Monday, October 12, 2015

Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle 

<3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: Penelope Devereux arrives at Queen Elizabeth’s court where she and her brother, the Earl of Essex, are drawn into the aging Queen’s favor. Young and na├»ve, Penelope, though promised elsewhere, falls in love with Philip Sidney who pours his heartbreak into the now classic sonnet series Astrophil and Stella. But Penelope is soon married off to a man who loathes her. Never fainthearted, she chooses her moment and strikes a deal with her husband: after she gives birth to two sons, she will be free to live as she chooses, with whom she chooses. But she is to discover that the course of true love is never smooth.

Meanwhile Robert Cecil, ever loyal to Elizabeth, has his eye on Penelope and her brother. Although it seems the Earl of Essex can do no wrong in the eyes of the Queen, as his influence grows, so his enemies gather. Penelope must draw on all her political savvy to save her brother from his own ballooning ambition and Cecil’s trap, while daring to plan for an event it is treason even to think about.

Unfolding over the course of two decades and told from the perspectives of Penelope and her greatest enemy, the devious politician Cecil, Watch the Lady chronicles the last gasps of Elizabeth’s reign, and the deadly scramble for power in a dying dynasty.

Review:  This was my first book written by Elizabeth Fremantle and I loved it. Watch the Lady takes the reader into the world of Queen Elizabeth the first's court; the book begins with the young Penelope Devereux and her entrance into the court of Queen Elizabeth.  The book follows Penelope and the rest of the Devereux's as Penelope is forced into her first marriage with a man she loaths; and she becomes Lady Rich.  It chronicle's the families journey as they rise and fall in the court of Queen Elizabeth the first.  The main characters include Penelope's brother Lord Essex, Robert Cecil who is an enemy of the Devereux family in his role as one of chief councilors to Queen Elizabeth; and Sidney who is Penelope's first real love, and many more players as the book continues.

The life of Penelope and the others chronicled in this book were not characters that I was as familiar with in Tudor historical fiction however I loved the writing style. It had its own pace and way of describing characters, scenery and events that is very original to Elizabeth Fremantle.  I literally could not put this book down and I finished it in two days. 

It was a new side of Queen Elizabeth that I hadn't imagined before; also the book chronicled events that I was not familiar with so I was excited to see what happened as the book progressed.  If reader's enjoy Tudor fiction in the least then I would most certainly recommend this book highly.  The author has a very original voice and it is very easy to connect with the characters.  The book is around 500 pages but it doesn't seem like it because you get very invested into the story and pulled into the character's world and time in history.  A book I'd highly recommend.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Taming of the Queen

The Taming of the Queen
By: Philippa Gregory 

Summary: Why would a woman marry a serial killer?

Because she cannot refuse…

Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives—King Henry VIII—commands her to marry him.

Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as Regent.

But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and the first woman to publish in English, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her. The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy—the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…

From an author who has described all of Henry’s queens comes a deeply intimate portrayal of the last: a woman who longed for passion, power, and education at the court of a medieval killer.

Kateryn Parr was an amazing woman; in Philippa Gregory's latest book The Taming of the Queen her story is told in a narrative voice from the point of his proposal up until Henry's Death.  In the author's note it is also described how Kateryn did live to marry her love Thomas and that she would eventually die trying to give birth to their child.

I love Philippa Gregory's book but this one is a favorite now by far.  In it the voice of Kateryn speaks out passionately to the reader and it is almost moving to a point as you follow her on her journey of thinking that a woman's role is just being a wife and surviving to the realization in and of herself that she has the power to be able to write and study just as any man does specifically for her this
epiphany  occurs when she is studying the Word of God.

Kateryn goes through hell and back trying to survive Henry the 8th and all his mind games; even to the point of him setting up a fake arrest to scare her into submission as if he hadn't already by that point; but Kateryn stays strong and survives the marriage with cunning and grace.  She was a woman truly out of her time who I believe would have been a great writer if she'd been born in a period with more tolerance for women and their rights.

The characters were easily relatable in this book and I found myself cheering them on.  In a way Kateryn can be an inspiration for women today.  She survived an extremely abusive marriage, raising step-children, living in a royal court, and she did it all while still wanting to study and having a thirst for knowledge that I truly admire.  She was also the first woman to publish a book in England.

Gregory knocked this one out of he ballpark for me and its a book I will most definitely keep on my shelf.

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3