Although related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship bestAlthough related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship best-suited for a soap opera is retold by Linda Porter in, “Tudors Versus Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots”.
Having previously read two books by Porter; there are certain characteristics of the author’s writing which I was on the lookout for. As per usual, “Tudors Versus Stewarts” has a slow start which feels too much like establishing background information. This is understandable in beginning a scholarly text but Porter maintains this for approximately 100 pages. Often times, it is like reading an extended foreward.
Furthermore, Porter’s premise for “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is too explain the interactions, emotions, and psychological effects of the countries and monarchies on one another but this is lost in the shuffle. Instead, Porter simply retells the history of both countries during a set time frame and swaps back-and-forth explaining what occurred at the same time. This doesn’t adhere to her thesis, though. Common to Porter, her writing often strays on tangents creating a choppy, disjointed piece.
Although Porter does begin to find her stride and has strong moments (such as the discussion of Perkin Warbeck); she puts on emphasis on non-important areas while fluffing up minor notes, being the opposite of what the reader expects. “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is best described as being “off key”.
In Porter’s other works, she had the habit of making highly speculative or opinionated statements. This is also the case with “Tudors Versus Stewarts”. The text is filled with “Might have”, “Perhaps”, and “Must have” phrases and several admissions of, “We don’t know what happened but…” Several times, Porter concludes that, “There are no records of what was discussed but surely it was…” No Porter, you don’t “surely know” what was discussed with no records! Examples of juvenile comments include saying such as, “Later in life she [Margaret Tudor] simply looks fat” (p 143) and Margaret resenting the “crusty old earl” (p 148). These have no place in an academic piece.
Although there are admittedly some moments that Porter tries to debunk some myths (not well, as her text isn’t really annotated and she quickly moves past her attempts at debunking); on the whole “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is a recap instead of learning anything new. Again, the aim and angle of the book is unique but Porter falls short in execution.
Porter insists on sprinkling the text with mentions of Shakespeare (why are so many recent history authors begetting Shakespeare as a historian?!) and quoting poems/literature. Perhaps this is done to lighten the load but it merely works to downgrade the emphasis of “Tudors Versus Stewarts”.
The second half of “Tudors Versus Stewarts” focuses largely on Scotland. Although this is still simply a retelling and does not meet the thesis; it is a strong source for those interested in an overview of Scottish politics in the 16th century.
“Tudors Versus Stewarts” rushes at the conclusion and ends rather abruptly. Porter’s biases are clear and although she attempts to add importance to the clashing between the Tudors and Stuarts (ending with King James I of England); she failed to do anything other than present a dual biography.
Porter follows the text with an epilogue, list of key figures, notes, and bibliography while the text contains a section of black and white photo plates. It should be noted that I have read many of the secondary sources Porter used which is why the book didn’t offer me new information but this may not be the case with all readers.
Overall, Porter’s piece has a strong motive and thesis but it was not carried out to a proven point. “Tudors versus Stewarts is readable (meaning: not boring) and one will learn of many Scottish and English events but I was merely expecting more. The book is not bad and suggested for those interested in the history but it won’t blow you away. ...more
As a “fan girl” of King Charles II, it is only natural that I am also fascinated by his mistresses. Although I adore Nell Gwynne as my favorite; the oAs a “fan girl” of King Charles II, it is only natural that I am also fascinated by his mistresses. Although I adore Nell Gwynne as my favorite; the other women are compelling, as well. Marci Jefferson reveals the role of Frances Stuart in her debut novel, “Girl on the Golden Coin”.
At this juncture of my many years of reading both history and historical fiction text; I can pretty much scan a book and know if it will please me. “Girl on the Golden Coin” instantly caused trepidation but its promises of scandal, intrigue, and duplicity surrounding Frances Stuart; insisted I proceed. As I suspected: I was let down. Big time.
“Girl on the Golden Coin” is best described as a “Stuart High School” drama filled with squealing, giggles, and shrugs. The novel is more fiction than history and fails to bring the era to life. Yes, there are some illustrative descriptions but overall, the authenticity is lacking as the focus is on teen-level soap opera drama. To be blunt: it doesn’t feel as though Jefferson did much research which is why the story is ‘told’ versus ‘lived’ and ‘shown’.
Although “Girl on the Golden Coin” is told in a first-person narrative; one never truly receives a real glimpse into Frances. She appears dense and yet illusive and has no character arc. In fact, none of the characters are portrayed strongly as Charles is not kingly, Queen Catherine is a dunce, Minette is a “mean girl”, and Frances lacks genuine chemistry with Charles. The only intriguing interaction is between Frances and the Duke of Buckingham.
The plotline in the novel is also thin. Nothing seems to ‘actually’ happen while uneventful pages pass. It isn’t that the pace is slow, per se; it is simply that the novel is boring. The reader will not learn historical facts nor experience memorable events. There is nothing to push “Girl on the Golden Coin”.
Jefferson’s work is a victim of the, “As you know, Bob”- method of storytelling in which characters discuss other figures or political events as a result of the first-person storytelling (a la Philippa Gregory). This becomes tedious with some sections feeling pointless except for this idle talk and adds to the absence of excitement.
It needs to be stated again that the major disappointment with “Girl on the Golden Coin” is the failure to bring Frances to life. Although this is HER novel, she breathes no air and Jefferson doesn’t give her any vibrancy. Plus, her portrayal is very inconsistent as she acts childlike one moment but alludes to adult behavior in the next moment.
Sadly, the well-known historical incidents involving Charles’s mistresses or the political landscape are glossed over, appearing unimportant. This means that those readers new to the topic don’t receive a proper introduction while novice readers don’t get to re-address their favorite moments. Also keeping the reader from truly getting into the story are the extremely short chapters (some are only 2 pages long). Everything is abrupt which prevents any depth or symbolism to seep through.
“Girl on the Golden Coin" finally improves during the last quarter of the novel with the final chapters being more ardent about history and including a creative interpretation of Frances’s elopement with the Duke of Richmond. However, the conclusion is rushed and honestly: doesn’t make much sense with the novel and therefore lacks strength. On the bright side, Jefferson provides an ‘Author’s Note’ explaining the historical liberties taken in the novel and explains some of her motives.
Overall, “Girl on the Golden Coin” is a fluffy, historical-fiction novel which emphasizes the ‘fiction’ aspect. Although the topic is interesting; both the presentation and the characters are flat and the plot doesn’t have much of a point or climax. The novel is only recommended for those new to the topic seeking an introduction or for readers seeking a light, 1-2 day fluffy read (which I know can be great for a ‘filler read’). Otherwise, those well-versed on the topic will be left unsatisfied. Credit should be given to Jefferson for writing a novel based on a figure who doesn’t receive much attention and therefore I would perhaps consider reading another one of Jefferson’s works to see if there is an improvement in her writing (but I would be in no rush). “Girl on the Golden Coin” is an empty-calorie read....more
Robert Merivel. To Rose Tremain fans and those having read “Restoration”; this name evokes strong images. Merivel is back with all of his flaws, hilarRobert Merivel. To Rose Tremain fans and those having read “Restoration”; this name evokes strong images. Merivel is back with all of his flaws, hilarity, and weaknesses aplomb in “Merivel: A Man of his Time”.
“Merivel” instantly sparkles with the feel and imagery of “Restoration” and once again brings the imperfect but lovable Robert Merivel to life. However, “Merivel” is definitely a sequel which instantly plunges into the story and mentions highlights from “Restoration” without fully backtracking to explain them. Therefore, it is 100% recommended to read “Restoration” before diving into “Merivel” and having the plot fresh in one’s mind in order to make sense of current events.
Tremain surprisingly (due to the face that it has been almost 25 years since “Restoration”) captures Merivel’s voice and personality almost “like he never left”. The characterization is familiar and is an old friend. On the contrary, Merivel’s thought streams are weaker this time around and scattered almost like Tramain couldn’t grasp how Merivel would think later in life. “Merivel” is a bit ‘simpler’ than “Restoration”.
Despite this, Merivel’s wit/humor plus his deeper philosophical thoughts manage to shine through and carry the story even when it feels there is no plot (in the beginning, for instance, which merely feels like a recap/re-introduction to Merivel). These recaps do answer questions from the ending of “Restoration”, however.
Some immediate dissonance is exhibited by Tremain’s use of capitalizing words in mid-sentence. Although it has been stated that this was done to keep with the writing style of times and therefore make Merivel’s storytelling more realistic; I found it a bit distracting and would have preferred the absence of it.
After the “recap”-like beginning, “Merivel” gains momentum, excitement, and truly comes alive. Tremain’s descriptions are lively, vivid, and believable; whisking the reader away while Merivel settles into his persona. The novel and plot becomes compelling and evolves into a page turner with ease and yet captivity. “Merivel” is simple but amusing at the same time.
Furthermore, the character of Merivel becomes increasingly lovable and relatable as the novel progresses. He has blemishes to his person and makes errors but has “normal” thoughts all readers can relate to despite the time period. Merivel imposes depth and philosophy into the text while moving it forward with humor. Simply put: “Merivel” is real and accessible.
Entertainment aside, “Merivel” also possesses symbolism albeit not in an overly literary or metaphorical sense but in a more vague and swift way. Despite Tremain’s style of application, these are moving and effective.
I did find fault with the character of Louise, an amour of Merivel’s, whom at 45-years of age acted more like that of a mistress of 20 years her junior. Also frustrating was the obvious shock-value sexual act at the three-quarters mark which may offend some readers. However, these negatives are minor.
Tremain successfully interwove factual historical events concerning the death of King Charles II into the ending of “Merivel” and smoothly places Merivel fictitiously into these theatrics (although I personally didn’t enjoy the focus on Charles’s mistress Louise de Keroualle). At the same time, the ending is befuddled with too many storylines feeling like Tremain couldn’t decide which path to follow and picked a little of each causing some confusion, ill-ease, and a feeling of incomplete plots.
Overall, “Merivel” is a pleasurable and satisfying read which joyfully revisits the life of Merivel and Stuart England. Although not suggested as a stand-alone novel, fans of “Restoration” will be pleased. ...more
With several bastard children and mistresses galore, King Charles II was very much a “lady’s man” during his lifetime. Surprisingly, even during todayWith several bastard children and mistresses galore, King Charles II was very much a “lady’s man” during his lifetime. Surprisingly, even during today’s feminist trends; Charles still provides a fascination amongst many female readers. Barbara Cartland explores the women in Charles’s life with “The Private Life of Charles II: The Women He Loved”.
Cartland’s portrait of the most well-known women in Charles’s life (ie his mother Queen Henrietta Maria, Mistress Wyndham, Marguerite de Carteret, Lucy Walter, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Peg, his sister Minette, Barbara Villiers, Queen Catherine, Frances Steward, Nell Gwynne, Louise de Keroualle, and Hortense Mancini) is unlike a traditional historical biography. Although relatively chronological, each chapter focuses on a sole woman and how she physically and psychologically affected Charles’s life. Naturally other aspects of Charles’s life (including politics) are followed but the focus is the women. However, these are more of an overview which not only include speculation regarding emotions (which are stated as fact); but are also cut short and lack enough detail. “The Private Life of Charles II” is best described as an introductory course to these key females.
Cartland’s writing style lacks scholarly appeal, quotes, and passages and is instead written in a very narrative and story-like manner. Although this may be a disappointment to some hard-hitting, fact-seeking readers; it does result in a well-paced history book which moves quickly and does not bore the reader. This writing style may cause one to question Cartland’s historical accuracy. Even though “The Private Life of Charles II” does contain some speculation regarding romantic overtures and includes details which Cartland clearly added as a narrative descriptive-mover; the overall “gist” is quite accurate. Albeit, lacking deep details.
The main complaint against “The Private Life of Charles II” is the stereotypical descriptions of the women. No new angles are explored and those readers already familiar with Charles II may seek more. With that being said, I did learn some new facts (although I am unaware how accurate they are). “The Private Life of Charles II” does open up windows into Charles’s life and actions; but just don’t expect mini-biographies of the aforementioned women. Instead, Cartland merely introduces these women, with some discussed more extensively than others.
A characteristic complaint was Cartland’s obvious and ardent opinions which sometimes appear almost childish and gossip-y. Despite this, the overall essence of “The Private Life of Charles II” is not compromised.
Cartland’s conclusion is firm, moving, and collects the whole of her writing. Simply put: it is memorable.
Overall, “The Private Life of Charles II” is much better than expected and is an entertaining read. Although it may not be 100% scholarly; I did find myself learning some facts even though I am well versed in the topic. “The Private Life of Charles II” is recommended for those new to Charles II or those readers simply craving a lighter (but still informative) read. ...more
Although I live in the United States; I wouldn’t be able to list most of the US Presidents if you paid me. Yet, ask me the monarchs of England and I cAlthough I live in the United States; I wouldn’t be able to list most of the US Presidents if you paid me. Yet, ask me the monarchs of England and I could list them (in order, mind you) even while half asleep. Ian Crofton provides a similar directory in, “Kings and Queens of England: The Lives and Reigns of the Monarchs of England”.
“Kings and Queens of England” is a small, colorful, glossy-paged book which is fit for a reference shelf (albeit a thin one) or a coffee table. The structure is that of a directory or quick-reference guide while the content is exactly what it claims to be: a listing of English monarchs with brief bios (generally 2-4 pages for each).
The term ‘brief’ is not an exaggeration as the issue with “Kings and Queens of England” is that it is much too summarized and simplified. Although Crofton does mention interesting and/or menial notes and facts; nothing is detailed and therefore the reader is not left with a solid image of any of the monarchs. Basically, “Kings and Queens of England” is somewhat flat and not memorable.
On the other hand, the format is useful as a quick reference with charts depicting the monarch’s coat of arms and listing such facts as birth date, parents, children, succession date, house, death, etc; while the section contain photos, quotes, and small supplemented texts to round the bios. Worth mentioning is that the quoted paragraphs are much too small in font size and will present some trouble for those with eye problems.
An annoying factor is Crofton’s habit of mentioning Shakespeare and the playwright’s depictions of kings. Although this may be used in order to find a common ground with the average reader; it comes off as elementary and far from scholarly.
Sadly, Crofton doesn’t explore any new ground in “Kings and Queens of England” and thus those readers well-read on English royalty will be somewhat bored unless looking for a quick recap. In fact, the text is better suited for young adults versus adults (unless the adult has no previous knowledge on the subject). Crofton also states too many myths and propaganda pieces as though they are factual plus much of “Kings and Queens of England” is dated (such as the section on Richard III). Therefore, it is suggested to take the text with a grain of salt.
On a positive note, Crofton smoothly presents the transition of ultimate monarchism to the ceremonial role it holds today; helping the reader understand the modern-day impact of their role. The conclusion is solid stipulating on the future of the royal family while also offering genealogical charts.
Note: “Kings and Queens of England” focuses on the monarchs regnant versus consort.
Overall, “Kings and Queens of England” is a quick, overly simplified introduction to the monarchs of England. Dated, riding on speculation, and brief; the text sadly won’t make an impact with readers. Those familiar with the topic won’t learn anything new and therefore the book is only strongly suggested for general readers who simply want to be debriefed. ...more
Although Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightfuAlthough Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightful history still provides an enjoyable, quick read for Anglophiles.
“The Tower of London” opens with an overall history recap of the Tower of London from the first stones ordered by William the Conqueror to modern-day tourism. Although this introduction is beautifully supplemented by colorful illustrations and photographs, it is a brief overview: simply written (easy enough for middle-aged children) and thus lacking an overemphasis of detail. However, even without extensive depth, it still garners interest and prepares the reader for the second section of “The Tower of London”.
Hammond’s second portion, titled “The Buildings of the Tower”, dives into a closer portrait account of each section of the Tower (individual towers, wards, etc). Hammond presents various facets of information from the conception of the White Tower to floor plans, history to current occupants, and even the materials (types of stones) used. This detail is not cumbersome and instead brings the Tower to life along with the illustrations.
Although highly informative, “The Tower of London” is purely a factual presentation and is therefore not necessarily an entertaining reading in a narrative sense. The text lacks character or wit, however; it is a wealth of information for those interested in the topic (basically, it is very academic and reads like a school book).
The main highlight is the two-page centerfold of the entire Tower complex with each building and portion well-labeled. This centerfold shows the grandiosity of the Tower and is designed to impress the reader while providing a “go-to” illustration when reading the text.
A major complaint against “The Tower of London” was the mention of Jane Grey’s death being merely due to suffering “for her descent from Henry VII which made her, despite herself, a rival to Mary” versus indicating her “Nine Days Queen” reputation.
The end of “The Tower of London” is quite strong describing the many tourist attractions and events at the tower (the Royal Armouries, Crown Jewels, the Changing of the Guards, Ceremony of the Keys, the “Ravenmaster”, etc); soliciting excitement from the reader. I am even more excited to visit the Tower than I was before (I didn’t know that was possible)! Overall, “The Tower of London” is an informative guide which will satisfy a tourist or Anglophile for a quick read or browse. ...more