For staunch Tudor lovers, the name Margaret Pole is not an unfamiliar one. Yet, even though the Countess of Salisbury was smack-dab in the middle of cFor staunch Tudor lovers, the name Margaret Pole is not an unfamiliar one. Yet, even though the Countess of Salisbury was smack-dab in the middle of courtly drama; she seems to play a side note in most books. Phillippa Gregory brings Pole to the forefront in her latest historical fiction novel, “The King’s Curse”.
Before I even proceed further, I want to make something clear for those who aren’t regular readers of my reviews: I do not think of Gregory as a God nor of her work as the Bible. Her books of the past few years have been fluffy, filled with historical liberties, and with an overabundance of fantasy topics like magic. Don’t even get me started on her obsession with the, “As you know, Bob”- style of writing. To say the least, I have not been impressed. Lo and behold though, ladies and gents, because it appears that PG finally listened to complaints and produced a work which actually isn’t terrible!
“The King’s Curse” begins with Pole characterized as an adult so there is no discrepancy of the strain of growth from childhood to adulthood. Following Pole’s life (both personal and courtly); her feelings and role come alive with a strong portrayal. Readers will actually feel as though they are walking into Margaret’s psyche and not in a dummied down version, either. Margaret is both believable and accessible.
The most stroking trait of “The King’s Curse” is its accuracy which has not been the way to describe PG lately. In this novel, Gregory stuck mostly to the facts with the liberties being more on par with various debated theories historians have proposed versus fluff created in Gregory’s mind. Meaning, the novel is NOT thoroughly accurate but the inaccuracies are based on proposed theories and ideas. The descriptions and speaking style feel mostly authentic and the visuals are rich. Best of all? The “As you know, Bob” style is very limited! It is still present but rarely. I’m telling you: “The King’s Curse” is a million times better than the past few years of Gregory output.
The pace of the plot is also solid and with an exciting heartbeat. Although much of the novel focuses on courtly affairs (the downfall of Henry VIII); the novel is moving and dare I say: a page-turner. All of the other characters are well portrayed with Mary Tudor (future Queen Mary) being a standout. In fact, many of the events are quite vivid and emotionally poignant. No mention of magical crap was even needed to do so (believe it or not, the silly curse is barely mentioned despite the novel’s title).
On the negative end, some of the hatred in “The King’s Curse” towards Anne Boleyn and the frustration with Henry VIII is somewhat over the top. Yes, Margaret was a supporter of Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor but the spewing of anger and calling Anne a ‘whore’ numerous times was a bit much. We get it! Margaret didn’t like Anne! Sheesh! On the other hand, this is a sort of refreshing look from the opposition of the Anne camp versus those novels focusing on Anne’s wit and charisma. Regardless, some Anne supporters may be offended or annoyed.
Notably, Gregory intersperses the novel with genealogical charts (instead of singularly just in the beginning of the novel) which illuminate some of the figures featured in the respective chapters. This is definitely unique to “The King’s Curse” (and I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not).
The final quarter of the “The King’s Curse” suffers from a great decline in the pace and effectiveness as much of the plot is told (with the characters discussing events) versus being ‘lived’. This is tedious, boring, and sadly more like Gregory’s other novels. This flows into an anticlimactic ending which is rushed and not on-par with the lead-up of the entire novel.
On the bright side, Gregory does explain some historical liberties in her ‘Author’s Note’ hopefully showing readers that her writing is not the word of God. Plus, her sources listed are those which Tudor readers are familiar with and mostly support.
Overall, quite shockingly, “The King’s Curse” is unlike Gregory’s recent novels with very little or none of the traits readers have been complaining about. The angle of the story is unique while Margaret Pole is presented as a complex figure inviting further research which is quite a feat coming from Gregory. “The King’s Curse” may not be the best historical fiction novel on the market; but the best from the author in years.
Note: My rating is perhaps more of a 3.5 in terms of HF novels overall (and therefore I would have given it a 3 rating) but because I am taking into consideration PG’s other works and comparing it to those previous works; it is being rated as a 4 ...more
Lady Pamela Hicks may not be a name everyone is familiar with. However, the people she been affiliatedWon this on Goodreads Giveaways. Unedited Copy
Lady Pamela Hicks may not be a name everyone is familiar with. However, the people she been affiliated with (Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, the Vanderbilts, Winston Churchill, Douglas Fairbanks, Gandhi); are certainly recognizable to all. Hicks attempts to reveal her life story to the memoir-loving masses in “Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten”.
“Daughter of Empire” immediately jumps into the lives of Hicks’s parents (Lord Louis and Edwinda Mountbatten) foregoing a “proper” introduction to Pamela herself, causing a filter between the reader and a lack of connection. This absence of cling dribbles into the storytelling which is merely a recap of events i.e.: this happened, then this, and then that. Hicks lacks an emotional insight into her psyche and therefore is more of a narrator to her own life than a key player. As a result, “Daughter of Empire” is one dimensional and less-than-captivating.
Speaking of dimensions, “Daughter of Empire” can be described with one word: shallow. Immediately with the first page and continuing onwards is constant namedropping. Hicks’s privileged life is close to sickening and although she doesn’t necessarily seem elitist about it; she has a void of depth and intimacy. It is fine (and even entertaining) that she led an aristocratic and high-society life but she could have at least shared personal feelings and life lessons regarding the people and events. Instead, the memoir follows the pattern of an issue of “Entertainment Weekly” following the latest celebrity.
The writing in terms of sentence structure and grammar is well-written and flows with ease and a fast pace. The problem is with the content and empty stories. Despite all the namedropping, Hicks makes her life seem boring without any substantial thoughts in that pretty little head of hers. One major frustrating point? Instead of reflecting on her temporary relocation to America during World War II (due to Jewish blood); Hicks instead emphasizes how the Vanderbilts didn’t approve of her clothing during this time. REALLY?!
Oftentimes, Hicks is choppy and doesn’t answer questions in chronology (for example: someone is missing and then suddenly that person reappears with no explanation or acknowledgement). “Daughter of Empire” lacks a cohesive sense throughout the memoir both in terms of writing style and content (perhaps indicative of a ghostwriter?) and refuses to fully open up Hicks’s character or life. “Daughter of Empire” reads like a school report versus a personal account. Not to mention, a report concerning the lives of her parents instead of that of her own.
Also, what is the reasoning behind the constant use of the term ‘partying’? The tone/voice does not sound like that of a senior citizen in her 80s looking back at her life. Another complaint: I found Hicks’s habit of including foreign language phrases without translations to be distracting and too assuming that the average reader will have any clue what they mean.
On a positive note, Hicks occasionally includes snippets of diaries or personal letters which adds a certain pizzazz to “Daughter of Empire”. The memoir also improves slightly when Hicks describes her time/work in India during the country’s independence, revealing the political climate and some of her emotions. This still lacks the desired depth but is better than the former achieved.
The ending of “Daughter of Empire” is rather weak and not memorable of Hicks in any way (and again focuses more on parents). Plus, Hicks concludes her tale before she is in her 30s and states that “not much occurred” after that time making the title of her memoir including the word “life” misleading.
The final copy of “Daughter of Empire” will include 24 black and white photos throughout which my copy did not contain.
Overall, “Daughter of Empire” is a shallow and weak report of various events in the life of Pamela Hicks void of emotion and true insight. One will never feel like Hicks reveals her true self nor tells her life story in a compelling way. “Daughter of Empire” is not worth reading, as one can find the same recap of events in a Google search. ...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
For us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading anFor us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading another book on the Tudor dynasty? Perhaps this can be answered by Leanda de Lisle in “Tudor: The Family Story”.
Lisle’s version of events in “Tudor” stands out instantly, as the tone presented to the reader is not simply that of a recollection of Tudor monarchy life; but the basics and underlying psychosis of the family. Lisle begins the history backtracking to Owen Tudor and his “fall” into royalty. Although nothing new is learned by the expert reader; the family history will be understood in a new light. Lisle reveals the Tudors in a smooth way in which their emotions and actions throughout the decades make clear sense. Thus, although the story isn’t new, the fresh perception is.
Lisle’s text is heavily researched and accurate, skipping the biases and speculation which are abundant even in the works of renowned historians. The pace is exciting and has a steady ratio of almost-fictional narrative to that of an academic piece. However, at times Lisle goes off on the flowery descriptions and either grazes or rushes too quickly on the historical events (I suspect that she could produce a solid HF novel).
A notable characteristic of “Tudor” is the breath of life Lisle gives to some figures who are often ignored such as Mary and Margaret Tudor (the sisters of Henry VIII) and Margaret Douglas. Plus, the chronology is solid and all major points are highlighted without jumping back-and-forth which could confuse new readers.
Lisle seamlessly interweaves the text with descriptions of ‘everyday’ life/culture which instead of feeling like tangents; clearly sets the stage for Tudor lie and again: makes everything clear and understandable. “Tudor” is also filled with anticipation, with even the seasoned Tudorphile wanting to know what happens (even though he or she already knows).
On the negative end, Lisle has the habit of mentioning a thought or idea which is contrary to popular belief but doesn’t elaborate or offer clear sources. I would welcome new angles but need details. Also slightly annoying is Lisle maintaining the trend of quoting Shakespeare within her historic text. Shakespeare was NOT a historian and his plays were just that: plays. Not sure why so many authors insist on this.
The second half of “Tudor” has more of a detective focus with Lisle debunking some much-talked about Tudor myths. The only issue with this is a lack of description/argument and notes with holes in the connection (I had many, “You got this from that?!” moments). Despite this, Lisle also displayed the strength of not following stereotypes in “Tudor”: Mary isn’t vilified, Elizabeth isn’t glorified, etc. Instead, Lisle simply sees the strengths and weaknesses of each figurehead.
The conclusion of “Tudor” is exceptionally strong, wrapping up Elizabeth’s reign (but again, not overly romanticizing her); flowing into a memorable, well-rounded Epilogue in which Lisle truly brings home the Tudor message in a way not many history books have. Lisle doesn’t just stop there, as she briefly discusses some Tudor myths in the Appendices. For those readers who enjoy notes, Lisle offers pages worth while also serving up color plates and genealogical trees.
Even though one may not experience new information on the pages of “Tudor”, the presentation is entirely new. Versus a straightforward look at Tudor history, Lisle opens up the personal view of the Tudors and how THEY viewed themselves which explains their actions better then a simple look at their political actions. Lisle successfully treads a middle ground where readers both new and old to the topic will find enjoyment. “Tudor” is well-written and extremely readable with Lisle showing a marked improvement in her writing (it is obvious that she has more great things in store). Although not perfect, “Tudor” is very much recommended for anyone and everyone interested in the topic.
Note: My rating is more of a 4.5 but rounded to 4 versus 5 ...more
Even though the Tudors are known for their drama-filled (albeit, somewhat short) dynasty; there was already a family making waves before them: the PlaEven though the Tudors are known for their drama-filled (albeit, somewhat short) dynasty; there was already a family making waves before them: the Plantagenets. Dan Jones explains those historical figures who paved the road for England in, “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England”.
Jones states in his introduction to “The Plantagenets” that his work follows that of a narrative history. This means that although less scholarly and academic; one can at least hope for an exciting (almost fiction-like) sweep of events. This, however, would be a false expectation for “The Plantagenets”. Not only is Jones’s writing shallow in the academic realm, but it isn’t heart-thumping either.
Jones has a poorly-written, flat style which follows a “Person A did this and then that”-style. The flow is unnatural, the reader is not engaged, and the historical figures are not revealed. “The Plantagenets” doesn’t feature any new information while also being deadpan about the information it does give. Furthermore, the chapters in “The Plantagenets” are short and abrupt. Don’t expect an overall history of the Plantagenets as the format is one which instead focuses on one key figure or event per chapter. Although chronological, Jones doesn’t dive deep enough, cuts off the chapters too quickly, and has a choppy presentation. This leaves the reader with many unanswered questions.
Jones is also guilty of filling his text with speculation and phrases divulging what figures “thought”. Unless he has access to top-secret diaries, he does NOT know what anyone thought. Not to mention, information which does sound solid is not properly sourced with facts mentioned similar to, “A contemporary stated…” but the contemporary is never detailed. To say the least, much of “The Plantagenets” is an overview and one which doesn’t even feel credible.
As “The Plantagenets” progresses, Jones finds a more confident path in his storytelling. However, the text is merely that: a retelling of events which reads like a high school student’s history report. Plus, the work is inconsistent with some chapters being exponentially more interesting than others (which also demonstrates Jones’s own biases).
The second half of “The Plantagenets” is markedly better with its focus on Edward II and Edward III. The text flows much more smoothly and is more compelling than earlier chapters. Even despite this minor momentum kick, however; Jones’s work contains blatant errors (which the seasoned history reader will catch), plus some repetition in storytelling. Jones also insists on quoting secondary sources, again making the work feel like a “recap”.
These negative points roll into an overly-rushed conclusion which instead of detailing the drama between Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke in a memorable way; instead focuses more on Jones’s clear dislike for Richard. The epilogue of “The Plantagenets” also fails to sum-up the work in a resonating way.
For staunch history lovers, “The Plantagenets” lacks proper citation notes and sources with only a brief (and somewhat unclear) list of suggested “further reading”. A section of color plates exists but in black and white and again: lacking detail.
Sadly, “The Plantagenets” was a huge let down and is only suggested for those new to the topic seeking a lighter fair versus historical depth. The storytelling is weak and inaccuracies exist which should be kept in mind when reading “The Plantagenets”. I might consider the author again but only as a book I would skim and wouldn’t be jumping over hurdles for it. ...more
Love her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entireLove her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entirely: one which Susan Bordo attempts to capture in “The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen”.
Bordo’s “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a typical history piece and certainly not a biography. It instead combines elements of a cultural study, history, social history, psychology, and academic argument into one work. Although the first section of “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” recaps common myths surrounding Anne, Henry VIII, and Anne & Henry as a couple; it is not detailed enough for readers new to the topic, who as a result, would be at a loss with the events, authors mentioned, rumors exposed, etc. Therefore, it is best suited for readers with knowledge on the Tudor reign.
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” instantly suffers from some problems. Most noticeable is Bordo’s constant argument that individuals incorrectly judge Anne’s behaviors based on the morals of modern day rules. Yet, she then compares those same behaviors with modern similes in order to better acquaint the reader with their importance. This is hypocritical. Furthermore, although Bordo attempts to discredit other authors and theories, she doesn’t fully back up her own statements and is equally guilty of the biases and behaviors of those she is accusing (bluntly: Bordo lacks some academic value and is a bit too haughty in her views). Another issue is with repetition, where Bordo tends to drift off and then repeat recent ideas.
On the plus side, it is refreshing that Bordo is US-based so the view of Anne is from a unique/different angle from that of a staunch British author. This also gives “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” a fresh and modern feel. The book is inviting for those who subscribe to the school of thought that Henry was too strong of a personality to be ‘whipped’ by any female and thus Anne wasn’t some bewitching sexpot but merely the subject of Henry’s first lustful, obsessive, infatuation; as this appears to be the main thesis of Bordo’s work.
Although “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is understandably a cultural study; the constant references to such modern Tudor-pieces as “The Tudors” television series is overused and weakens some of the text. However, Bordo doesn’t claim to lead a purely academic debate and does successfully raise many compelling and suggestive arguments revolving around well-known theories, which whether for or against, provoke deep thinking with the reader. This also encourages slower reading to “take it all in” versus just rushing through the book.
The second section of “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” outlines and discusses the various incarnates of Anne throughout history in a multitude of outlets. This is not only quite in-depth but also interesting. However, Bordo is guilty of composition/arguments likened to that of a college paper, at times. First of all, it is clear that she isn’t a historian and “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” feels like a gender ideology university assignment where Bordo merely picked Anne as a focal point. Second, there are times when Bordo presents a quote but crops it or fine-tunes it to prove her point (much like a journalist).
The third section continues on the route of various portrayals of Anne (mostly with pop culture references and other present day-takes); and is also interesting but heavily feels gossipy, provoking of a fight, and like a bashing of authors (from both Bordo and other authors). Although I am not a strong proponent of Philippa Gregory and so I agreed with Bordo’s opinions on her (she supports Robin Maxwell whom I dislike as much as PG); the insults were too much and this portion of the book felt childish, pointless, and lacking merit. In fact, Bordo comes off as arrogant and calls herself an “Anne Boleyn Scholar” while she, herself, is new to the topic and is less versed than I am! Take that, Bordo!
Luckily, this turns around when Bordo discusses why the portrayals of Anne occur in relation to ideologies, cultures, and feminism. Sadly, this is only expressed on a few pages and begs for extension. This spins into why people love Anne today based on these deeper psychologies and thus ends “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” on a strong note. Also pleasing are the amount of primary and secondary sources by Bordo, plus her offered notes.
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a terrible book. It has a strong premise with a unique angle which clearly exemplifies Bordo’s ardor on the topic. However, it begs for more meat, some clarity, and editing making it obvious that this is Bordo’s first foray into the topic. Although “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” didn’t blow me away and I expected a bit more, I do recommend it for fellow Tudorphiles or those interested in Anne Boleyn.
I would like to note that the author rudely addressed me as I asked an another author if Susan mentioning the author in her book effected her review. Susan jumped on me for questioning the said author's review and also implied that I lied that she called herself an "Anne Boleyn scholar" (if I had the book, I would quote the page). Her tone and way of addressing me puts a sour taste in my mouth and thus I will never recommend her work....more
Sibling relationships can either be sadly brutal or just unremarkable. Sometimes, however, they are beautiful and richly loving. That is the preciselySibling relationships can either be sadly brutal or just unremarkable. Sometimes, however, they are beautiful and richly loving. That is the precisely the case with King Charles II and his dear younger sister, Minette. Unfortunately, there is a lack of books (historical fiction and history) detailing Minette’s life. Margaret Irwin spotlights this mysterious figure in the historical fiction novel, “Royal Flush: The Story of Minette”.
“Royal Flush” is intensely gratifying as it captures reader attention right out of the gate with an emotional onslaught; creating a connection to both the plot and Minette. Irwin does this naturally and with ease which continues throughout the entire novel. Granted, the writing style isn’t for everyone with an omnipresent narrator highlighting the views of various characters but in the case of “Royal Flush”: it works.
Elaborating on this, some readers may feel that “Royal Flush” is somewhat chunky with too many characters. Often times, Minette isn’t even the main focus. However, Irwin connects all of these threads intricately so that the plot reads smoothly, artistically, and with the vivid imagery of a film. There is “something special” about “Royal Flush” which may not work well in other HF novels but is terrific here.
Irwin’s writing style is in the literary fiction realm with flowery descriptions and deeper philosophies often slipping into stream of consciousness flows (“Royal Flush” isn’t overly dialogue-heavy). This isn’t overdone, though, that the novel has an ideal ratio of creativity to reality; maintaining a strong pace. In fact, “Royal Flush” feels very ‘real’ and is light on the fluff; instead focusing more on its historical accuracy. Readers will certainly be compelled to turn the pages even if the “real story” is well-known.
Irwin’s characterizations are strong and dense with each figure having an individualized personality. Minette’s arc is well-executed, with the relationship between her and King Charles II being quite appealing (and making sense). Irwin doesn’t simply stick to stereotypes and box up the characters. On the other hand, there is an overabundance of characters present in the novel and thus readers new to the topic run the risk of being overwhelmed. “Royal Flush” is recommended more for those readers already familiar with Charles II and Minette.
The middle of “Royal Flush” is noticeably weaker. Although Minette is more of a focus; her storyline is a bit rushed and glossed over. Furthermore, there are absences in historical accuracy and a complete void of showcasing her unhappy marriage with Philippe (the brother of King Louis of France). It should be noted, however, that Irwin does well in portraying Philippe with some depth versus merely being a flamboyant homosexual.
This portion of the novel is also a disappointment in its focus on inconsequential drama revolving around Minette and several of her lovers. Not only is this an odd portrayal (one which I have not seen substantiated in historical books nor scripted in other HF novels); but it also dampers the plot and strength of the novel’s pace. The highlight during this section is the snippets of letters from Charles to Minette which are authentic quotes even with the original spelling. This adds to the depth and realism of the story.
The final quarter of “Royal Flush” returns to Irwin’s heightened emotional writing drawing the reader back to Minette while connecting to the character’s inner-self. The pace is quickened and (finally) there is a focus on her marriage. The only downside is a bit too-obvious attempts at foreshadowing Minette’s fate.
The flow into the conclusion (plus the ending, itself) is heavy and powerful in the best way possible. Historical accuracy is strong while the fictional liberties are meaningful and not over exaggerated. Not only is “Royal Flush” well-rounded but Minette as a historical figure is rehabilitated and in an essence: sainted. All in all, the final pages are quite good.
As a side note, Irwin’s text does include some grammatical and spelling errors but nothing too major or harmful to the story. There is also an absence of genealogical tables or an author’s note which many HF readers of today highly enjoy.
“Royal Flush” isn’t perfect and could have used some improvement but it has something magical flowing within its pages. The plot is emotional on a subject (Minette) not often explored and is presented in a manner which outdoes many contemporary HF novels. Although Irwin’s style is definitely not for everyone; “Royal Flush” is recommended for readers interested and with some knowledge of Stuart England, Charles II, Minette, and the Sun King. ...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
The same way that modern-day rock stars prefer to date models and actresses date athletes; attractions occurred between English royalty and theatre acThe same way that modern-day rock stars prefer to date models and actresses date athletes; attractions occurred between English royalty and theatre actresses. Frieda Lightfoot tells the tale of Dora Jordan: a comedienne actress whom became the mistress of the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) in “The Duchess of Drury Lane”
“The Duchess of Drury Lane” is penned in a memoir-like narrative with Dora recalling her life story to a reporter in a first-person dialogue. This results in a colorful and illustrative narrative which comes alive on some levels. However, Dora isn’t as accessible as one would prefer, as although she describes her life; she doesn’t truly reveal her psyche or emotions/thoughts leaving a filter between herself and the reader.
For those readers who are fans of Nell Gwynne (the mistress of King Charles II); “The Duchess of Drury Lane” highly resembles and is in the style of HF novels surrounding Nell (in fact, Nell is even mentioned within the story). Although this familiarity can be appealing; to some readers it can feel like ‘stealing’ Nell’s personality.
Some further frustration occurs with Dora’s absence of emotion and over-simplification of monumental events (i.e. “I found I was pregnant again. My mother died. Moving on”) which leaves unanswered questions and further inhibits connecting with her character. Lightfoot also allows Dora to be a complainer such as bickering that she keeps becoming pregnant and giving birth to bastard children but yet continuing to sleep with the father of the children (shut your legs, Dora!). Lightfoot also unattractively depicts Dora as an ego-maniac, constantly mentioning how loved she is, how many admirers she has, etc. Dora basically takes no responsibility for her actions and thinks everyone simply loves her.
The prose and language style within “The Duchess of Drury Lane” is beautiful grammatically but also easy-to-understand for the average reader. However, issues arise with inconsistency as the story is slow in some areas, then faster, then slow, etc. The pace is therefore jumpy and uneven. Sadly, Lightfoot spins ‘usual’ storytelling by focusing too much on menial events while barely grazing on those which beg for more attention. This hurries the plot and adds to a lack of deeper connection to characters.
On the positive side, despite the gaps in time and lack of details; “The Duchess of Drury Lane” offers a level of surprise and unpredictability in the plot which encourages page turning. Also appealing is the fact that Lightfoot clearly performed a large amount of research concerning the theatre-world of the era and presents it in a vibrant, compelling, and insightful way.
Don’t expect to personally get to know the Duke of Clarence (King William IV) as he is also portrayed flatly and exceedingly lovey-dovey to the point of unbelievability. Although, he does have some chemistry with Dora which adds to the strength of the plot.
The latter portion of “The Duchess of Drury Lane” is entirely too rushed and incorporates odd stylistics such as changing the narrator for a few pages which is not implored elsewhere in the novel. The conclusion is also abrupt and leaves the reader with some lose ends. However, Lightfoot attempts to answer some of these in the ‘Author’s Note’.
Although minor, a genealogical table would have been useful. Another complaint: Lightfoot has the tendency of choosing a word and using it several times (even on one page), as though she found a thesaurus and was determined to swap and use words. Although minor, it is slightly distracting. Also, it personally bothered me that the model on the cover has blatant acrylic nails with a French manicure making it look modern and costume-y. However, this is a flippant detail and naught to do with the actual novel.
Despite my complaints regarding the too-fast pace, lack of detail, and narration-style; “The Duchess of Drury Lane” is an enjoyable, quick read for those readers who seek a direct story stripped of details such as the color of curtains or characters’ deeper emotions. Lightfoot does successfully introduce Dora Jordan to audiences and promotes further research regarding her life. “The Duchess of Drury Lane” is a novel which is “hit-or miss” with readers and encourages one to read it for him/herself. ...more
The influence, power, and dominance of large families have been a prevalent concept in both history and modern times. One of these families, who playeThe influence, power, and dominance of large families have been a prevalent concept in both history and modern times. One of these families, who played a key role in England during the Wars of the Roses, was the Woodvilles: the family of Elizabeth, Queen Consort to Edward IV. Susan Higginbotham explores the role of this notorious family in, “The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family”.
Higginbotham is well-known for her historical fiction novels focusing more on the historical end of events (versus narrative fluff) resulting in strong and informative writings. This style paved the way for Higginbotham’s first foray into nonfiction. The interesting factor of “The Woodvilles” is that Higginbotham avoids a chronological biography/portrait view of the family and instead focuses on events, myths, and important happenings; creating a topic-by-topic discussion. Don’t be alarmed that this causes confusion, as Higginbotham is very clear and concise making “The Woodvilles” very readable. Not many authors could pull this off successfully but Higginbotham does so with ease.
One of the positives of the stylistic format of “The Woodvilles” is that Higginbotham can avoid over speculation, biases, and assumptions which other authors use to fill their pages when not enough information is available. Granted, there are some speculative statements in “The Woodvilles” but these are few and far between. There are also some word phrases that are a bit blurry such as on page 65 where Higginbotham states that, “In recent years, popular fiction, especially the novels of Rosemary Hawley Jarman and Philippa Gregory…” This causes confusion as Jarman’s novels were published in the 70s. Again though, these are not excessive issues.
The most striking feature of Higginbotham’s “The Woodvilles” is her thorough and almost detective-like investigation, debunking myths left and right. One can assume that Higginbotham’s experience as a working attorney played a large part in her writing as all of her arguments could hold up in a court of law considering at least circumstantial evidence. Notably, “The Woodvilles” is one of the strongest history books on the topic with its ‘case closed’ attitude; yet, without a conceited tone. “The Woodvilles” is an expert blend of entertainment and fact.
“The Woodvilles” is effectively filled with quoted documents, letters, and even a poem written by Anthony Woodville; in full. These are strong supplements for those readers who appreciate primary sources and enjoy historical figures “speaking for themselves”. However, some readers may find this to break up the text too much and that it chops off the narrative flow.
A small but intriguing detail present in “The Woodvilles” is Higginbotham’s occasional sarcastic and slightly snarky comments. These appear in several of her books but rather than being juvenile or displaying biases; they are downright hilarious and enjoyable.
The concluding chapters of “The Woodvilles” are well-written and memorable capturing the essence of the Woodvilles while also summarizing the theme of the book with poignancy. Plus, Higginbotham encourages further research on members of the family not usually discussed (such as Edward Woodville). Flowing richly into an appendix which offers the full wills of some Woodville figures; “The Woodvilles” is truly engaging.
“The Woodvilles” includes a section of photo plates, bibliography (nicely sectioned by type of source), and notes. Unfortunately, a genealogical chart would have strengthened the text due to the many figures listed but is absent.
Overall, “The Woodvilles” is a very unique look at a family which is often gossiped about but not necessarily spotlighted. Higginbotham creates excitement backed up with intense research and detail, delivered in a readable prose. “The Woodvilles” is simply delicious and recommended for fans of Higginbotham’s novels and everyone interested in the Wars of the Roses. ...more