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The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters

Posted By Claire on April 16, 2015

The Jezebel EffectBefore I launch into my review, I feel that I need to say that I’ve got to know the author of this book, Kyra Cornelius Kramer, really well over the past few years and I liked her writing style so much that I asked her to be a regular contributor to Tudor Life magazine. There, full disclosure! Having said that, I’m honest with my reviews.

I took The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters on holiday with me recently to read on the plane. As someone who spends my time writing about Tudor history, I was particularly interested in the sections on Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn and Catherine Howard and thought I might just speed read or skim over the sections on women who didn’t appeal to me in the same way. Well, my plan to speed read didn’t quite work out. Kyra’s accounts of these women, her explanation of historical propaganda that is still effecting how we perceive these women today, and her reference to modern cases of ‘slut-shaming’ and the damage it has done – even leading to young girls committing suicide – drew me in and before I knew it I was reading every word.

Kyra is an academic and an anthropologist, but although her writing is academic in that it is well-researched and referenced, it is far from dry. It could be a heavy subject and there are some heart-rending modern stories in the book, but Kyra’s little sarcastic asides inject some humour into the book and I loved that.

Her section on Anne Boleyn was excellent. I’m always thinking that Anne was ‘damned if she did and damned if she didn’t’ regarding her relationship with Henry VIII. I quite often receive comments on my blog and Facebook page calling Anne a whore and home wrecker, or, on the other hand, a woman who manipulated Henry by holding out on him. Kyra writes:

“On one hand, Anne Boleyn was a nasty vamp if she had sex with the men who wanted her. On the other hand, Anne Boleyn was a cold-hearted prick tease and manipulator if she didn’t have sex with the men she charmed. Simply by being desired, Anne is placed in a no-win situation. Men desired Anne Boleyn but could not have her and she has been punished for it ever since.”

“Exactly!”, I almost cried out on the plane.

Kyra goes on to talk about how even Anne’s failure to reply to Henry VIII’s love letters to her has been seen by some historians as a ploy to “increase his ardour” because Anne knew that Henry just couldn’t give her up. Face palm, head bang… Couldn’t Anne have just been trying to show Henry she wasn’t interested?
As I read this book I felt a solidarity with Kyra, I felt that we were both doing face-palms at the same time with how these women’s actions (or lack of action) have been interpreted.

Anne Boleyn is, of course, not the only woman to be looked at in this book. Kyra also examines the stories and treatment of Jezebel, Cleopatra, Mary Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Catherine the Great, along with examples of how women are still slut-shamed by society today. It is a provocative book. It makes you question what you were taught in history classes, it makes you think about how your children are being educated and the mixed messages that society gives them, it makes you want to get on your soap box!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I found myself nodding as I read it, getting angry about the treatment of these women and girls, and reading parts out to my husband. It made me interact with it and it made impression on me, and that’s the sign of a very good book in my opinion.

Book Details

Have you heard that Catherine the Great died having sex with her horse? Or perhaps you prefer the story that Anne Boleyn had six fingers and slept with her brother? Or that Katheryn Howard slept with so many members of the Tudor court that they couldn’t keep track of them all? As juicy and titillating as the tales might be, they are all, patently untrue.

Modern PR firms may claim that no publicity is bad publicity, but that, too, is untrue. The fact that Cleopatra is better known for her seductions than her statecraft, and that Jezebel is remembered as a painted trollop rather than a faithful wife and religiously devout queen, isn’t a way for historians to keep these interesting women in the public eye, rather it’s a subversion of their power, a re-writing of history to belittle and shame these powerful figures, preventing them from becoming icons of feminine strength and capability.

Slut shaming has its roots in our earliest history, but it continues to flourish in our supposedly post-feminist, equal-rights world. It is used to punish women for transgressions against gender norms, threatening the security of their place in society and warning that they’d better be “good girls” and not rock the patriarchal boat, or they, too could end up with people believing they’ve slept with everything from farm animals to relatives.

This is The Jezebel Effect.

Paperback: 412 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 12, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1508666113
ISBN-13: 978-1508666110
Kindle ASIN: B00U2NXG6K
Kindle File size: 2886 KB
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and other book retailers.

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The Crown: A Novel by Nancy Bilyeau

Posted By Claire on March 13, 2015

the crownNancy Bilyeau’s The Crown is the first in a trilogy which has become known as the Joanna Stafford series. The books are set in Henry VIII’s reign and the protagonist is Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun who is also a member of the once favoured Stafford family. The trilogy consists of The Crown, The Chalice and the forthcoming The Tapestry, which comes out on 24 March.

I’ve actually had The Crown sitting on my kindle for well over a year but I kept forgetting about it. It wasn’t until I saw The Chalice on offer on Amazon that I started reading the first one. As soon as I started it I was kicking myself for leaving it for so long. I got completely wrapped up in it and moved straight on to The Chalice when I finished it. Leaving it for so long does have its benefits though, I won’t have long to wait for book 3 and can just move straight on to that.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so I’m only going to give a brief rundown on the story. Joanna Stafford leaves her home, the Dartford Priory, without permission when she hears that her beloved cousin and childhood friend Margaret Bulmer is being burned at the stake for heresy. This outing to London was always going to be a nightmare for Joanna, but she didn’t know that it would lead to her being imprisoned in the Tower along with her father. To save her father from torture, and potential death, Joanna has to go back to her priory and locate an ancient relic that is said to have special powers. But this relic is not the only secret the priory is hiding and it’s not long before something truly terrible happens there. Can Joanna find the relic in time to save her father? Will the priory be dissolved by Cromwell? Will the crime be solved?

The Crown has all the right ingredients for me. Firstly, it has lovable characters. Joanna is a wonderful character and I know that I’m going to enjoy getting to know her better in the subsequent books. She didn’t grow up to be a nun, she served Katherine of Aragon at court for a short time before escaping court life and taking the veil. She is lovable in that she has an independent spirit and many flaws, but courage and a good heart. Other characters I loved included Brother Edmund and his sister, and the rather dashing (well, he sounds dashing!) Geoffrey Scoville. Secondly, it’s thrilling, as every good thriller should be! Some books take a few chapters to get into, but this one was action-packed from the start. It is extremely well-paced and makes you keep turning those pages!

The crown uk

UK cover

I also loved the different threads in the book – Joanna’s past coming back to haunt her, her relationships with those at the priory being tested by her behaviour and her secret, Joanna’s inner struggle with the secret she must keep and the work she must do for a man she does not like or trust, murder, faith, the history of the dissolution of the monasteries, corruption, mystery, ancient relics with magical powers… The only thing that did not sit well with me was the characterization of George Boleyn. I can’t spoil the storyline by saying what his involvement is in the story, but I didn’t like that bit. Obviously this is a novel, and a brilliant one at that, and Nancy Bilyeau does not make any claims about accuracy, so I’m not going to make too much of it. I just didn’t like it because of the work I’ve done on George and his family. That’s personal to me, though.

If you love historical fiction and enjoy a good mystery you really need to put this trilogy on your “to read” list. I’m not at all surprised that The Crown was shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger Award for historical fiction or that The Chalice was the winner of the Best Historical Mystery of 2013 at the Romantic Times Book Review Awards, such recognition is well-deserved.

Book Details

An astonishing debut in historical fiction, hailed as “part The Da Vinci Code, part The Other Boleyn Girl,” (Woman’s Day), The Crown follows one nun’s dangerous quest to find an ancient relic during Cromwell’s reign of terror.

Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.

While Joanna is in the Tower, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation.

With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must decide who she can trust so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781451626865
ISBN-13: 978-1451626865
ASIN: 145162686X
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.

Don’t forget that The Tapestry will be released on 24th March and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George

Posted By Claire on March 11, 2015

US cover

US cover

Thank you to Penelope Wright for reviewing Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles, which is a whopper of a book being 800+ pages! Over to Penny…

Phew! This novel about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots is similar in size to War and Peace. Although it takes some reading I did enjoy it.

I first learned about Mary during studies of the Tudors and Stuarts for my O’ level History exam. (It’s an age thing, you would now class it as GCSE) I learned that Mary was the villain of the piece and that Elizabeth I, although reluctantly, was forced to sign the death warrant. She was in fear for her country and her life because of the plotting that Mary was involved in with Catholics from abroad and at home. My Father, being a Scot, strongly disagreed. Margaret George starts the novel at the time of the execution in 1587 but then flashes back to Mary’s birth. Her father James V of Scotland died after the battle with the English at Solway Moss. It is said that James just faded away, he was devastated by the defeat although he wasn’t there, and died when Mary was just six days old after he was told he had a daughter not a son.

Margaret George appears to side with my father and treats Mary more as a victim in the machinations and turmoil in Scotland at that time. She is sent to France at a very young age in preparation for her marriage to the Dauphin. She leaves her mother Mary of Guise, a Catholic, as regent in a Scotland that is becoming a staunch Protestant country. The Guise family was a very strong force in France and George uses them as the influence which shaped the character of Mary, Queen of Scots during her young life. When Mary returns to Scotland after the death of both her French husband Francois II and mother, Mary of Guise, she enters a world dominated by Protestantism and John Knox, well known for his abhorrence of Catholics and women in authority. He wrote a pamphlet entitled The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. This angered Elizabeth I and it is believed she never forgave him.

George follows the life of Mary through her marriages to Darnley and Bothwell, and in my view treats her as a woman of passion and not much common sense. Perhaps she was, she certainly couldn’t see that her people had little sympathy for her. She expected Elizabeth to welcome her with open arms but Elizabeth, being a very shrewd Queen, kept her, not only imprisoned but at arm’s length.

In some respects I have changed my view of Mary after reading this novel. I now think that as Mary allowed her heart to rule her head, she became embroiled in events that she couldn’t control, neither could she envisage the effects her involvement in them would have on Scotland and England, let alone on her own life.

UK cover

UK cover

George has obviously researched Mary in depth, although she does, in the Author’s Afterword, explain that she has had to build up a composite picture of Mary and has used some artistic licence in explaining Mary’s ‘involvement’ or knowledge of the murder of Darnley. One wonders why Darnley was murdered when it was said he was riddled with syphilis and dying anyway, but if he was indeed planning to murder Mary it is understandable that he needed to be ‘dealt with’.

If you enjoy historical novels with a serious amount of historical fact I can recommend this book, even though it is long. If you have the patience to go from start to finish it is well worth while.

Book details

Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles is the story of a woman born to rule a nation – and the glorious pageant of love and tragedy that followed in her wake. Mary’s beauty inspired poetry – yet her birthright engendered hideous treachery and terrible, bloody murder.

This novel is Margaret George’s magnificent recreation of the life of one of history’s greatest legends. A woman accused of murdering her husband to marry her lover. A woman who became Queen six days after her birth in 1542 – only to be beheaded forty years later on the orders of her cousin, Elizabeth I…

Paperback: 896 pages (870 pages US edition)
Publisher: UK – Pan; New Edit/Cover edition (10 May 2012)
US – St. Martin’s Griffin; 4th ed. edition (April 15, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: UK – 0330327909, US – 0312155859
ISBN-13: UK – 978-0330327909, US – 978-0312155858
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

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The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses by Simon Anderson

Posted By Claire on February 18, 2015

The ClaimantThank you to Penelope Wright for this review of Simon Anderson’s book The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses.

This novel by Simon Anderson is set between 1459 and ends in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses at the Battle of Towton. Two of the main characters, Henry VI and Richard of York – two strands of the Plantagenet dynasty – and the events surrounding them were instrumental in bringing the Tudors to Power in 1485 through Richard of York’s sons, Edward IV and Richard III. The central characters, the Wardlow Family and Edmund of Calais, as far as I can gather, are fictional but never the less, brought to life by Anderson through his obvious research of the period and his attention to detail of the lives of the gentry and estate workers at that time. He also uses his descriptive writing powers to bring the horrors of warfare in the 15th century into focus.

Roger Kynaston was the Constable of Denbigh Castle, although there is obviously poetic license used in the siege of Denbigh scenes because of the involvement of the fictional characters. Anderson introduces “gonners” here – I had no idea what they were but the description and the use of these weapons was a complete surprise and again shows how much research into warfare and weaponry has gone into this novel. I won’t spoil the enjoyment of the book, you will have to read it for yourself!

I have learnt a great deal about “The Wars of The Roses”, things that I was never interested in at school. As soon as wars and battles and dates were introduced it really did not grab my interest. The school history lessons were of little interest to me unless they included more about how the people lived on a daily basis. This novel brought the conflict to life as well as including the information about the battles and weaponry of the times.

As previously stated, the book ends at the Battle of Towton, when Edward of York defeated Henry VI. This, of course, was not the end of the Wars of The Roses, although Edward did bring peace during his reign. I would be happy to read a sequel to this book, perhaps following the Wardlow family and maybe incorporating the mystery of The Princes in the Tower.

Well-written, obviously well-researched and equally imaginative. If you, like me, are an avid historical novel reader, then in my opinion you can’t go wrong with The Claimant.

Book details

October, 1459.

The harvest is gathered and the country wears its autumn livery. Four years after the first battle of The Cousins’ Wars, later known as The Wars of the Roses, the simmering political tensions between the Royal Houses of Lancaster and York have once again boiled over into armed confrontation. Nobles must decide which faction to support in the bitter struggle for power. The stakes are high and those who choose unwisely have everything to lose.
Sir Geoffrey Wardlow follows the Duke of York while others rally to King Henry’s cause, but one in particular company under the Royal banner is not all it seems, its leader bent on extracting a terrible revenge that will shatter the lives of the Wardlow family. Edmund of Calais has a private score to settle and is prepared to risk everything to satisfy his thirst for revenge. Riding the mounting wave of political upheaval, he willingly throws himself time and again into the lethal mayhem of a medieval battle as he strives to achieve his aim. One man is out to stop him: his half-brother, Richard. Born of the same father but of very different minds the two young men find themselves on opposite sides during the violence that erupts as political tensions finally reach breaking point. Each has sworn to kill the other should they meet on the field of battle. As they play their cat-and-mouse game in the hope of forcing a decisive confrontation, their loved ones are drawn inexorably into the fray, forcing the protagonists to question the true cost of victory…

Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: MadeGlobal Publishing (December 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8493746495
ISBN-13: 978-8493746490
Available as a Kindle book and paperback from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.

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The Traitor’s Mark by D.K. Wilson

Posted By Claire on February 13, 2015

traitors markIf you read my review of D.K. Wilson’s first book in this series of Tudor who-dunnits, The First Horseman, you’ll know that I ignored everything else in my “to read” pile and moved straight on to The Traitor’s Mark. I was that gripped by Wilson’s story.

Thankfully, the second instalment was just as gripping as the first. I do hate it when a series starts with a ‘bang’ and then the second just isn’t as good as the first, but The Traitor’s Mark was just as riveting as the first.

The Traitor’s Mark takes us forward in time by seven years to autumn 1543. The characters we came to know and love in 1536 have got on with their lives after the troubles of 1536, but little do they know that trouble is once more stirring. The protagonist Thomas Treviot, a London goldsmith, is trying to contact artist and jewellery designer Hans Holbein, about a promised jewellery commission, when his messenger and friend gets arrested for murdering Holbein’s apprentice and Holbein is nowhere to be found. Not only does Treviot need to help his friend get out of this mess, he needs to find Holbein to get the promised jewellery design. But before he can do much about tracking down the artist, a warrant arrives requiring him to visit Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury – what has Treviot got himself into?

Everything soon spirals out of control and Treviot just doesn’t know who to trust. Who’s Black Harry and who’s his puppet master? Are Treviot’s links to Cranmer going to bring him down as people in high places plot against the Archbishop? And just what has Holbein to do with any of this? Can Treviot find Holbein and keep those he loves safe?

Once again, eminent historian Derek Wilson has taken a real-life mystery – the mysterious death of Holbein in 1543 – and turned it into a compelling and intriguing thriller. The political intrigue of Henry VIII’s court at this time is brought beautifully to life through Treviot’s eyes and Wilson has the gift of conjuring up vivid pictures of both places and people in the reader’s mind with just a few words.

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The First Horseman by D.K. Wilson

Posted By Claire on January 30, 2015

First HorsemanMove over C.J. Sansom, there’s a new guy in town!

Yes, if you’re a fan of Sansom’s Shardlake series, as I am, you will want to get hold of a copy of D.K. Wilson’s The First Horseman and the sequel The Traitor’s Mark. You may not have heard of D.K. Wilson, but if you’re a Tudor history buff you will have heard of Derek Wilson and I bet you have at least one of his books on your shelf.

The renowned Tudor historian who is responsible for books like In The Lion’s Court: Power, Ambition and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII and Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man – both of which are in my bookcase and both of which I highly recommend – has turned his hand to historical fiction set in the reign of Henry VIII. Like Sansom, Wilson’s novels are inspired by real historical events and feature real historical people, but the main character is fictional. I think it works really well because it creates what historian Anthony Beevor recently referred to as a “distance” between the reader and history, enough of a distance for the reader not to be confused or to believe that what they are reading is accurate.

Wilson’s protagonist is Thomas Treviot, a London goldsmith whose friend, merchant Robert Packington, is murdered on his way to mass in Cheapside early one morning in 1536, just a few months after Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution. Treviot’s no detective, he’s a friend looking for answers and his search takes him from Cheapside to Antwerp, from the Southwark “stews” to the court of Henry VIII, and puts Treviot and those he loves in real danger

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The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories by Amy Licence

Posted By Claire on December 22, 2014

Six wivesI thoroughly enjoyed Amy Licence’s books on Eizabeth of York and Cecily Neville, so I was interested in reading her take on Henry VIII, his wives and mistresses.

Although the title suggests that it focuses on the women’s stories and tells things from their point of view, I didn’t find it a ‘feminized’ account of Henry’s love life at all. It is an examination of Henry and the women he was linked to, and rather than simply looking at his relationships with them Licence also tells the women’s stories, their background and what happened to them after Henry had finished with them.

The book is set out chronologically, from the birth of Catherine of Aragon in December 1485 to 1547, Henry VIII’s death and the lives of those women who survived him. Licence dedicates a section of the book, with multiple chapters, to each wife and also to Henry VIII’s known and acknowledged mistresses, Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn. She also examines the evidence for Henry having relationships with women like Anne Hastings, Etiennette de la Baume, Jane Popincourt, Elizabeth Carew, the mystery Imperial lady, the Shelton sisters, Mary Berkeley, Joanna Dingley and others, and also evidence for children rumoured to be fathered by the King. As Licence points out, we may only have hard evidence for Henry’s affairs with Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn, but the fact that we only know about those relationships because Henry acknowledged Bessie’s son as his own and was forced to admit to sleeping with Mary when he needed to apply for a dispensation to marry Anne Boleyn, shows that Henry was a very private and discreet man. Just because we don’t have firm evidence for the other women Henry was rumoured to be involved with, it does not mean that Henry was a “prude” or that he did not have numerous affairs. Each alleged affair is examined by Licence and conclusions drawn.

The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII is an enlightening read and I enjoyed Amy Licence’s style of writing. Licence successfully combines good history with a readable style, making history accessible and interesting to a wide range of readers. She does not assume that her readers have a background in Tudor history but she also does not bog readers down with detail. Even those who have read all of the six wives books already out there will enjoy a new examination of these women and their relationships with Henry VIII.

There were, at times, things I didn’t agree with but then we all have our own opinions on Tudor events and the lives of these people. So much is open to interpretation and history would not be the interesting subject it is without different theories and the debate we all enjoy. It is always interesting to read others’ perspectives.

If you’re looking for a last minute present for that Tudor history lover or an interesting read to turn to when you need to have some “down time” this festive season, then do consider this book.

Book Details

Blurb:
For a king renowned for his love life, Henry VIII has traditionally been depicted as something of a prude, but the story may have been different for the women who shared his bed. How did they take the leap from courtier to lover, to wife? What was Henry really like as a lover?

Henry’s women were uniquely placed to experience the tension between his chivalric ideals and the lusts of the handsome, tall, athletic king; his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, was, on one level, a fairy-tale romance but his affairs with Anne Stafford, Elizabeth Carew and Jane Popincourt undermined it early on. Later, his more established mistresses, Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn, risked their good names by bearing him illegitimate children. Typical of his time, Henry did not feel that casual liaisons could threaten his marriage, until he met the one woman who held him at arm’s length. The arrival of Anne Boleyn changed everything. Her seductive eyes helped rewrite history. After their passionate marriage turned sour, the king rapidly remarried to Jane Seymour. Her death in childbirth left him alone, without wife or lover, for the first time in decades. In the quest for a new queen, he scoured the courts of Europe, obsessed with the beautiful Christina of Milan, whose rejection of him spurred him into the arms of Anne of Cleves and soon after the lively teenager Catherine Howard. Henry’s final years were spent with the elegant and accomplished widow Catherine Parr, who sacrificed personal pleasure for duty by marrying him while her heart was bestowed elsewhere.

What was it like for these women to share Henry’s bed, bear his children or sit on the English throne? He was a man of great appetites, ready to move heaven and earth for a woman he desired; their experiences need to be readdressed in a frank, modern take on the affairs of his heart. What was it really like to be Mrs Henry VIII?

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Amberley (October 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445633671
ISBN-13: 978-1445633671
Available as a Kindle and Hardback from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and the other Amazon stores, and as a hardcover from your usual bookstore.

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Tudors: The Illustrated History – Do not buy if you own Rex’s The Tudors!

Posted By Claire on November 17, 2014

richard rexI was sent a review copy of this illustrated history of the Tudors by Richard Rex and experienced a weird sensation of déjà vu as I read Rex’s preface. It was only published on 5th November 2014 and Suzannah Lipscomb’s introduction was dated August 2014, but I was convinced that I’d read it before. I then checked my bookcase and found Rex’s 2009 hardback book “The Tudors”. The text of both books was identical, the only difference appears to be the addition of an introduction in this new book along with a family tree. What is very odd is that the original 2009 book had 143 illustrations and this one only appears to have 129, yet this is called “the illustrated history”, bizarre!

I’m not giving it a bad review as it is an excellent book – Rex gives very detailed biographies of each monarch and the illustrations are beautiful – I just wouldn’t want anybody to go to the expense involved in buying it only to find that they’ve already read it. If you haven’t got the first edition then do buy this one, it’s a great book and Rex is a reputable historian.

So, a great book but check your bookcase first!

Book Details

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (5 Nov 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445643715
ISBN-13: 978-1445643717

The Tudor Period is regarded by many as England’s golden age, and still casts a spell over the public imagination. Whether it is the glittering rule of Elizabeth, the ruthless power of her father Henry VIII, or the bloody and radical reign of Mary, the Tudors remain the most fascinating English dynasty. Richard Rex looks at how the public and private lives of the Tudors were inextricably linked, and how each Tudor monarch exuded charisma and danger in equal measure.

The visual culture of the period was equally spectacular, from Holbein’s brooding portraiture to the architectural magnificence of the chapels of St George at Windsor and King’s College. Alongside the authoritative and approachable story of the Tudor monarchs, beautifully reproduced, are the iconic – and the lesser known – images of Tudor England.

Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.

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An Illustrated Introduction to the Tudors by Gareth Russell

Posted By Claire on November 17, 2014

Illustrated Introduction to the TudorsI’m so glad that Amberley Publishing has brought out this book in time for Christmas because it really is the perfect stocking filler for those people in your life who need indoctrinating with Tudor history – you know, the ones who are really important to you but whose eyes take on that glazed look when you try to share your passion for Tudor history.

It’s under a tenner, it’s got pictures (and lovely ones too), it’s accurate and it’s highly readable. Gareth Russell just has a way with words and manages to bring history alive in an entertaining way. The entertainment, however, is never at the cost of history. Gareth is an excellent historian and I know from having corresponded with him for some years with regards to his historical research that he is meticulous and that he digs deep, relying on primary sources rather than secondary ones. This is good history but told in a way that will appeal to people at all levels of historical knowledge, from newcomers to Tudor history to those who have expertise but would like a short snappy book to dip into and give them the nuts and bolts about the Tudors.

It is only 96 pages, but Gareth manages to convey an incredible amount of information about each Tudor monarch, and personalities like Henry VIII’s wives, in those few pages. Along with biographies of each monarch, there are portraits, photos of places and statues, highlighted boxes giving trivia and extra information, a helpful timeline, an overview of the Tudors (The Tudors in Five Minutes) and a list of books for further reading.

When you’re buying one for that friend, make sure you grab a copy for yourself as this will be a useful reference book for your bookcase. It really is a one-stop book for the vital info you need on the Tudor monarchs. Excellent!

(This review is based on an e-book copy of the book – I expect the illustrations look even better in the paperback version.)

Book Details

Blurb from Amazon:

The six monarchs of the Tudor dynasty are phenomenally well-known. Henry VII succeeded in ending the Wars of the Roses, Henry VIII formed the Church of England and famously married six times: Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr. His three children, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, would all ascend to the throne, as would his great-niece Lady Jane Grey. Between them they ruled for an eventful 118 years. This easy-to-follow introduction to the Tudors follows the major events and personalities of the age.

Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 Oct 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445641216
ISBN-13: 978-1445641218
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

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The Light in the Labyrinth: The Last Days of Anne Boleyn by Wendy J. Dunn

Posted By Claire on November 3, 2014

the-light-in-the-labyrinth-coverIf you’ve been reading my reviews for a while you’ll know that I’m often hesitant to review novels about Anne Boleyn because I have spent the last few years researching her and her family and, therefore, have quite strong views on how she is portrayed. It is difficult to read and enjoy a novel if the author’s ‘Anne’ is far removed from the Anne in my head, or if they have strayed too far from history, and I end up just putting the book down and moving on. Thankfully [deep sigh of relief], Wendy Dunn’s book was not only well researched but her Anne was real and I didn’t find her at all jarring.

Dunn’s book is a Young Adult novel which tells the story of Anne Boleyn’s downfall through the eyes of her teenage niece, Katherine Carey, or Kate as she is known in the book. The novel works on two levels – adult and young adult – and I never felt like I was reading a teen read. Although it is a historical novel with a 16th century heroine, its themes will resonate with a teen audience – identity, self-discovery, family issues/step-parents, love, betrayal and loss – and any lover of historical fiction will enjoy revisiting Anne’s fall from a different perspective.

Dunn was inspired by the famous 19th century painting “Anne Boleyn in the Tower” by Edouard Cibot. It depicts two women – one in the background weeping and the other in the foreground with her head on the other woman’s lap. This woman in the foreground is not weeping but her face shows grief and despair. Dunn was struck by the thought that it was Anne in the background and that the younger looking woman in the foreground was one of her attendants, and so the idea of her being Katherine Carey came to Dunn. Some historians believe that Katherine may have attended Anne in the Tower, so Dunn ran with the idea and I’m glad she did.

Kate is a wonderful character who matures at a fast rate through the novel. The novel opens in 1535 and Kate is struggling with family life. She has little respect for her mother, believing her to have re-married beneath her, and has built up this idyllic picture in her head of her dead father William Carey, an ideal that her step-father cannot hope to live up to. What Kate doesn’t realise at this point is that this picture and everything she believes is going to be completely shattered when she is sent to court to serve her aunt, Queen Anne Boleyn. There, she will find out who she really is, find new respect and love for her mother and step-father, realise the depth of their love for her, encounter romantic love for the first time, and see just how fickle love can be. The events of 1536 are moving however they are written, but seeing them through Kate’s innocent eyes lends extra power to the story. When we hear a story so many times we can become quite blasé about it, even we know it really happened, so a different perspective can help to remind us of the true horror.

I will be passing this novel on to my 14 year-old daughter and will be heartily recommending it to friends, family and anyone who loves a good historical novel. It is the perfect first historical fiction read for the teen in your life, but make sure you read it too!

Book Details

IN THE WINTER OF 1535, fourteen-year-old Kate Carey wants to escape her family home. She thinks her life will be so much better with Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and the aunt she idolises. Little does Kate know that by going to attend Anne Boleyn she will discover love and a secret that will shake the very foundations of her identity. An attendant to Anne Boleyn, Kate is also swept up in events that see her witness her aunt’s darkest days. By the time winter ends, Kate will be changed forever.

Paperback: 338 pages
Publisher: Metropolis Ink (September 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098072192X
ISBN-13: 978-0980721928
Available as an ebook and paperback from Amazon.com, Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

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