Saturday, June 29, 2013

BR: The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen

The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen

by Sandra Worth

The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen is a complex but approachable historical fiction novel narrated by Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and the wife of Henry VII.   Without a doubt I was captivated from beginning to end by Worth’s ability to weave the intrigue and suspense, plotting, murder, love and intense hatred of the period into a suspenseful but historical based thriller.  

Elizabeth, though the favorite daughter of the charismatic King Edward IV, her life is full of sacrifice and disappointment. After her father’s death she flees into sanctuary at Westminster with her mother, sisters and brothers and watches helplessly as her parent’s marriage is declared bigamous and the royal children, herself included, declared bastards.  Her mother rages at the ambition and treachery of her once beloved uncle, Richard of Gloucester, which seems to confirmed when her brother’s disappear into the Tower and Richard claims the throne for himself.  

Elizabeth has great difficulty reconciling Richard, the uncle she loved, with the tyrant her mother claims he has become. It is only through the eyes of the ailing Queen Anne that Elizabeth sees Richard again as a man of dedication to England and one worthy of respect.  Only after this life changing conversation with Queen Anne does Elizabeth find the courage to accept her destiny, to marry Henry Tudor and thereby unite the White Rose of York with the Red of Lancaster and forever end the bloodshed that has torn England apart.  Elizabeth’s first love, much like that of her namesake and granddaughter, is England.  Elizabeth admirably sacrifices her own personal happiness to bring peace to her beloved county. 

As Queen, Elizabeth endures every disappointment with an innate regality few around her possess.  Though Queen, Elizabeth finds that she is virtually powerless, constantly spied upon and watched by the Countess of Richmond, the King’s mother, the true font of power at court.  Rather than fill her heart with spite and hatred she turns her affection to her children, especially Arthur, the heir and true human embodiment of the united England.  Elizabeth learns to love her husband, and remarkable they seem to have a happy marriage. 

Pretenders and threats to his new dynasty and especially from Perkin Warbeck, who claims to be the George, the Queen’s youngest brother, haunt Henry Tudor throughout his reign.  Is this Perkin Warbeck her brother, Elizabeth cannot be sure and doesn’t have the power to find out.  Many around her find her too complacent, but to this reader she seemed to possess a very important quality at this tumultuous time – she was a survivor. 

Worth gives her reader a well-researched novel with close attention to historical detail and accuracy.  Her author notes describe the writing process and the liberties she took with explanations for the same.  Also, Worth provides her reader with a bibliography and historical notes.  There is little criticism to offer regarding The King’s Daughter.  This reader found it engaging, informative and a thoughtfully written account about the first Tudor Queen.  A true must read!

This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #27
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #23

Thursday, June 27, 2013

BR: The Lady Elizabeth

The Lady Elizabeth

by Alison Weir

In The Lady Elizabeth Alison Weir explores the early life of Elizabeth Tudor as she grows up from beloved princess and after the execution of her mother by her father, The Lady Elizabeth.  As a young girl she endures four stepmothers, her declaration as a bastard and emerged battered but not broken.  Life had given Elizabeth a deep strength that would later become her most formidable asset. 

Weir follows Elizabeth through her guardianship under the Dowager Queen Katherine though her brief exposure to a semblance of family life is shattered with Katherine’s marriage to Thomas Seymour who pursued the young and impressionable Elizabeth relentlessly until they were caught in an uncompromising embrace and Elizabeth was sent away from Katherine forever.  Weir gives her reader into Elizabeth’s thoughts and fears during these early formative years.  However, I could not believe that Alison Weir, the author of respectable non-fiction on Elizabeth, included the pregnancy tale in the novel!  I understand that this is a work of fiction and Weir is free to pursue whatever insane plotline she chooses, but really why lend her name to this ridiculous rumor that Elizabeth gave birth to Thomas Seymour’s child, assisted in labor by a blindfolded midwife.  I think we can all agree this was an attack on Elizabeth’s character by anti-Protestant factions and nothing more.  

Why would Weir, a respected author and historian, include such an outlandish rumor in her fiction?  Perhaps it was an effort to explain Elizabeth’s refusal to marry?  If Weir felt compelled to find a definitive event in the life of Elizabeth to explain her refusal to have no master there are other events that are equally as plausible as explanations.  I cannot think of a reason why Weir included this unsubstantiated rumor, and thereby added some credibility to it, and sadly throughout the remainder of the novel I was distracted with trying to find a reason for Weir inclusion of this far from historical fact, one that is damaging to the reputation of her subject, in her novel.  I could not think of one and sadly was distracted for the remainder of Weir’s account.

As one would expect Weir’s prose was well written and flowed well.  I thought that the stand out account was the description of Elizabeth’s time in the Tower during the reign of her sister Mary.  Her fear was palpable and Weir effectively communicated the enormous effect this imprisonment had on the Elizabeth.  I felt that Weir did an excellent job in describing Elizabeth’s torment as she lived under fear of execution within the same walls where her mother met that same fate and lay buried in an arrow quest.  One can only imagine how, with her own mother’s death as an example, how Elizabeth must have felt so very close to death herself. 

So while I would recommend The Lady Elizabeth as a well-written fictional account of the life of a remarkable woman I hesitate to do so without reservations.  While I respect the creative license that fiction affords I feel that Weir, a respected historian and writer of non-fiction, owes her own reputation more than a sensational account for the masses.  

This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #25
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #21

Monday, June 24, 2013

Upcoming Blog Tour: The Promise of Provence

France Book Tours presents...


Monday, July 1
Giveaway at Vvb32 Reads
Tuesday, July 2
Review + Giveaway at Chocolate & Croissants
Wednesday, July 3
Review + Giveaway at The French Village Diaries
Interview + Giveaway at An Accidental Blog
Thursday, July 4
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, July 5
Interview at The French Village Diaries
Saturday, July 6
Excerpt posted by Helena Fairfax
Sunday, July 7
Review at Walkie Talkie Book Club
Monday, July 8
Review at Vvb32 Reads
Highlights + Giveaway at Words And Peace
Tuesday, July 9
Review at Faith Hope & Cherrytea
Giveaway at Walkie Talkie Book Club
Wednesday, July 10
Review at Impressions In Ink
Review + Giveaway at Queen Of All She Reads
Review + Giveaway at The Redlady’s Reading Room

BR Her Highness the Traitor ~ The Tudor Story you Don't Know

Her Highness the Traitor: The Tudor Story you Don't Know

by Susan Higginbotham

In Her Highness, the Traitor, Susan Higginbotham, seeks to redeem the reputation of both the Dudley and Grey families.  Her purpose for the novel, as described in the author’s note, was to craft characters closer to their historical counterparts as she feels recent research has exposed that neither the Dudley’s or the Grey’s were the villains they are so as in popular fiction. 

Like many I have always thought Jane Grey a sympathetic character.  The poor girl, was used by other’s to serve their own ends, whether it be her only family or not, is beyond doubt.  I have never found any evidence that would cast any of the responsibility for the seizure of the throne on Jane herself.  Indeed, Mary I could not find fault against her.  Higginbotham inventively tells the story of Jane through the eyes of her mother, Frances Dudley, and her mother-in-law Jane Dudley.

I found the use of these woman at first off-putting, but some grew to appreciate Higginbotham’s choice of these women, not only two of the foremost noblewomen in the land, The Duchess of Suffolk and The Duchess of Norfolk, married to the two most powerful men and each connected to Jane. 

Admittedly, I have never liked Frances Grey, and though Higginbotham looked to redeem the character of families I feel that she was less successful with the Grey’s.  I seemed to take to Jane Dudley more, especially in her courageous and successful campaign to win the freedom of her sons.   In the end, in this reader’s opinion, Higginbotham was more successful in her purpose with the Dudley’s, and less so with the Grey’s.  The Grey’s, to this reader at least, still seemed to show little care for the safety of their children, were reckless and impulsive in their actions that seemed to be rooted in delusion more than anything else.  Perhaps there is just no redeeming them, but I applaud Higginbotham for her attempt.  

All that being said I enjoyed this novel and found it a quick entertaining read.  I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the story from the perspectives of powerful women and commend Higginbotham for venturing to set the course of fiction back on a more historically based foundation. 

This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #24
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #20

BR: Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor

Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor

by Julianne Lee

Mary Tudor, the only surviving child of the union of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, was born into royal splendor but life soon taught her that nothing lasts forever.  She was truly her mother’s daughter, clinging to the Catholic faith they shared while at the same time this very devotion separated them when they needed the comfort of the other the most.  Mary has been vilified by history; “Bloody Mary” really says it all.  Personally, I have never cared for the woman I have come to know through the historical study of the period, but I have always admired her mother, for her strength and determination and wanted to give Mary another look. 
After the separation and divorce of her parents Mary is set aside and called to serve upon her baby half sister, now the Princess she once was.  I can imagine this insult was not only cruel and hurtful but most likely destroyed what little self-confidence she might have had left.  From the time of her separation from her mother until her death Mary knows little true affection from any other human soul. 
Lee successfully humanizes Mary and softens the edges of her devout religious fanaticism.  Lee portrays an unhappy woman who feels divinely placed to restore the True Faith to England.  Sadly, the reforms become brutal as they are resisted and Mary zealously initiates public burnings of Reformist heresy.  Mary it seems is so rigid in nature that to her rebellion should only be met with greater force; she is unable to see the connection between extreme reform which is only successful under threat and fear of death as an obstacle to peace and stability in her realm.  Mary is just unable to do things any other way. 
A lonely woman, Mary yearns for marriage, and not until her late thirties is she wed to Phillip II of Spain.  Mary is enchanted with Phillip and she does not seem to recognize that the marriage is unpopular and the groom miserable.  Truly, who could not feel for Mary as she suffers two phantom pregnancies and then is abandoned by her husband?  Lee guides the reader through Mary’s life rich with disappointment and almost devoid of true friendship or love.  Mary’s legacy was never realized; rather her vision to return England to Rome was most likely the final nail in the coffin of Catholicism in England.  Her legacy is a somber one, an English queen who sacrificed her people to her God.
I enjoyed Julianne Lee’s account and would recommend it to other readers who, like I, are interested in a more sympathetic account of Queen Mary I.  

This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #23
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #19

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