Rachael Hewison's Reviews > Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge

Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman
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's review
Dec 29, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: history-monarchy
Read in December, 2011

Definitely an interesting book, Sex with Kings had me captivated for quite some time. It is a well thought out book and is structured cohesively contrary to other opinions. Many people feel that she should have divided it into a time scale or concentrated on one mistress at a time, but I thought the structure was fantastic. She divided her chapters well and thought of interesting topics. She explored themes such as how the mistress’ husbands reacted to their wives sleeping with the king, the relationship between the queen and her husband’s mistress and what happened to the mistress if she should outlive the king. She used many of the same mistresses in each chapter, which may to some people be tiresome but for me it never felt dull or repetitive. The structure does mean that the book doesn’t lend itself easily to period based research, but it is nonetheless a very interesting and informative (if somewhat speculative) read.

Because of this structure it didn’t feel like a historical textbook, it felt more like lots of short stories. This probably helps lend the book towards those readers who are not used to reading the typical historical reference book and lean more toward fiction. This is probably quite apt as there are times where Herman seems to let her imagination run away with her pen, leaving parts stranded somewhere between fact and fiction. However much of the book does appear to be well researched and as a history graduate, specialising in many of the periods covered she managed to surprise me with some of her revelations.

All-in-all I would say that contrary to popular opinion it is a well structured book for its topic and audience, suited as it is to the casual armchair historian and as such it is never dull to read. It made me laugh out loud a few times and I found myself regularly reading quotes aloud to my friends. The only part I didn’t like was the conclusion, which was a bit bland. Portraits and pictures of all the mistresses mentioned would have perhaps improved it slightly more. I couldn’t recommend it more as an entertaining historical book-it’s made me want to read more on the subject.
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