Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Forbidden Queen - Anne O'Brien

This was not the first book I read about Katherine of Valois but it was, by far, the best one.
The author allowed her to tell her story, in a manner that allowed for understanding, and she became real to me.So real that at the end I was very upset at the ending and explored possibilities for the end of her life. I choose now to think that Bermondsey Abbey was like a hospital where she went to get well, although she did not achieve that ending.

Her family was not loving and nurturing,  and Katherine learned early that she had few options, without an understanding as to why.Her mother was promiscuous and her father intermittently insane, and neither were physically or emotionally there for their children. She and her sister, the younger of the children, were ragged, often hungry and very neglected.

We know from the history that her son, who became King Henry VI, had periods of insanity lasting his whole life.Her sons with Owen Tudor did not, although her grandson, Henry Tudor was remote and cold.Owen Tudor seemed to bring her warmth and love and normalcy although it was short lived.

Anne O'Brien did an excellent job of making Katherine a sympathetic character. It was fine book and a necessary tool for Tudor  lovers to understand the family dynamics.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Roses Have Thorns, A Novel of Elizabeth I ~ Sandra Byrd

The Ladies in Waiting series  made me curious about a group of people, ladies who worked for the Tudors. It was less about the Tudors than about the constellation of courtiers who revolved about them and what their lives consisted of.Curiosity about people is the essence of my life and surely the reason I read books and do research.

Roses Have Thorns was an awesome book about a very unique woman ,whose life was outside the norm for a lady of the court. Elin, or as she came to call herself, Helena von Snakenborg,was a Swedish noblewoman who came to England and remained against many odds. She visited England in a royal entourage which traveled 10 months by boat and overland and when she is there for a time she elects to remain. She becomes a peer of the realm, falls in love and raises large family while remaining true to herself at all times.

The day to day life of those perilous times was detailed precisely through the lens of  court politics.How and why courtiers come to that type of occupation has it's own intrigue. Elizabeth Tudor replaced her perilous family of origin with the persons of the court who became a more stable community to her. Many of her maternal as well as paternal cousins were in attendance on her as courtiers for their entire life. Their extended family was little less crisis driven than the generations that went before. Like any political system they lived and died "by the sword", sometimes literally.

Elizabeth I alone would not have drawn me to the book. This third book of the series was superb  and riveting.Byrd's research and writing skills just get better with every book. I cannot wait for the next one. Basing a historical novel on a little known person who is actually a historical character is the type of writing that has become quite popular.This book is the very best of it's genre in my estimation. This was a review copy and I recommend it most highly.