‘Henry VIII – The Heart and the Crown’ by Alison Weir is her latest book dealing with the Tudor era. This time though, we are told the story from the point of view of Henry. I’ve read several of Alison Weir’s books, dealing with the wives of Henry VIII, told from their perspectives. This is very different and has given me a deeper understanding of the period.
I wondered how I would feel about Henry after reading this book. Would I still have sympathy for the wronged wives? Or would Henry be able to persuade me otherwise? I’m still on the side of the six wives. Henry had an unshakable belief in his own superiority and that was obviously encouraged by those around him. His strict father tried to rein him in, and it worked to some extent. But once the young man was King, there was no stopping him. There were maybe some redeeming features early on, but his self-obsessed side, indulged by all, won out.
I found the story compelling, and seeing it from the other side was interesting. I may not have liked Henry, but understanding how he justified his actions to himself opened the Tudor era up to me. A well-written story with excellent historical detail.
‘The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women’ by Amy Licence is an impressive retelling of the stories of women from all walks of life in the sixteenth century. Some of the women were queens, some paupers. There were also witches, doctors, murderers and many more. Licence brings to light the lives of women who were ignored or forgotten. She also links those of political and royal importance, weaving their stories together and bringing new connections.
Amy Licence tied together threads of history that I had a vague awareness of before. I learned so much – and not just about English or European women, which was refreshing. The author told of how women’s lives were controlled and manipulated, but also of the women who fought back against this oppression.
It’s the kind of book to savour, not to read in one go. I jumped in and out, finding women I’d never heard of, but should have. Women’s history has been silenced to some extent, unless they were queens. But here the author has opened my eyes to the women from all walks of life.
‘Queens Of The Age Of Chivalry’ by Alison Weir is a masterpiece. I have read many of her fiction books on the lives of royal women, and those in the royal courts, but this is the first non-fiction account I have come across. Alison Weir, through meticulous research, brings us the lives of five Queens who lived through England’s Age of Chivalry. Covering the years 1299-1409, we meet five remarkable women, whose stories have never been told in such great detail and with such passion. She shows us that they were remarkable women in their own right, and not just mere appendages to the Kings, or pawns in political games. We meet Marguerite of France, Isabella of France, Phillipa of Hainault, Anne of Bohemia and Isabella of Valois.
Alison weir is an excellent storyteller in her fiction books, and brings that flair to this non fiction account of the Queens. She gives us an insight into the daily lives of the queens. We learn how they spent their money, where that money came from and the strength they needed to live in turbulent times.
Her descriptions of the the palaces made me feel as if I was there. I was astounded at that vast sums the women spent on clothes, food, trips and impressing foreign dignitaries.
Most of all, I found it fascinating reading about queens I had previously heard little about. There is so much detail about each one, and I take my hat off to Alison Weir at the work that goes into every book she writes. My interest was especially piqued at a theory she posits regarding Edward II. But you’ll have to read the book to find out what that was!
‘Letter From A Tea Garden’ by Abi Oliver is one of those stories that will stay with me. Eleanora Byngh is in a rut – and a bad one at that. Her life revolves around the next glass of whiskey, as she lives out her later years in England with her old friend Persi. When an unexpected invite from her nephew in India arrives, she begins to re-evaluate. Can one ever go back? Will she feel like a stranger in the land of her birth? Or is this the chance she has been waiting for to make a change? Going back to where it all began brings memories maybe best forgotten. But it may also be a new start for everyone.
I must admit that I did not take to Eleanora at the start. She was crotchety and contrary and could not see past her next drink. She had settled into being a caricature of who she really was. Her friend and companion Persi knew there was more to her than the grumpy old woman everyone else saw, and nudged her in the right direction. Going back to the India of their youth and facing the truths they had been avoiding could be what they both needed.
Abi Oliver described beautifully the sights and sounds of India. One could almost imagine being there. She brought to life the colour, the vibrancy and the excitement of a land on the cusp of something new. She also showed the poverty and despair of the majority of Indians. I was transported to pre-war India, when the Raj was still in full swing. And then to the horrors of war and famine. Eleanora’s story was interwoven with the historical realities of the time, skilfully and with attention to detail.
“Letter From A Tea Garden’ made me laugh, and it made me cry. It was a story if secrets and lies, of love and loss. And ultimately of facing up to the past. I adored it.
‘Elizabeth of York’ by Alison Weir is the story of Elizabeth, the last White Rose, as thereafter the houses of York and Lancaster joined to become the House of Tudor. Elizabeth has lived her entire life in fear of one political upheaval after another. Her young life is interrupted by the need to seek sanctuary as her father fights to hold onto his throne. On his death her future looks uncertain. Will she be forced into marriage with her uncle? Or will she finally meet and marry the Lancaster rival to the throne, Henry Tudor? The difficult choices she must make will not only affect her own life, but those of her family and the entire country.
Alison Weir fills in a lot of the backstory using conversations between the young Elizabeth and her mother. And this was certainly needed, as there are many players in this story and their relationships to each other are extremely important. There is a list of those involved and how they relate to each other at the beginning of the book and I found myself having to refer to that several times.
We are reminded that very young children are but pawns in royal households at this time. They are married off at very young ages and sent away from their families. Power seems to trump close and loving familial relationships, especially in the eyes of Elizabeth’s parents.
The author managed to make Elizabeth very real to me. I could imagine her fears as well as the joyful moments in her life. Alison Weir gets into the heads of her main characters, giving her readers a way into the past. Elizabeth had a lifetime of being a part of, and watching the machinations of, those intent on power at all costs. Her fortunes would rise and fall, depending on how the political situation changed.
I found her story fascinating. Weir pulled me into Elizabeth’s world, and transported me to a time and place vital to the future of the monarchy. Her knowledge on the subject is astounding and I learned so much about an amazing woman.
As a history graduate I thought I was well versed in the history of Europe. But as I found out reading this book, the important roles played by women have been erased in some cases, and my knowledge was sorely lacking. Brunhild and Fredegund were strong, powerful women who started out as pawns in the games of others, but went on to influence early medieval Europe. Merovingian France was forever changed by them and as a result the whole of Europe.
I found their stories fascinating – Fredegund a slave who ended up a Queen, and Brunhild, a Princess who found a strength and ability to outmanoeuvre the men around her. This book can be read by those with a general interest in history. It can also be read by those with an academic interest in history. The author gives a detailed bibliography and notes section at the back. So if the reader so wishes, they have the tools to find out even more and look deeper into the subject. But if a desire to find out more about forgotten women, whose influence on European history is the aim, then this book does that too.
This book has expanded my knowledge of an era and of characters forgotten over time. It is written in a very accessible style and I found myself taken back there, imagining a time and place, and the people living that reality.
‘Midnight Slain in Georgia’ is a well crafted short story ideal for the upcoming Halloween season. Callie works for a travel company organising tours. One of them is a ghost tour of Savannah. Part of Callie’s job is to vet applicants to be included on the tour, and when one comes up with a link to history, she wants nothing to do with it. But along with her partner, Jo, she is required to check it out. Will an overnight stay change her mind about the property? And who is the ghost supposedly haunting the B&B?
The first thing that appealed to me about his story was the link to Anne Hagan’s ‘Loving Blue in Red States’ series. I’ve read all of them and was delighted to get a follow-up with two of the characters. There’s no need to have read the previous story, ‘Savannah Georgia’, but if you have you’ll bet an extra kick out of this story. The characters of Callie and Jo have a good humoured relationship which comes through here. They also have a hot and steamy time together and this is very evident in this story. The story was brilliantly executed and made me gasp. A clever and delightful tale.
‘Katheryn Howard – The Tainted Queen’ is the story of the fifth wife of Henry the Eighth. If you know the rhyme “Divorced, Beheaded, Died…..” you’ll know what ultimately happened to her, but finding out how she got there is fascinating. Alison Weir uses her extensive knowledge and research and weaves the life of Katheryn Howard into a novel that cannot fail to engage. We get to know the real Katheryn and it becomes clear why she ended up living the life she did. It’s a story of love, lust, family and political machinations. I loved the historical details of day-to-day life for the nobility in Tudor times, and the glimpses of life at court. Katheryn was a guileless girl, led by her heart. She was naive to the extreme. Being the wife of Henry the Eighth should have come with a set of warnings. After all, his previous spouses didn’t fare too well. By the end I just wanted to scream at her to stop being so utterly stupid. Didn’t she realise her husband was a murderous tyrant, not prone to forgiveness? I couldn’t put this book down. It was wonderful.
‘The Northwoods’ by Jane Hoppen is set in 1850s Wisconsin when most women were entirely dependant on husbands and fathers. When that is no longer possible for Evelyn due to the death of her husband she decides to disguise herself as a man and go to a logging camp for the winter, in order to help her family survive . She meets Sarah Bell, a woman seemingly at the mercy of her dead lover’s brother. Evelyn must keep her real identity secret at all costs, while Sarah lives in fear of being assaulted by any of the rough loggers in the camp. Their friendship is of necessity but they see something in each other that drew them together.
The story was about women doing what they had to in a harsh world. They discovered things about themselves that they did not realise they wanted or needed. I was on the edge of my seat at many points in the book as they were in danger and taking many risks. Evelyn and Sarah’s relationship was slow and sweet and tender. I wanted them to have a future together and not be forced into the roles people expected of them. I loved the historical aspect of the book and felt it was well imagined and well written. I could almost smell the appalling odours of the camp, so good was the writing. A very enjoyable book with characters I wouldn’t mind finding out more about.
I was given this ARC in return for an honest review.
This trilogy is utterly brilliant! Angela Koenig has written a gripping series of novels following Jeri O’Donnell from the troubles in Ulster, to the Himalayas and onto Yugoslavia when the Balkan war was in full force. Her life is one of violence, tragedy and keeping hidden from those out to capture her. When she meets Kelly Corcoran, an American tourist seeking peace, she finds a love that changes her. Their connection was intense, beautiful and at times frantic and joyful. Can they survive the dangerous life they lead? Is love enough?
The writing was intelligent and poetic and managed to convey a sense of history that pulled me into the story and made me feel as if I was right in the midst of it all. Jeri is a very complex character and her journey is one that I am so glad I followed. The love story woven throughout is deep and vital and one I won’t forget. I highly recommend this trilogy and wish I could give it more than 5 Stars.
I was given this ARC by Affinity Rainbow Publications in return for an honest review.