George R. R. Martin tagline thingy at the top of this book and immediately thought of me, because I am obsessed with Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series (lalalala I won’t hear anyone say anything bad about it!). She thoughts I might like this book so she picked it up for me. (I also want to add that such a random act of generosity is rather out of character for my sister, haha). I had never heard of this book previously — and small wonder, it was published in French in 1955 and only now is being published in English for the first time. However, like the mindless ASOIAF fan I am, I made up my mind that I must read this book because Mr. Martin has recommended it (heh).
While this book certainly shares the same themes as ASOIAF such as secret intrigues, backstabbing, medieval warfare, and so on, this is not a fantasy novel at all. It is actually a historical novel, which is perfect for me because if you follow my blog or Goodreads account, you will see that I am a big historical novel fan as well, particularly European royalty, particularly England and France …. which is exactly what The Iron King is about! What made this novel doubly fun for me was that I knew it was based on history but I actually have no idea what is going to happen because I’m pretty ignorant about France during this time period. This is my first time reading about Philip the Fair at all … There’s just something really exciting, for me, to read a story about something that once really happened, and not know how it all goes down (sadly, I cannot derive this same pleasure from reading a history textbook :(
The Iron King is about King Philip IV of France, also known as Philip the Fair, during the late 1200′s to 1300′s. His kingdom of France and his family are in a good position at the beginning of the story. France is powerful, he has three sons to succeed him, his daughter is Queen of England, and he has a grandson by his daughter, who will one day be King of England, thus ensuring peace between the two kingdoms. Life’s pretty good for King Philip. However, his decision to destroy the Knights Templar (believing they had too much money and power), was the beginning of the end for Philip. Grand Master Jacques de Molay is a templar and thanks to the royal torturers, has admitted everything the King needs him to admit to destroy the order and kill the templars (even though nothing he admits is true — torture does that to a person). As Grand Master Jacques de Molay burns at the stake, de Molay loudly curses the king and his family to the 13th generation. After de Molay’s death, a series of events begin to spell his downfall, including scandals that bring shame to the family and deaths of close advisors. Coincidence? Or the curse working?
I can certainly see where George R. R. Martin drew some of his inspirations from this novel/history. Well, it’s pretty well known by now that Mr. Martin has drawn a lot of inspiration from real European history, and The Iron King shows how fascinating and intriguing the past can be. Sometimes real life events are stranger than fiction. While I can see the sources of inspiration, I don’t think The Iron King is much like ASOIAF at all. With that said, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. On the contrary, I really loved The Iron King. Even though there is no fantasy, the curse that Jacques de Molay screams and the ‘coincidental’ (?) tragedies that befall King Philip can sometimes seem a little mystical. As well, I’ve personally love it when scandalous secrets are revealed to the other characters and read about the huge fallout that happens afterwards.
There’s a huge cast of characters, a lot of them are royalty, but I loved how there are non-royalty characters mixed in as well, people who you wouldn’t really expect to affect much, but actually cause ripple effects to the story. King Philip in particular is pretty complex and well developed character, in my opinion. To outsiders, he is unreadable, but when you get into his mind, you find he is constantly trying to balance justice and fairness, hoping that his son will be a good king after him but also being realistic and realizing he probably won’t (he laments that his daughter Isabella would have been the most suitable to be king, but alas, she was born a girl). Near the end, he wonders what good he has done as a king and has all sorts of epiphanies and realizations. He’s a pretty deep character and definitely a favourite.
My second favourite was Isabella, even though she was only in the beginning of the story but kind of faded out afterwards. (I do hope she will make a return, especially given that the second book is titled The Strangled Queen). Pardon my cliche, but she is a strong and independent woman, who cares about her family and is kind of depressed being away from them in England. Also, her husband the king is rumored to be a homosexual and rarely spends time with her, which I bet will make her loneliness worse. She only has her darling son, and it’s hinted that she has big plans for him, more than just being the future king of England.
So, a historical fiction fan, I really enjoyed this book and am certainly going to seek out book two. I think people who like ASOIAF will enjoy this book as well as it has the same elements of mystery and scandal and uneasy alliances that make ASOIAF so fun to read....more
I’m sad to say that I was rather disappointed by this book on Mary, Queen of Scots. I normally love Philippa Gregory’s books, and I happen to be a fanI’m sad to say that I was rather disappointed by this book on Mary, Queen of Scots. I normally love Philippa Gregory’s books, and I happen to be a fan of Mary Queen of Scots as well. Whenever there is a story on Elizabeth vs. Mary, I’ve always been on Mary’s side. I felt let down by this book. It almost doesn’t feel like Philippa Gregory wrote it. I don’t know. Obviously, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t finish it, but I feel like it’s the weakest Philippa Gregory book I’ve read so far.
This book is about Queen Mary of Scotland’s years as a captive of Queen Elizabeth of England. How did one queen end up as captive of another? There’s a few reasons, mainly that Mary sought Elizabeth’s help when she was ousted out of Scotland, but instead, Elizabeth had Mary imprisoned and investigated for the various scandals that Mary has been involved in. One such scandal was that she murdered her previous husband. Another reason she was held captive was because Elizabeth was led to believe that Mary wanted the throne of England and was plotting to take it. Mary and Elizabeth are cousins and thus, both have a claim to the throne — however, Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, had Elizabeth declared a bastard and that was never revoked. Therefore, Mary has the truest claim, being Henry’s sister’s granddaughter.
The book is told from the perspectives of three characters — Queen Mary, George Shrewsbury and Elizabeth “Bess” Shrewsbury, the latter two being the earl and his wife who were ordered by Queen Elizabeth to hold Queen Mary in their home as their “honored guest”. I didn’t really like the way the story was told because 1) the chapters were very, very short and when they rotate between three first person speakers, it gets a bit confusing and abrupt. 2) None of the characters were likeable. Mary is portrayed as a beautiful but cunning and sly queen, who will do whatever needs to be done to free herself from Elizabeth’s captivity and go back to Scotland. George is, in Bess’ words, a fool. And Bess is portrayed as a gold digger who cared more about her house and money than anything else in the world. It was hard to feel sympathetic for any of them.
I also hoped to have an Elizabeth perspective in the story, since this book is part of Gregory’s Tudor series (and Mary is technically a Stuart), but Elizabeth was barely in it.
The ending was also really anti-climatic for me. If you know history, this shouldn’t be a spoiler, but hey, spoiler alert — Queen Mary dies. Specifically, she is ordered to be executed by her own cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Having been with this characterization of an arrogant Mary for 400 pages, I was rather let down when her death came around and I didn’t get to read anything about her thoughts on the issue! She’s said so many times throughout the book that there is no way she can be harmed, she is an ordained queen, and Elizabeth would never harm a fellow queen no matter what she did. I was eagerly looking forward to what Mary would say when the news was broke to her that Elizabeth was going to have her beheaded! But no, it was all through Bess’ perspective, and Bess never liked Mary much so she was just like, “Good riddance, she’s dead.” I felt kind of cheated!
On that note, the biggest issue I had with this book was that it was so, so, so repetitive. All Mary would talk about, over and over again, was how she was a queen, she was always meant to be queen, and Elizabeth can’t touch her. All George talked about was how he was so honorable and how beautiful Mary was. And gods, all Bess would talk about was how she was poor and now she’s rich. I am not joking, sometimes they would say the exact same thing three times in a paragraph, and again, in the next paragraph. Then, in the next chapter, they will remind you yet again. And on, and on.
Did I like anything at all? I did, actually. I liked how this book was about Queen Mary’s captive years because it’s something I hardly ever read about in novels about her. At first I inwardly groaned because in every book so far, it has been glazed over so I assumed it must be a horribly boring period compared to the rest of her life. This book showed me, however, that Mary’s captive years were still interesting and full of surprises and secret plots. So I did like that about it. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone unless you are like me, a Philippa Gregory fan, who is determined to read as many of her books as possible. She’s such a great storyteller, I am really surprised at how weak this novel turned out to be. ...more
Ahh, I would have read this sooner but I wanted to buy it and I didn’t want to buy it in hardcover ’cause I’m cheap. Well, finally, it’s out in paperbAhh, I would have read this sooner but I wanted to buy it and I didn’t want to buy it in hardcover ’cause I’m cheap. Well, finally, it’s out in paperback and I finished reading it — so glad it lives up to my expectations of Gregory’s Cousins’ War series, especially since the last one on Jacquetta was okay, but a bit duller than what I expected. Also, I had little idea who Jacquetta was and frankly, just didn’t care about her. This one, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, is on Anne Neville (the wife of the infamous King Richard III), which to me, is considerably more interesting. By the way, I do talk about the story points rather freely — I don’t consider them spoilers because it’s, well, historical. But if you haven’t a clue as to what happens to Anne and Richard and all these historical figures, perhaps skip this review :)
In this book, it describes Anne’s life from a young girl to adulthood. She is the daughter of Richard Neville, who is known as the Kingmaker because whoever he supports becomes king. The fact that he is a strategist and that he only has 2 daughters and no sons means Anne and her sister Isabel find themselves becoming pawns in their father’s grand plans. One way or another, he vows to make one of his daughters queen and hopefully, a grandson will follow, eventually putting a king with Neville blood in his veins on the throne.
Anne is the younger sister and finds herself in a sort of rivalry with her sister, both wanting to be their father’s favourite daughter, both wanting to be Queen of England. However, the current Queen of England, Elizabeth Woodville, hates the Neville family with all her heart and Anne fears her greatly. She believes Elizabeth Woodville to be a witch, and is afraid of her wrath and powers. Fortune’s wheel rises and fall, and all the players in this story find themselves rising high and falling very low as well.
I really enjoyed this book a lot! I’ve never really noticed Anne Neville before this book, to be honest. Anne Neville is a character that is usually just brushed over in novels (granted, not much is known about her) and her perspective, as well as Richard’s, is a refreshing one. Often they are portrayed as villains because it’s all too easy to do so. In this book, Anne and Richard are devoted to the previous king, King Edward V, and are shown to be loyal to him to the very end. Everything they did was for the sake of Edward’s legacy and the country of England. Elizabeth Woodville is portrayed as a villainous witch; Anne trembles with fright just thinking of her. Many people think Elizabeth Woodville is a witch in this story, but there is no proof that she actually is one, by the way. Anyway, I love this flip of portrayals! Especially since I remember reading The White Queen by the same author, and loving Elizabeth Woodville and thinking, “Oh god, everyone is so mean to her, what a hard life this poor woman is living!” And then, in this book, I think, “That Elizabeth Woodville, she is so malicious and vindictive, sheesh! Poor Anne, none of this is her fault at all!”
I’ve seen some one-line reviews that call this book a sister story, but I don’t really think it is. Not that that’s a problem or anything, just something I noticed. While Anne and her sister Isabel’s rivalry figure prominently in the beginning of the story and explains Anne’s desire to become Queen, after Isabel dies, the rivalry dies off too and it’s all about Anne. I did enjoy reading about their relationship though, and it did bring back positive memories of Philippa Gregory’s other book on sisters, The Other Boleyn Girl.
I wasn’t too crazy about what I considered the climax of the story — when Anne finally became queen. I kind of expected more pomp and excitement from Anne when it happened, but it was so low-key. Anne talks about how she was born to be queen, and how she has fulfilled her father’s ambitions, but there wasn’t anything more than that. It was a little disappointing to be honest. I thought I would feel happy for our protagonist when she finally succeeds over Elizabeth Woodville, her lifelong enemy, but when Anne became Queen, I didn’t feel much of anything at all.
But the lack of excitement at the climax hardly puts a damper to the rest of the story. I feel like I learned so much more about the War of the Roses by reading this book from another character’s perspective, and a minor character at that too. It had everything I wanted — lots of historical details, creativity without straying too far from history, great plotting and pacing. I look forward to her fifth book on Elizabeth of York very much!...more
Before I talk about what I thought about this book, there’s two things that you might like to know. The first is that this book was originally publishBefore I talk about what I thought about this book, there’s two things that you might like to know. The first is that this book was originally published under a completely different title – The Secret Lion — in 2004. As far as I know, that is the exact same book as The Tudor Secret. Secondly, the last page of the story (excluding author’s notes, reading group discussion questions and that stuff) is approximately 324 pages. HOWEVER, if you go to page 280 of this edition, you will notice the page jumps from 280 to 313! The story flows normally, just the page numbers are messed up! This doesn’t really have any impact on the novel, I just wanted to point out this book is not as long as it seems.
This book was a gift given to me by my sister. She knows I like reading royal fiction which is why she got me this. However, I usually am not that interested in reading royal fiction with a fictional main character … if that makes any sense. I like my historical fiction to have all the real historical figures and the real story in a fictionalized format.
Anyway, I bring this up because this book has a fictional main character — Brendan Prescott. He is a foundling, or an orphan, found and reared by the powerful Dudley household, during the reign of King Edward VI of England. Brendan, now 20, is sent to court to squire for Robert Dudley. As soon as he arrives, Brendan finds himself whisked deep into the secrets of the court. He finds himself working as a secret spy for William Cecil, who in turn appears to work for the Lady Elizabeth. As Brendan attempts to play double agent, his own life is at risk: someone wants him out of the picture because they know who he really is and how his birth is related to the Tudors.
I actually really liked the book even though initially I was a little put off by the completely fictional character. With totally fictional characters come totally fictional events, and there were lots in this book, but you know what? After reading so many Tudor novels, it was actually a breath of fresh air to read about the Tudors (yet again) in a new light. Brendan’s character highlighted the secrets of the court and how the court operated. Brendan is an outsider to everything, and not brought up as a noble, which brings a different perspective to the oh-so-familiar story of Edward’s death and Elizabeth and Mary’s ascensions to the throne. I surprised myself — I actually ended up really enjoying the creativity and exciting new drama that a fictional character can bring to an accustomed story.
Also compared to other Tudor novels I have read, this one focuses a lot more on spying and counter-spying. Fast paced espionage! This is probably the first Tudor novel I’ve read which can be described as action-packed. It is thrilling and hard to put down at times.
My only complaints is that some of the fictional events in this book begged my imagination to stretch a little further than I was okay with. These fictional events definitely felt more “Hollywood” than historical. However, this is a much more fictionalized story than usual, so I tried to frame my mind differently while reading this book. My other complaint is that the characterization was a bit lackluster. I think some of the character could have been given more depth. Brendan was okay though, in my opinion, if only because he was presented in first-person so I got to know all his thoughts.
I’m happy I read this book. Even though it is different from what I am used to regarding Tudor novels, it was a refreshing new take! I look forward to reading more about Brendan in book two!...more
I’m a fan of Philippa Gregory so no surprise that I’d eventually read this book of her’s. I still remember being very excited seeing a brand new lookiI’m a fan of Philippa Gregory so no surprise that I’d eventually read this book of her’s. I still remember being very excited seeing a brand new looking copy of this book, in hardcover, at the thrift store and paid only a few dollars for it :D (I swear, it looks like it was never read … guess someone got it as a gift or something but didn’t want it? Mine now, haha). I’m slowly catching up with the Cousins’ War series, I’m hoping I’ll be able to read the 4th book — The Kingmaker’s Daughter — before book 5 comes out!
The Lady Of The Rivers takes place, chronologically, before books #1 and #2. So if you want to read the books in order of events rather than publication, this is the one to start with (at the time of this writing). This novel is about Jacquetta, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, who was Queen Consort of King Edward IV of England. The novel starts with Jacquetta as a young lady, witnessing the end of the Hundred Years War between England and France and watching how Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for supposed witchcraft. This event shapes Jacquetta’s attitude towards “magic” from an early age — Jacquetta’s family has a legendary linage tracing back to a water goddess named Melusina. The women of her family line are rumored to be able to have the Sight and foretell the future. Of course, such things are declared to be witchcraft in medieval England and after watching Joan of Arc die, Jacquetta learns caution.
Despite always trying to hide her visions, the Duke of Bedford marries her specifically for her skills and abilities. I want to clarify that nothing in the novel suggests Jacquetta knows any “real magic”, but rather, everyone, including herself, thinks she can foretells the future (this is compounded by the fact that she has visions that coincidentally come true; whether you believe it is magic or not is another story!) Jacquetta respects her husband, who has raised her up to be the Duchess of Bedford and a very important lady of the realm. However, when he dies, Jacquetta decides to follow her heart and marries her husband’s squire, a nobody named Richard Woodville.
Even though she is looked down upon and punished for marrying so far beneath her, Jacquetta and Richard have a wonderful, loving relationship which produces a whooping 14 children. Jacquetta can’t be any happier but perilous times draw close and her new husband is sent out to battle over and over again as England embroils itself in a civil war. Jacquetta unwillingly finds herself in the middle of it all, as Queen Margaret’s closest friend and advisor. All the while, Jacquetta wonders what the future of her many children will be like, in a time when everyone’s future — even the king and queen’s — is so uncertain.
Comparing this novel to Gregory’s first two in this series, I found The Lady of the Rivers to be a tad weaker than its predecessors. For one, I wasn’t particularly interested in Jacquetta prior to reading this novel. Really, I read this book because I love Philippa Gregory’s stories. As I read this book, I did find a new appreciation for this little-known character, but her story just didn’t seem to have the same excitement or fast pace as the first two books. She was in the middle of the action, but she never really participated, not in my eyes at least. I know it sounds like I didn’t like this book, but I assure you, I really did! I just didn’t like it as much as the first two books.
In this book we have the same magical elements that are present in The White Queen, the book that was about Jacquetta’s daughter. I don’t actually remember what I said about the magical elements in The White Queen (I think I liked it). Anyway, I liked it in this book too. I am pretty sure some readers may not like it because, hey, what is magic doing in a historical fiction novel?! But I think it fit really well. People really did believe that witchcraft and alchemy and all that stuff really existed back then, and it was reflected in this novel. Jacquetta may or may not actually have had any supernatural powers, but she (and many others) believed she did, moreso when her visions and foretellings came true. Also, it was pleasantly different angle to write a historical novel in, to make the story a little larger than life.
I just read The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham before this book, so I naturally noticed a huge difference in the depictions of the Lancasters and Yorks. This book and the Higginbotham book are both from the Lancaster perspective, but they each depict the Lancasters in very, very different lights. In The Lady of the Rivers, the Lancaster king and queen are shown to be completely inept, immature and hell-bent on revenge. In The Queen of Last Hopes, the Lancaster king and queen were much more mature, and a loving couple unfortunately swept up in a civil war due to a cousin’s ambition and greed. There’s nothing good or bad about the huge difference in depictions, it was just something that I found interesting since I read these two books consecutively. Just wanted to mention it!
I liked reading about Jacquetta. I never would have thought of her as an interesting character before this novel, and I did, indeed, find her interesting. I liked the storyline (which some say was overly simplified, but that works for me) though the characters were a bit “bleh” — they didn’t feel very real, though maybe that’s just me. I think it’s worth a read, though I would not say anything to anyone who wants to skip it over....more
Many people know about the tragic story of Anne Boleyn. King Henry VIII was hopelessly infatuated by her, and gave up his wife, his daughter and his rMany people know about the tragic story of Anne Boleyn. King Henry VIII was hopelessly infatuated by her, and gave up his wife, his daughter and his religion to marry her and make her his queen. But the infatuation slowly waned when Anne couldn’t give Henry his much needed heir to the throne, a son. After Anne miscarried a fetus that was confirmed to be male, Henry began setting his eyes on other women, and not too long after, she was beheaded when Henry found someone he felt was more suitable. That was the end of Anne Boleyn.
But what if Anne never miscarried during her second pregnancy? What if she gave birth to a healthy young boy? Then she wouldn’t have been beheaded and her son would have been king one day. That’s what this book is all about.
When I discovered this book and what it was about, I just knew I had to read it. I love the Tudor time period, and this “what if?” question is definitely an interesting one, one that I have wondered at myself. This book turned out to be different from my expectations — that is, I thought it was going to have a lot more Anne Boleyn in it, as I would have loved to read about her feelings and emotions — but it was overall it was still an okay read.
This book takes place when Henry and Anne’s son, William, is 17, nearing 18. Henry died when William was 10, and ever since then, the kingdom has been ran by William’s regent, Lord Rochford (also known as Anne Boleyn’s brother, George Boleyn). When William turns 18, he will be a king in his own right and he is eager to prove to everyone that he will make a great king. With the battles going on with the French, the Catholics still trying to rally around Mary Tudor, and a conspiracy brewing, William has his hands full already.
Standing by William are his three closest friends: Dominic, Minuette and William’s sister, Elizabeth. The four are near inseparable and they know everything about William. However, their relationships are about to become a lot more tangled, when William and Dominic both begin to realize they have fallen in love with Minuette. As for Minuette, she has fallen in love with Dominic, but hasn’t the heart to tell William …
As I stated earlier, I went into this expecting Anne Boleyn to have a larger role in the story. To my dismay, she was a very minor character. Her brother, Lord Rochford, was actually a major character, as regent to the king. Yeah, I don’t know … it was kind of disappointing. I would have loved a fiery Anne to be more involved with her son’s regency, than her brother. But hey, I do realize having my expectations dashed is no one’s fault but my own. Still, it did dampen my enthusiasm for the book a bit, once a realized that, no, Anne wasn’t going to be a major character. I just feel like, if you’re going to write a “what if” book like this, how can you not include Anne more? Otherwise, it’s just her last name attached to a random fictional character ….
Next is the quartet of William, Dominic, Minuette and Elizabeth. They are all young teenagers by modern standards, and they definitely had a youthful camaraderie going on that brought a smile to my face. I am also a fan of love triangle stories (pathetic? Probably), so I loved that aspect of their relationship as well. However, I didn’t really like each individual character. I know, I know, it’s hard to understand how one can love a relationship but not the individuals. I didn’t hate them. They were just … kind of boring. Dominic always seemed depressed. Minuette was your standard goody-goody who everyone loves for some reason you can’t figure out. Elizabeth is nowhere as fiery as her historical self, and spent a lot of time pining over Robert Dudley. And William, the main character of this book, was kind of like a toned down version of his father. Individually, the characters were dull and uninspiring. Put together, they made a ‘cute’ team and their friendship with one another was charming.
As to the actual story, I felt the rest of the plot was too much, all over the place. We have William trying to suppress the French and the Catholics. There’s a conspiracy going on where some people want to overthrow William as they believe he’s not Henry’s trueborn son. Minuette has her own subplot of trying to find out what really happened with her friend Alyce’s death. Elizabeth has to deal with her increasing affectionate feelings towards the married Robert Dudley. And then there’s the love triangle. While I enjoyed the book overall, I do feel the book spread itself a bit thin. There were a few times where I thought, “I don’t really see the point of this” towards a particular subplot or two. And while in the end, I felt the relationship between the four is the main focal point, sometimes, I wasn’t sure.
So, yes, I do have several complaints about this book, but in the end, it was an alright read. Perhaps I went into it too focused on expecting certain things of the characters, but I do feel some of my complaints are legitimate. However, this book is, for all intents and purposes, very creative, and I know no matter how the author (or any author) tackles an alternate history book, there will always be complaints that it isn’t as “true” to history as a fake history could be … if that even makes sense. As of right now, I am not sure if I will continue with this series, but never say never :)...more
If you read my blog/reviews, it’s apparent that I really love historical fiction about English royalty. Most of the time it’s Tudors or War of the RosIf you read my blog/reviews, it’s apparent that I really love historical fiction about English royalty. Most of the time it’s Tudors or War of the Roses stuff I read, because that’s the easiest stuff to find. I was extremely excited to discover the existence of this book, Shadow on the Crown, which is about English royalty … from 1001! Whoaaa, no one ever writes about that period of the English throne! I just knew I had to have this book and read it.
Shadow on the Crown is about Emma of Normandy. She is the sister of Duke Richard of Normandy, and she is wed to King Æethelred of England quite quickly after the King’s first wife dies. However, Emma is not marrying the King to merely be his wife and consort. In exchange for Duke Richard’s cooperation in keeping the Danish Vikings away from English shores, Emma is to be crowned a queen in her own right, Queen of England.
But being Queen is not a glorious role and a thankless task. With Emma as Queen, King Æethelred’s sons by his first wife worry that if Emma and the King have their own sons, they will supplant them in the succession of the crown. After all, the sons of a consecrated queen surely have precedence over the sons of a mere consort. Though Emma has no such plan, her marriage to the King has already made enemies of the sons. To make matters more complicated, she begins to fall in love with one of her new stepsons, a man close to her in age, but a person she can never have.
There is also the Lady Elgiva, a beautiful young lady from the northern part of England who was a candidate for being the King’s new wife. Petty and jealous, Elgiva is furious that she lost an opportunity to become Queen and what’s more, now she has to serve in the Queen’s household. Elgiva is a viper waiting to strike and she is more than willing to sabotage Emma in any way that she can.
Lastly, Emma is isolated in this new country, with few of her own Normans for company. She is not sure if her brother, Duke Richard, will actually hold up his end of the bargain. If he does not, Emma is sure to be in danger from the wrath of the King. And there is the constant threat of the Danish Vikings invading England …
This book totally lived up to my expectations, I am so happy to have discovered this book and the story within. I will admit though, that my enthusiasm for this book may be kind of biased since I loooove English royalty historical fiction. The fact that this is the kind of book I salivate over definitely colours my opinion somewhat, but moving on … Though the author has taken many liberties with historical facts, as she outlines in the author’s notes in the back of the book, I feel what she has added or altered worked very well for the sake of the story. I know not everyone is cool with the idea of historical fiction based on real people being, well, fiction, but I think the author does a great job of it here. It is not too farfetched, and it all adds to the story, rather than changes it.
The characters aren’t paragons of characterization. Most of them are pretty black and white; good or evil, etc. However, this hasn’t stopped me from liking them and enjoying the story. Definitely my favourite character is Emma herself. I’m not super familiar with her so I don’t know how (in)accurate this portrayal is of her; everything I know about her is from Wikipedia. Emma in this novel is like a goody-goody, and I say that endearingly. Sent away from her home at the age of 15 to marry someone way older than her, she handled her situation much more maturely than I could have, if thrown in the same scenario. Though Emma did not want to become Queen and indeed, saw it as a great burden, she took on the role as if she was destined for it. Even the King (who held no love for her) and the sons had to begrudgingly admit that Emma was regal. It was like she was born for this. She looked and acted the part. Sure, she had some diplomatic blunders when she was navigating her way in the English court, but hey, she’s new, everyone makes mistakes.
I loved the contrast between her and Elgiva. As far as I know, Elgiva was a real person but I don’t think she and Queen Emma actually had a rivalry of sorts. Anyway, Elgiva is the complete opposite of Emma. She wants and craves power, and she can (usually) manipulate people to get what she wants. She’s easily jealous, and quite petty. The kind of person who can hold a grudge for a decade or two. Emma is light whereas Elgiva is darkness, which is fitting given that Elgiva has a great fear of cramped, dark spaces, heh. The contrast is kind of cliche, yes, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I really loved this book, and it is so, so refreshing to read about medieval England. The author’s note at the end says she intends for this to be a trilogy, which I figured as much as I was reading because I was near the end of the book and I knew there was so much more of Emma’s life story left to tell. Looking forward to book two immensely!...more
This is a novel about Barbara Palmer, the Countess of Castlemaine, who was one of the main mistresses of King Charles II, during the period of RestoraThis is a novel about Barbara Palmer, the Countess of Castlemaine, who was one of the main mistresses of King Charles II, during the period of Restoration England. Historically, she was known to have been a great influence on King Charles, so much so that people would call her the Uncrowned Queen. She was known to be promiscuous and extravagant, leading her to have left a rather negative view of herself throughout the centuries.
Royal Harlot is not a novel that seeks to bring “another side” to the story of Barbara Palmer (at least, I did not get that impression). She is presented just as negatively, I think, in this novel as in history. It is a straightforward story about Barbara’s life as King Charles II’s mistress, beginning from when Oliver Cromwell’s government was still in power. 15 year old Barbara is stunningly gorgeous, but is not the “proper lady” that her mother would have liked her to be. Barbara is spirited and cheerful, but also self centered, calculating and very good at stringing men along by their noses. She’s terribly unfaithful to her husband, Roger, and has all sorts of sexual relations with men. Her biggest catch of all is, of course, the king himself.
Barbara and Charles begin a not-so-secret relationship. Barbara is pleased to be the center of Charles’ life and enjoys being at court, throwing parties, showing off, and accepting lavish gifts from all sorts of people hoping she can wave some of her influence over the king. Barbara has the most power over Charles and she knows it. She is perfectly happy to use her relationship with Charles to her advantage.
If liking the main character, who is in a first person voice, is very important to you, then you may struggle a bit with Royal Harlot. Barbara is not easily likeable in this book. As mentioned earlier, she is self centered and enjoys playing the role of a poor little victimized woman. She remembers all the slights and insults people have done to her and is perfectly willing to wait patiently, even for years, to get her revenge. Even her moments of generosity seemed fake to me; to me, every time she was nice, she did it just to look nice. Barbara was every bit the vixen in this novel. I don’t even think she truly loved the king — certainly she liked him and thought he was attractive and had a great personality. However, from what I can tell from this book, Barbara was more attracted to the fact that he was king and had all this wealth and power. She also didn’t seem to care that he had other mistresses as long as she didn’t have to run into them, and she wasn’t above taking other lovers as well.
Normally such a petty character would annoy me, but I think because Barbara was the first person narrator, it was tolerable. She explained her rationale and reasoning for why she did certain things, so that it made some sort of sense, rather than leaving the reader to conclude that she’s being a bitch “just because she can”. No, I didn’t agree with everything she did, sometimes it was downright childish. For example, there was a scene where she decided to basically brag to Charles’ queen how Charles always visits her in the night and they have all these lovely children, while the queen hasn’t been able to give Charles a single baby. I remember thinking, “Oh come on … she’s the queen and Charles’ wife! Stop being so immature!” (Though I do have to admit, one could argue that the queen is the “other woman” since Charles and Barbara met and hooked up way before he even married his queen).
Even though Barbara is not a very nice character in this book and all that, I was still engrossed in the story. Partly, this has to do with the fact that I haven’t read very many (if any … can’t remember) books having to do with the Stuarts of Britain, so all these stories regarding this part of British royalty history is new to me. With a character like Barbara, you can surely expect lots of court drama. I never felt a dull moment in this book! So yes, I did actually enjoy reading this book a lot, even if I wasn’t particularly crazy about Barbara, heh. The strange thing is, this book made me feel incredible pity for Charles’ queen, Catherine, even though she was mostly a peripheral character, and now I want to read more about her!...more
3.5 stars, rounded up for GR. Katherine of Aragon is my favourite queen of Henry VIII’s six wives, so I was very excited to read this book. There are n3.5 stars, rounded up for GR. Katherine of Aragon is my favourite queen of Henry VIII’s six wives, so I was very excited to read this book. There are not very many books (if any) that feature Katherine of Aragon as the main character. Actually, to my knowledge, this is the only one. Katherine is usually a secondary character in books having to do with the Tudors, never the main character, sadly. Plus, it’s by one of my favourite his-fic author, Philippa Gregory!
The Constant Princess is about Catalina, or Katherine, of Aragon. Daughter of the most feared monarchs in Europe at the time — Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Argon — Katherine has grown up her whole life immersed in warfare, as her parents wage holy war against the Moors and eventually take over Granada. This has made Katherine a battle hardened young lady, as well as very religious, believing that God has her family in especial favor.
Katherine has known her whole life she is to marry the English prince, Arthur, and become Queen of England one day. Finally, that day comes and she marries Prince Arthur. At first they don’t really get along, but over the next five months, a real love blossoms between them. They dream of when they become King and Queen of England and all the things they will do for the betterment of their country.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes. Arthur dies of the sweating illness and Katherine is left a widow at the young age of 16. Due to various political factors, England doesn’t really want her anymore and neither does Spain, her home country, as she does not have the same worth as before. Mourning the loss of her husband, broken dreams and feeling unwanted, Katherine decides she simply must fulfill the destiny she has always known from childhood — to become Queen of England, somehow, some way.
The Constant Princess covers Katherine’s life from toddlerhood up to Katherine’s third pregnancy. The portrayal of Katherine is that of a very religious woman who truly believes she is living out God’s will and will do what she must in order to make it be true. It got quite repetitive to read Katherine saying that she is the Princess of Wales, that it is her destiny to be the Queen of England, over and over and over again. That was definitely kind of annoying. I feel like I read it every other page, it was just a bit too much.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, but I don’t know if I liked this portrayal of Katherine of Aragon. Katherine is one of my favourite English queens because I admire how she stayed true to being the Queen of England and would not admit, even when she was banished away and prohibited from seeing her daughter, that she was not the queen anymore. In this book, she certainly has that spirit, but I think due to the repetitiveness of her inner monologue, it came off more like stubbornness than an admirable trait. She also came off as a lot of manipulative and sneaky in this novel than I am used to (even compared to Katherine in other Gregory works)! I don’t know, maybe the real Katherine really was like this — no one will really ever know — but I suppose this Katherine was just too different from what I am used to. Naturally, this disagreement in portrayals is not a fault of the book, just that I expected something different from what I got.
I really enjoyed reading about her younger years though. So often the big focus on Katherine was her divorce/annulment from King Henry, where she is always played out to be the victim (which she totally was, in my opinion). I liked reading about her younger years in this book because it showed a strong, hard side to Katherine, a Katherine with a youthful fighting spirit, as opposed to the Katherine of later years, fighting a losing battle against the beauty and charm of Anne Boleyn (who I also like, actually). My favourite thing about Katherine is her battling the Scots in full armor herself, while pregnant (!!!) and I loved reading that scene in this book, I thought it was really well done.
So I feel a bit mixed about this book mainly due to the portrayal of Katherine. Some parts of her portrayal I thought were well done, other parts I felt iffy about. The actual plot itself was fairly interesting; it briefly covered her childhood in Spain, to her marriage with Arthur, her six or seven years as a widow and the early years of her marriage to Henry. Perhaps it is because I am already familiar with her life story, but I thought it could have been made more interesting. It was certainly enjoyable, but I hungered for more. I think the alternating between first person and third person didn’t sit well with me either.
The Constant Princess leaves you wanting a bit more than what you got, but I think it is a solid novel. I definitely appreciated reading this novel, and not just because it’s pretty much the only Katherine of Aragon novel out there....more
I was really interested in reading this book because I wanted to read more about royalty from Spain (or, rather, at the time, it was the kingdoms of LI was really interested in reading this book because I wanted to read more about royalty from Spain (or, rather, at the time, it was the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, Aragon, and Granada. Maybe some others too, but those are the ones I remember). All I knew about Isabel is that she is particularly famous for helping Christopher Columbus’ plans on traveling to the Americas. This is a middle school book, but perfect for my purpose of wanting an introduction to Isabel. Also, I adore the Royal Diaries series, lots of good middle school memories. I never read this one when I was a kid though, this is my first read through.
Isabel starts off as 13 or 14 years old in this book. Her father died a while back, and currently, the kingdom is split between her two brothers — Enrique, her older half-brother and Alfonso, her younger, full blooded brother. Isabel is caught in the middle between her warring brothers, but tries her best to stay neutral. She is currently staying with Enrique, who is keen to marry Isabel off to someone for political advantage. With some good luck, Isabel manages to avoid being wed off to some much older, ugly and cruel men. She hears about the Prince of Aragon, Fernando, the only royal who is actually around her age. She hears that he is handsome and kind. With her brother trying to push her into marriage, Isabel tries to convince him that she should marry Fernando. Her brother Enrique breaks promise after promise, however, and in the end, Isabel has to take matters into her own hands.
I feel that this is definitely one of the best Royal Diaries books I’ve read. Some of the other ones have pretty skimpy and weak plots, but this one on Isabel felt interesting, consistent and well done. Isabel is not merely a passive character in this story, describing events as they unfold — which is what I felt some of the other books in this series sometimes do. She is actually a true part of the story, and initiates events on her own. I had no previous knowledge as to the politics of the Spanish peninsula during this time period, so everything that happened was fresh and new to me. I suspect if you had actual knowledge about Isabel and her time period, it might not be as surprising and it might feel kind of predictable. I had no idea what to expect though, so it was all new and wonderful knowledge to me.
Isabel herself is portrayed as a religious young woman who tries to push for peace and harmony. She does not like her brothers fighting, as it splits the entire family up and means civil war in their kingdom. However, she is definitely not a passive little mouse. She wants to take her destiny into her own hands. She didn’t want to marry the old men Enrique wanted to set her up with, so she secretly pushed her own agenda (with some outside help, of course) to try to marry the Prince of Aragon. Pretty admirable in that time period, when women had to obey men, and Enrique was also king!
If you enjoy the Royal Diaries series, this is definitely a must-read! Well written, well plotted, and for those like me with no historical knowledge on Isabel, very fascinating!...more
Another Royal Diaries read for me! The Royal Diaries books can be a hit or miss since they all have different authors; I’m happy to report that this oAnother Royal Diaries read for me! The Royal Diaries books can be a hit or miss since they all have different authors; I’m happy to report that this one is definitely a hit, for me. This one is on Kaiulani, the last princess of Hawaii. I had no idea Hawaii used to have a monarchy, so this book was very interesting and a big eye opener for me. I don’t know much about Hawaii, I never even been there before, so this book has been the most educational experience for me.
Fourteen year old Kaiulani is a princess of Hawaii, second in line to the throne (her uncle is the king, and next in line is her aunt (the king’s sister), then her). Kaiulani is half Hawaiian and half Scottish, actually (on her father’s side), but she considers herself very much a Hawaiian person all around. Knowing her destiny is to sit on the Hawaiian throne, her family sends her to be educated in England for a year or two. Kaiulani is a dutiful and obedient girl so she does as she is told, even though it breaks her heart to be away from her family and her beautiful Hawaiian nation.
Even though England is often chilly and nowhere as colorful and vibrant as Hawaii, Kaiulani enjoys her time at boarding school, applying herself so that she may become a properly educated princess. However, bad news travels to Kaiulani about her beloved country back home — the Reformers from America are illegally taking over their nation and forcing the monarchy to dissolve. Kaiulani desperately wants to save her country, but she is on the other side of the world, what can she do?
I really enjoyed this book. I love learning about Hawaii and its sad history. This book is a children’s book so it doesn’t dive into the nitty-gritty political details too much but you get the big picture — Hawaii is full of profitable natural resources which the Reformers want to take advantage of. The Reformers want to annex the nation to the USA, but of course, the monarchy does not want that to happen. Obviously, you know what ends up happening to Hawaii due to its present day situation as the US’s 50th state, so you know the book is not going to have a happy ending for Kaiulani, making her efforts to save her country seem even more tragic.
Kaiulani herself is an admirable young girl. Even though she is only fourteen when the book begins, you sense an air of maturity around the young lady. She loves Hawaii dearly and you can tell it breaks her heart to be far away from her nation and her family. She is also very much in control of her emotions and appearance, as evident when the reporters swarm around her in America and in England. She knows her role, she is a princess, and she acts accordingly. I think Kaiulani would have made an amazing queen for Hawaii if she hadn’t fallen ill and died shortly after Hawaii fell to America. Romantically, many like to believe she died of a broken heart.
This is definitely one of The Royal Diaries books that I highly recommend. She’s not a very well known princess, admittedly, but this book does a great job providing an introduction to Kaiulani. As with all of the books in this series, it is a middle-school book but even for adults, an interesting (and short) read....more
Yes, I know, yet another novel about King Henry VIII and his six wives. I have to admit, even I am getting a little tired of it, though obviously notYes, I know, yet another novel about King Henry VIII and his six wives. I have to admit, even I am getting a little tired of it, though obviously not tired enough to stop reading this genre altogether. I was recommended Margaret Campbell Barnes’ novels, so I tried one out during my six hour flight to Hawaii, and managed to read through almost all of it during the flight. I really liked the fact that it was told through the eyes of a 3rd party — in this case, King Henry’s fool (a sort of court jester role), Will Somers. I also really liked how it covered all six of his wives, rather than having to read six books or something, though I do want to point out that this book is about Will mostly, he’s not just a voice the author is using to relay Henry VIII’s love life through.
If you know anything about the real historical King Henry and his six wives, then you already, of course, have a good idea of what the story is about. But less likely, people know about Will Somers, who really was King Henry’s fool and according to sources, a sort of confidante for the king. I didn’t know anything about Will Somers other than the fact he was Henry’s fool, so it was actually pretty refreshing for me to read, what is by now an all too familiar story to me, about Henry and his wives from a different perspective. Will Somers isn’t just a narrator though; he has his own life to live in this book and he goes over his origins: where he came from, how he became Henry’s fool, how he utilized his “power” when it became clear he was a favourite of the king, and his own love life. I’m not sure if Will’s love life part of the story was real or not because, as I said earlier, I had little knowledge of Will to begin with. It was a nice touch to the story though, as it made Will feel like a real person who also had feelings, and not just a court fool.
What I didn’t like was how the book seemed to focus primarily on Henry’s marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Based on the title of this book, I guess I mistakenly thought each wife would get a roughly equal share of the spotlight, but that’s not true at all. Wives one and two got by far the most time in the spotlight, while everyone else was quickly shuffled through. The author seemed to want to focus more on Will Somers’ own life in the latter half of the book rather than Henry’s, which I suppose is fair since the book is about Will, really. Still, I would have liked it if the last four wives weren’t brushed over. Katherine Parr, especially, I barely got anything about her from this book.
All in all, a solid novel and I would definitely read more of Barnes’ books....more
For my next historical novel, I decided to read one on France, since I seem to be stuck in the England/Tudors era a lot. I am trying to branch out a bFor my next historical novel, I decided to read one on France, since I seem to be stuck in the England/Tudors era a lot. I am trying to branch out a bit more, but it’s a little hard when the his-fic royalty sections in stores are usually just full of Tudors novels. I want to learn more about famous French royalty, and this book has to do with one of the most famous French kings, King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. Well, to be more precise, it is about one of his most famous mistresses, Louise de la Vallière. My knowledge of French royalty is extremely small, and thus, I had no idea what to expect going into this novel.
In Mistress of the Sun, we start off with a very young Louise, only four or five years old, and we follow her throughout her life in court. She is the daughter of a knight, just barely passing for nobility. She is an obedient daughter, spirited and cheerful. However, when her father mysteriously dies and the horse Louise was training, Diablo, disappears, her life takes another course. Lousie’s mother marries a marquis, elevating the family status a bit, and Louise is able to become a waiting maid for Princess Marguerite, one of King Louis’ cousins. When Marguerite herself is married off, Louise finds herself employed by Princess Henriette, King Louis’ sister-in-law.
Rumors spread that King Louis and his sister-in-law are a lot more intimate than they should be. Louise, being chaste and humble, tries not to pay too much attention to such things, until she learns that the King and Henriette have devised a plan where King Louis will pretend he is fancying Louise. That way, he can see Henriette all the time but everyone will think he is just wanting to see her waiting maid. This upsets Louise greatly, to be used this way. After an unexpected confrontation, Louise discovers that the king really does have his eye on her, and that he is simply best of friends with Henriette, but the older generation just doesn’t understand that men and woman can be nothing more than friends (that’s his explanation, anyway; Louise eats it up).
And so begins a lengthy relationship between Louise and King Louis, the both of them so in love with one another. Louise knows what she is doing is wrong, but she cannot help herself. She has fallen in love with a king, though she wishes the two of them were only ordinary people; Louise has no interest in kingly favors or wealth or power. She simply wants to be with the king. But as it was in those times, mistresses of kings do not last forever, and Louise finds herself betrayed and hurt in the end.
This novel was amazing! I loved it from beginning to end. I think what really got me was Louise’s character. Usually the mistresses of kings are stereotyped as “that other woman”, the “harlot”, the “whore”, etc. It’s usually someone with seductive charm and has some skills in manipulation and whatnot. In my own experience, even if the mistress is the main character of the novel, she could still be characterized this way. Louise, however, is the opposite. She’s not exactly naive, believes in true love and she truly loves King Louis. One of the quotes I remember is her saying that she loves Louis, but she does not love the king. The fact that Louise is in this relationship with Louis purely out of love is so heartbreaking when you consider the social ramifications of that time period. She has to sacrifice a lot for him, including her morals which she held so dearly but for him, had to acknowledge that she was a fallen woman.
From this novel, I feel that Louis, too, was deeply in love with Louise. And when he was with her for the first four or five years or so, he was quite loyal to her (excepting when he had to perform his duty with his queen). He was really generous to her too, making her a duchess in her own right and things like that. When he moved on from Louise, I felt that was tragic because she is/was probably the only person who loved him for him, and not because he was this powerful king. It was sad that he did not recognize that.
I also really liked the fictional subplot with Louise and her horse Diablo. I liked it because it was an interesting way to show Louise’s demon in her heart, so to speak; her sins. Another reason I liked it is because this is historical fiction after all, and I enjoy little creative liberties like this; these literature devices that can really enhance a story.
This was a wonderful book that I heartily recommend!...more
I received The Second Empress as a Christmas present from my sister, because I was interested in branching out from historiMy first book read in 2013!
I received The Second Empress as a Christmas present from my sister, because I was interested in branching out from historical royalty novels based on England. I was very excited to read this! I don’t know anything about Napoleon’s time period, and I did not know anything about his second wife, Marie-Louise either, so I was eager to read all about them. There’s certainly a sort of wonder in reading a historical novel without actually knowing the history behind it.
The Second Empress encompasses the last six years of Emperor Napoleon’s reign of the first French Empire. The point-of-view alternates between three characters: Marie-Lousie is an Austrian princess who grew up hating the French Empire. Unfortunately, she is in no position to turn down Napoleon’s marriage proposal as he would invade Austria otherwise and likely win. The second character is Princess Pauline, Napoleon’s sister. She has many, many lovers and suffers from some STDs which she takes mercury for. Of course, we know mercury actually will slowly poison you and impair your mental abilities. Pauline is absolutely infatuated with her brother and wants to rule the empire with him as his queen, like the Egyptians did as brother and sister two thousand years ago. The third character is Paul, a half-French half-Haitian man who traveled to France with Pauline after Napoleon took over Haiti. He is in love with Pauline and is waiting for her to fulfill her promise of going back to Haiti with him to live out the rest of their days.
Of course, lastly, we have Napoleon. He does not have his own point-of-view chapters, but he is certainly a major character in this story. Napoleon is at the peak of his power at the start of the novel and in need of an heir for his empire. Although he loves his wife, Josephine, despite her unfaithfulness, she cannot give him children so he feels compelled to divorce her and find someone who can. Also, he feels a strong need to associate himself with “true” royalty (he is, after all, from more humble origins), and thus, sets his gaze on Princess Marie-Louise.
I lament the fact that this book is quite short as I had a wonderful time reading it and didn’t want it to end so soon. I can’t vouch on how historically accurate it is because, as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t a clue as to what real history entailed during this period, but it seems to be very well researched, and it is certainly well written. I had absolutely no troubles reading it, it was so easy to slip into the time period and put myself at Napoleon’s court and be immersed in the lives of the characters and their lavish and difficult lives.
Even though the title character is Marie Louise, I felt Pauline and Napoleon are the characters that stuck out the most to me. The author does a great job creating the charismatic personalities of the Bonaparte siblings, even though they were also cruel and unlikable at the same time. I like how the book portrayed Napoleon even if he was kind of unlikable but I could tell there was something about him that guided him from being a commoner to the emperor of a vast empire. As for Pauline, I never heard of Pauline prior to this book and this novel showed how much influence she wielded over her brother. You know what, I actually would have loved this book even more if the book focused only on the two of them, because they were such interesting characters. They were hugely ambitious, passionate and selfish. Not always positive traits, but somehow entrancing at the same time.
As for the title character, Marie-Louise, she was okay. Just okay. She’s likable and all that, but her character did not shine as bright as one would hope. She was an obedient wife who did not want to anger Napoleon for fear of him invading her home country. Napoleon was a little cruel to her at times, but did care for her greatly overall. So, sad to say, she wasn’t actually that interesting. And the last point-of-view character Paul was also just okay to me too. He seemed to be a pretty intelligent fellow but he couldn’t tear himself away from Pauline, who was so obviously toxic. Actually, I didn’t really understand why he had a point-of-view in the novel, he didn’t seem like a particularly important character. Even in the afterword, all he got was two sentences whereas everyone else got entire paragraphs.
I enjoyed this book a lot and definitely would recommend to others to read. I actually have another Michelle Moran book – Nefertiti — that I bought ages ago and has been just sitting idly on my bookshelf; think I’ll go and read that one soon! This book has inspired me to look more into the Napoleonic time period, it was such a wonderful read....more
More books about the Tudors! Although to be fair, this one was written in 1949 so I wouldn’t say it’s a part of the current Tudor craze. As usual withMore books about the Tudors! Although to be fair, this one was written in 1949 so I wouldn’t say it’s a part of the current Tudor craze. As usual with such historical novels, though it says it is a part of a series, you can most certainly read them in any order you like.
Murder Most Royal takes place during the reign of Henry VIII and it focuses on two of his wives: Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, who were cousins of one another. As per usual, if you have an understanding of history, than the plot of the story is going to be predictable and familiar for you. The story begins with Henry being dissatisfied with his current wife, Katherine of Aragon (who is, by the way, my favourite of Henry’s six queens). Anne Boleyn catches the eye of the king, but Anne is steadfast in her initial decision to not have anything to do with the king. She has seen how her sister, Mary Boleyn, is treated by others after Henry has enjoyed her and then, discarded her. Henry is absolutely smitten though. Eventually, with her own love gone and lost, Anne decides to embrace her ambitious side and be with the king.
As this is happening, we also have young Catherine Howard, beautiful and passionate. She flits from lover to lover, believing herself to be truly in love each time, until someone “better” comes along. She is proud that her cousin Anne is the soon-to-be queen and never would have dreamed that one day, she will be filling in Anne’s shoes.
I think this is probably the most historically accurate Tudor novel I’ve read yet. That’s not to say it’s 100% historically accurate, just that it’s the most accurate I’ve read so far. I really enjoyed it, especially being exposed to some more historical figures and learning about them. There’s a whole slew of minor ones, but also the characters of Catherine Howard and Anne of Cleves. There’s so few current novels that feature those two queens. Usually they are kind of glossed over, or just mentioned in passing. Although Anne of Cleves’ part in this novel is brief, I finally got to be “acquainted” with her and Catherine Howard. Of course, their characters’ are the author, Jean Plaidy’s interpretation of them, and it was a very likeable and enjoyable perspective of these two ladies.
As for Anne Boleyn, I was pleasantly surprised that she was portrayed rather positively in this book. It’s so easy to portray Anne Boleyn in a negative light and a lot of current Tudor novels do indeed do that. In this book, Anne is not shown to be ambitious right from the start. Anne is shown to be a clever, witty, and beautiful young lady. She sees the way her sister ruined her reputation, and she has no interest in following in her footsteps. Anne is shown to be passionate and loving when she was with Henry Percy, and devastated when they could not be together. Believing that she will never have the happy love life she wanted, she decides to answer the king’s flirtations and begin scheming for power, so she may hurt those who have ruined her chances for happiness.
The funny thing with this novel is that although the book is supposed to be about Anne and Catherine, I feel like it is disproportionately more about Anne Boleyn. Fair enough, she is the more “exciting” queen and all. It just felt a bit unequal while reading. 80% of the book focused on Anne, interspersed with bits and pieces about Catherine’s childhood and lovers. Then the last 20%, when Anne dies, focuses on Catherine, but she frequently thinks about her tragic cousin. Henry, too, also continuously thinks about Anne, even as he takes new wives. This book shows how deeply involved Henry was with Anne Boleyn and he could do nothing to remove her from his life, even having her killed.
With all that said, I did not find this book to be a “page turner” as sometimes the passages can feel quite dry. I wouldn’t label this book as exciting, but it definitely is emotional and full of drama. Maybe it’s just because I am so accustomed to reading about Henry and his wives now … However, for the most part, it was a pleasant read and I truly enjoyed the different take on Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. I definitely want to try out more books by Jean Plaidy....more
I’m not really sure what caused me to pick up this novel to read. I first saw it at the bookstore, and quite liked the cover. Reminded me a bit of TheI’m not really sure what caused me to pick up this novel to read. I first saw it at the bookstore, and quite liked the cover. Reminded me a bit of The Great Gatsby. The title was also quite intriguing — tigers in red weather? What could that mean? Anyway, I eventually got the novel and read it. While at first I was kind of “meh” about it, the story really grew on me and I ended up really liking it. I have been ruminating on the story ever since I finished it — so much betrayal, guilt, love and lust. Everyone’s hiding something, from someone else or from themselves. It starts off rather light hearted but snowballs into an intense drama.
Tigers In Red Weather is a story set in the mid 40′s to late 50′s time period. It spans two decades, give or take, and follows five main characters. The novel is split into five parts, one for each of them. Nick (who is a woman — that threw me off in the beginning, when I didn’t realize she was a woman) and Helena are cousins and best friends. They enjoy spending their summers at Tiger House, a family-owned estate. Their life seems perfect, what with the ending of World War II approaching: Nick’s husband, Hughes, is coming back from war and Helena is soon to marry her own husband and move to glamorous Hollywood.
However, life is not as wonderful and perfect as it seems. Hughes has come back a changed man and Helena’s husband, Avery, is a sly and untrustworthy figure. A decade later, the cousins reunite at Tiger House, now each with their own child: Daisy (Nick’s) and Ed (Helena’s). They throw a party, not knowing that that night, everything in their lives was going to change. A murder happens, the victim being the maid of a neighbour’s, and everyone’s secrets and guilts begin to leak out, spanning another decade.
The story does not move forward in time in a straightforward manner. It generally moves in one direction, but also hops backwards into the past and then back into the present, and occasionally into the future. This created a very suspenseful atmosphere in the book, although at first I didn’t realize there was a ‘mystery’ involved so I didn’t understand why we were jumping around time so much. Besides suspense, there is also an element of horror although I would not go so far to classify it as horror. More of a “something is not quite right” element, really. It’s not evident at first. It kind of creeps up on you. At first you don’t think anything is off, just a little odd. Then you have a sense something is not quite right, which slowly but surely makes you feel kind of chilled, until at last the truth comes out. Perhaps sharper readers would have caught on earlier to the truth/secret, but I did not see it coming and when it was all revealed, I was quite surprised because when I first started the book, I had no idea it would head in such a dramatic direction!
I liked this book because I felt it struck a good balance between character development and plot, not too much or too little of either. The characters in particular were lovely. Each one was flawed in their own unique way, fighting their own demons. It’s definitely a grim story despite the summery-looking book cover. The characters are all miserable but hiding behind lies they’ve told themselves (or things they have convinced themselves of being the truth). It’s just all very well done in my opinion, the characters all captured my interest one hundred percent. In particular, Ed was fascinating and what compelled me to keep reading because he seemed to be the biggest mystery of all. He was the last perspective introduced in the story so you don’t get to find out his thoughts and feelings until the end, so for the longest time, I was just guessing as to why Ed was the way he was, and what really happened that midsummer night with the maid’s murder.
Tigers In Red Weather is a fascinating read and if the plot synopsis sounds interesting to you, I’d definitely recommend you check it out....more
Mary, Queen of Scots is one of my favourite European queens so I was pretty excited to read this book that has a fictional account of her preteen yearMary, Queen of Scots is one of my favourite European queens so I was pretty excited to read this book that has a fictional account of her preteen years. I think the best way of summing up my reading experience with this book is that it was mildly interesting. My expectations were a little high, I suppose, especially since Mary is one of my favourites.
This book takes place during the part of Mary’s life when she is living in France with her betrothed, Francis, the crown prince of France. She is Mary, Queen of the Scots, but she is far from Scotland. In the book, Mary misses Scotland and tries to assert her position as a royal Queen, even though in France she is “merely” the betrothed of their Dauphin.
Sadly, not much seems to happen in this book, plot-wise. Mary contemplates her friendship with Francis, her best friends who are all named Mary, and delicately dances around her future mother-in-law, the current Queen of France. The story doesn’t lead up to anything exciting, it’s truly like a diary of her day to day affairs, and unfortunately, since this book is about her childhood, it is nowhere as interesting as her adult life.
She spends an awful lot of time reminiscing about Scotland in this book, which I personally found odd. The real Mary left Scotland at age five and spent the next thirteen years in the French court. Historically, part of Mary’s problem with ruling Scotland was that she was too French. I suppose the author wanted to emphasize that she is Queen of the Scots, and related to Scotland, since the series already has a number of historical princesses from France (Marie Antoinette, Eleanor of Aquitaine …). Still, in my opinion, having left Scotland at such a young age, I found it difficult to believe Mary was as Scottish as this book made her appear to be.
I thought this book was okay, but it did lack a lot of pizzazz. I’m still, of course, a big fan of this children’s series, so I will continue to read on about more princesses!...more
This is my second Alison Weir book. I loved her first one, Innocent Traitor, on Lady Jane Grey and was very excited to read more4.5 stars, rounded up!
This is my second Alison Weir book. I loved her first one, Innocent Traitor, on Lady Jane Grey and was very excited to read more of her works. Captive Queen is about Eleanor of Aquitaine, who, despite my limited knowledge on her, is a favourite Queen of mine from history. This book has its flaws, but I thought overall it was quite well done and I was pretty addicted to reading it. The book starts off a bit slow, but builds up increasingly. By the middle of the book, I couldn’t put it down at all.
Captive Queen begins when Eleanor is almost thirty years old, beginning with her failure of a marriage to King Louis of France. Eleanor is a beautiful, headstrong Queen with a high sex drive; unfortunately, her husband is so pious that Eleanor practically needs to beg him to come to bed with her, for the sake of an heir at least. When Eleanor lays her eyes on young Henry of Anjou (future King Henry of England), eleven years her junior, she is instantly attracted — and so is he. Daringly, Eleanor arranges for her marriage to Louis to become annulled and before anyone can say anything, she is wed to Henry. Their relationship is extremely passionate, as Henry shares the same sexual appetite as her and together, they eventually come to have eight children.
However, as the years go on, Eleanor and Henry’s relationship begins to break down. Though they can’t get enough of one another in the bedroom, outside they are butting heads politically over land and over their children. Finding out about Henry’s faithlessness also drives the wedge deeper between them. When Eleanor’s sons revolt against their father, Eleanor can’t help but side with her sons, a decision that will cost her her freedom.
As I mentioned earlier, the book begins a bit on the slow side. I still liked it, but it wasn’t anything too impressive. I read some reviews where people were unhappy with how much sex Eleanor and Henry had in the book, but that didn’t bother me one bit. I mean, they were both known to be quite into sex, it’s kind of hard to leave that out. However, I do agree that the beginning of the book seemed to be overly dominated with sex scenes and sexual-related scenes and the like. I guess it just drove home how much of Eleanor and Henry’s relationship was built upon pure, unrestrained lust — and unfortunately, lust doesn’t last.
What I loved was reading about Eleanor and Henry’s relationship dissolving. In some ways, this book isn’t really about just Eleanor, but rather, Eleanor and Henry. They couldn’t agree on so many things outside of the bedroom. Henry wanted things one way, Eleanor wanted things another way. Eleanor, who was quite an intelligent woman herself, resented the fact that Henry technically had control of her lands as her husband, even though none of her vassals liked Henry. She would try to persuade Henry to let her handle her own vassals since they like her more, but Henry is too prideful, too “manly” to let a woman handle his affairs. Then there was also Becket, Henry’s new BFF, who came between Eleanor and Henry’s relationship even more. She hated that she wasn’t the first person Henry would turn to for advice anymore. When their children grew older, she sided with her sons who felt their father was hogging all the power, which of course, drove Eleanor and Henry apart even more. As morbid as it sounds, I loved reading about their marriage and relationship falling apart. It was exciting! Dramatic!
I loved this book a lot! No, it’s not perfect — I do wish the author focused a bit more on Eleanor’s children, specifically her sons — but it’s a great book on its own. Whether you are knowledgeable about Eleanor’s life or not, I think many people will find this book quite exciting to read....more
In comparison to the rest of the Royal Diaries series, it’s less exciting, however, I still find Jahanara to be3.5, (but I rounded up for Goodreads).
In comparison to the rest of the Royal Diaries series, it’s less exciting, however, I still find Jahanara to be an excellent book, especially as a starting point to get kids interested in Indian culture. I read this book for the first time in late elementary/early middle school and I remember it was this book that got me interested in the culture. For those who do not know who Jahanara is, she was the oldest daughter of the Indian emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.
In this book, Jahanara starts off living with her exiled family, but later on, are returned to their proper places. Her father becomes emperor and Jahanara is granted the title “Princess of Princesses”. As a royal female living in India, Jahanara and other ladies are always kept behind screens and are not allowed any contact (even eye contact!) with men, other than family members and eunachs. Still, Jahanara proves to be a valuable member of the family as she tries to keep harmony between her scheming brother, “evil” step-grandmother, and the rest of the family.
Much of the book revolves around Jahanara finding things out about her family and her relationships with her family. The events that do occur, like her father being crowned emperor, are exciting but happen rather infrequently. Much of the book seems to introduce pieces of Indian culture to the reader. I didn’t really mind that since it still flowed with the story and never did I feel like I was reading a textbook or anything. It did get me very interested in Indian culture, in the end! Story-wise, this one was a tad slow moving, but I still liked it quite a bit. I’m pretty excited to start reading more historical fiction about Jahanara because she was so well respected in her time, and from what I read online, is still well-known in India today....more
I really, really enjoyed this book about Marie Antoinette! I’ve always been a little fascinated with Marie Antoinette, she has a rather interesting liI really, really enjoyed this book about Marie Antoinette! I’ve always been a little fascinated with Marie Antoinette, she has a rather interesting life story … and of course, tragic as well. I’ve never been of the mindset that Marie Antoinette was an ignorant, frivolous queen who didn’t care for her subjects and peasants much, and I’m glad this book stresses the naivety of Marie Antoinette and how her upbringing shaped her. After all, being the 15th child, not many people would have expected such a grand future for her.
In this book, we only see Marie Antoinette as a preteen, which includes the time before she married her husband, and just a little bit of the time after. This book tells the story of the relationship between Marie Antoinette and her mother, her experience going from the Austrian court to the French court and her rivalry with Madame du Barry (Marie Antoinette’s father-in-law’s mistress). I think this book is definitely one of the best in this series. I think it has one of the more exciting or interesting plots in the series, especially the rivalry part, and it had an ending that left you thinking, “Wow, Marie Antoinette is going to make an amazing Queen!” Of course, in reality, her people did not really think so, but it’s a good way to end the book!
Apologies for the short review! It’s a short(ish) children’s book, and I liked it a lot, nothing to complain about here! If you want to venture into the Royal Diaries series, I highly recommend this one to start with (or Cleopatra or Anastasia, these three being my favourites)....more
AnotherRoyal Diaries read! This one is on Queen (or "King") Kristina/Christina of Sweden. The historical note at the back of the book states that sheAnother Royal Diaries read! This one is on Queen (or "King") Kristina/Christina of Sweden. The historical note at the back of the book states that she is the second most discussed queen amongst historians (first is Cleopatra VII), but I have not heard of her before this book, to be honest. She had a really fascinating upbringing, from what I can tell from this book.
In this juvenile novel, Kristina is the only child of the King and Queen of Sweden. When she was born, everyone thought she was a precious boy because of the caul covering her body. Of course, later everyone realized she was actually a girl. Her father thought this meant his child was very clever, already playing tricks on everyone, and announced that Kristina will be raised as a boy, as a prince, and one day become the King of Sweden, not Queen. And so, Kristina was raised learning all the things required of a royal prince, instead of the feminine arts required of a princess.
Her father dies when she is young and she is suddenly King of Sweden. While she will not rule on her own until she is 18, Kristina must deal with her emotionally unstable and overly smothering mother, her dear aunt and her councillors, all of whom want to find the best husband possible for Kristina to rule Sweden with. But Kristina doesn't want to marry -- ever!
I really liked this book. It's written by the same author that wrote the Anastasia book, which I adore, so I expected the same level of great storytelling with Kristina as well. I feel like I learned a lot about a royal who, before this book, I knew nothing about. She seems absolutely fascinating, being crowned King instead of Queen and all; I was a little disappointed to read later that she ended up abdicating her throne after a mere four years, due to stress and converting to the Catholic faith (a religion which Sweden banned from their country).
Kristina is one of the few royals in this series that actually had an interesting childhood that suited the age range for this book series, in my opinion. Some of the other books in this series, like Eleanor or Marie Antoinette, led more interesting lives as adults than as preteens, so those books may not feel as interesting. Kristina, however, experienced a lot of important changes and events in her life quite early, so her preteen years alone feel exciting. After reading this book, I would love to learn more about Kristina!...more
This book was an impulse buy from Wal-Mart (30% off books’ cover prices, woohoo!), but I’m so glad I did it because I fell in love with it! What interThis book was an impulse buy from Wal-Mart (30% off books’ cover prices, woohoo!), but I’m so glad I did it because I fell in love with it! What interested me was the fact that it took place in 1860′s Russia. I am really enjoying European historical fiction lately, particularly the 1500-1800s, so when I saw this book, I knew I wanted it right away. It was a bit risky since I didn’t know anything about the author and it is such a new book that there are hardly any reviews on it on Goodreads, but I took the chance and it turned out to be an amazing read.
The story takes place in 1860s Russia, under the reign of Tsar Alexander II. Russia is experiencing a social revolution during this time period thanks to the Emancipation Reform of 1861, which meant that many serfs were allowed their freedom and granted the rights of a full citizen of Russia.
The entire novel revolves around this one event: the Count and Countess of Angelkov’s son is kidnapped from them by their ex-serfs (though they don’t know who did it for a while; they thought it was the Cossacks). Even though serfdom was abolished, many were still landless, poor peasants and their situation did not improve one bit; many harbored resentment towards their former masters and now acted on their feelings. Antonina, the Countess, slowly spirals into despair, becoming an alcoholic. The Count falls ill and becomes of no use to Antonina and the entire estate slowly heads toward bankruptcy. Other characters include Lilya, Antonina’s maid who is in love with Antonina and is jealous of anyone who seems to have her mistress’ affections; Grisha, the steward of the estate who regrets being involved with the kidnapping scheme greatly; and Valentin, an attractive and talented violinist who befriends the Countess during her time of crisis.
A great chunk of the book is devoted to exploring the back stories of each of the main characters. At first I felt a bit like the story was a tad disjointed because there is such a significant amount of writing devoted to explaining each character and how they came to live at Angelkov, so soon after the beginning. I suppose what I wanted was for the back stories to blend in with the story a little better: it felt like the book consisted of “kidnapping (50 pages) — backstories (200 pages) — resume kidnapping story (200 pages)”. However, each character has a very interesting story so it was a pleasant detour, if you can call it that. Actually, as I continued reading, I realized this book isn’t really about the kidnapping — it’s about the characters, and so, the so-called “detour” is actually vital to the story.
Even though I wanted the book to go back to the kidnapping story, I was not unhappy with reading about the individual characters’ pasts. Each one is so fascinating and it was really great to read about how the Emancipation Reform affected everyone on all levels. Freeing the serfs sounds great on paper, but many of them don’t feel any difference in their situation since they have no land or money anyway. They’ll have to just keep working for their master anyway. For the nobles, they begin to lose so many serfs that they can’t keep all their land, especially with the high land taxes the tsar has set, so they end up having to give away pieces of land anyway, and downsizing a lot. This book was such a great way for me to learn about this time period. Even though it is all fictional, its point is the unrest that followed such a social revolution affects everyone, and nobody comes out as a clear winner or loser.
The kidnapping is obviously what this whole novel revolves around, even though I didn’t feel like it was the focal point. The kidnapping felt more like the background on which all the characters are introduced to the reader. This is more of a character driven story, which I am usually not the biggest fan of (I’m very 50/50 on such stories), but this one had me sucked in and I was up reading this book until the wee hours of the morning. Of course, the kidnapping did provide a very exciting element to the story. The whole time I wondered if Antonina would get her son back or not, if she would ever be reunited with him. So even though this is a character driven story, I think it can be rather plot driven as well!
I highly recommend this book, it’s a great novel and I felt it was written in a very engaging and easy-to-read manner. Such a great book!...more