Posted in 16th Century Reviews Shakespeare

review: The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare

The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare by Arliss Ryan In a death bed confession to her beloved granddaughter, Anne Shakespeare (nee Hathaway) relates the secret life she lead after following her young husband to London when their children were very young. Feeling a burden to her parents-in-law in their already too crowded home, Anne set out to help Will with the usual wifely duties, but found—when presented with the props and environment of the theater—she had a talent not only for sewing the elaborate costumes, but also for writing plays. At first she only copied her husband’s scripts in a neater hand. Then she began making subtle changes, and finally, realizing her superior talent, Will began collaborating with her and accepting entire plays written by…

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Posted in 16th Century Non-Fiction Reviews Tudor

review: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Claire Ridgway A timeline of the final days of this controversial Queen of England, The Fall of Anne Boleyn recreates those harrowing months in 1536, with firsthand accounts, official documents and records, and court gossip. Though offering opinion here and there, many points of view are expressed from various biographers, and so there is representation from numerous sources. Veteran Tudor readers will not find much fresh information, though the format, being a day-to-day account of events, gives an easy to follow play-by-play of each accused person’s actions, beginning with his origins and introduction to court and the queen. Other key characters are also featured, with a clear understanding of his or her service (or disservice) in the royal court—most…

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Posted in 16th Century Non-Fiction Reviews Tudor

review: The Anne Boleyn Collection

The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway This book reads like a collection of essays and may be blog posts from The Anne Boleyn Files—I’m not familiar enough with the website to know if this is the case. It is arranged in an easy to follow style with the purpose of bringing some of the most valid arguments forward regarding Anne Boleyn’s guilt or innocence and relating information on the people around her. Citing all sources and even making points about the sources themselves, the author digs into previously uncharted footnotes of history, such as the mysterious graves belonging to Anne Boleyn’s alleged brothers who died young, and the disease that many believe King Henry VIII suffered from. As with the author’s other book, The…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: The Young Mary Queen of Scots

The Young Mary Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy This is one of three Young Adult novels by Jean Plaidy in Max Parrish’s “The Young” Series. As in her novel Royal Road to Fotheringhay, Plaidy begins with Mary, Queen of Scots at the age of five. Scotland was in danger of being invaded by the English, who wished the young, fatherless Queen to be taken to the court of Henry VIII and eventually married to Prince Edward. However, she was whisked away to the island of Inchmahome and later sailed to her mother’s homeland, France. Instead of an English alliance, she was betrothed to the dauphin—the delicate eldest son of King Henri II and Catherine de Medici. Life at the French court was enchanting, except…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Meg Roper

Meg Roper by Jean Plaidy This young adult novel penned in the early 60’s is based on the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More, one of King Henry VIII’s ministers who fell out of favor during the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. It is a simplified version of her full length novel titled St. Thomas’s Eve (republished as The King’s Confidante) but is not, as some listings file it, the same book. Chronicling the political career of Sir Thomas More, this story covers the controversy with religion, including Martin Luther and Henry VIII’s title of Defender of the Faith. It follows More’s family from their happy home at the Barge to their new home in Chelsea. When More becomes the most important man in the…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: Evergreen Gallant

Evergreen Gallant by Jean Plaidy There are three major themes to this novel: Catholics versus Huguenots, the succession of the French throne and Henri IV’s amorous ways. One of the reasons I really liked this book is that it aptly sums up a period in France’s history that was previously unknown to me. I’ve read up to Henri II and then skipped all the way to Louis XIV, so it was refreshing to read a new setting and characters. And Plaidy does wonderfully explaining all of the political intrigue as well as the characters and their relationships. This book covers two of Henri II and Catherine de’ Medici’s sons as Kings of France, Henri de Guise (a rival for the throne) and Henri Quatre. The…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: To Serve a King

To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin Morin’s newest femme fatale, Genevieve Gravois, is sent to the court of Francois I as a spy and assassin. Brought up from a young age to honor and serve England’s King Henry VIII, Genevieve believes the story imbibed in her that the French king is responsible for her parents’ death. With pure hatred in her heart, Genevieve learns much in her early years of espionage and cruelty. Genevieve begins the path to what she believes is her destiny as one of the ladies of the king’s mistress, Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly. From this position—the absolute closest she can get to the king—she is able to glean information to send abroad to King Henry and form a plan…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: The King’s Agent

The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin Blending fact and fantasy, this fast-paced novel–which can only be described as an articulate historical adventure–Donna Russo Morin brings to life a real historical figure, Battista della Palla. Serving his beloved Florence’s political interests, Battista works as an art dealer for France’s King Francois I. He readily bargains and bribes to collect sought after pieces, but is not above thievery if necessary. The ultimate task the King sets him to—unearthing a secret and powerful triptych—proves to be his greatest conquest yet, and the most dangerous. With paintings as clues, and the words of Dante as guide, Battista and his band of loyal men find themselves at a villa where the smart and adventurous Lady Aurelia joins in their…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Shakespeare

review: Loving Will Shakespeare

Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer A young adult novel based around the courtship and marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, this book is also an excellent read on the ways of life in the country at the end of the sixteenth century in England. Agnes (called Anne by Shakespeare) lives a simple life on her family’s farm. She tends the garden, helps birth the animals, collects honey to sell and makes candles with the wax – among many other chores and duties. Though her life seems mundane, especially for the woman who was the wife of England’s greatest playwright, there was much drama in the family and community. Agnes is not one to be pushed around, but she is repeatedly tormented by her…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews

review: Duchessina

Duchessina: A Novel of Catherine de’ Medici by Carolyn Meyer Duchessina is a young adult novel based on the early life of Catherine de’ Medici, niece of two Popes and later Queen of France. Catherine, orphaned at just a month of age, was raised in the Palazzo Medici with two distant cousins: the kind Ippolito and his polar opposite, Alessandro. Catherine soon learns that she must find means of charming people, as she does not possess the physical attributes that define a beautiful woman. During the sack of Rome and subsequent uprisings against the family of Medici, Catherine is ensconced in a series of convents for her safety. While one is miserable, she finds solace and friendship in another, only to be shuffled back to…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Wild Irish

The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell In 1593, Grace O’Malley, Mother of the Irish Rebellion, famously met with Queen Elizabeth I of England with a petition to set her son free of Elizabeth’s English-Irish governor and a few other concessions. Robin Maxwell takes this historic event and turns it into a retelling of Grace’s life, from a young girl sailing on her father’s ships to a woman of 60, hardened by war, grief and endless fighting. ‘The Wild Irish’ is an apt title for this novel, as there is no sugar coating the gory, harsh treatment of the Irish within their own rival clans and later the English to the Irish, and vice versa. While it’s easy to commiserate with Grace, there is such incivility…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Virgin: Prelude to the Throne

Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell I knew I’d like this one, as I’ve liked all of her novels. She has a distinct writing style that includes plenty of drama, yet stays true to the facts. The story begins with the death of Henry VIII. Elizabeth is relieved when she is sent to live with the Queen Dowager, Catherine Parr, at her residence in Chelsea. Elizabeth receives a new wardrobe, the best tutors and the adoration of her beloved step-mother. But it all comes crashing down with the arrival of Thomas Seymour, newly appointed Lord High Admiral. He sweeps Catherine off her feet and secretly marries her, risking the disapproval of the Regency Council, and perhaps more importantly the man running the government…

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