Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review :: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The sixth and final book in Gregory's Tudor series The Other Queen tells the tale of Mary, Queen of Scots, imprisonment in the home of George and Bess Shrewsbury.  Mary is the daughter of Henry VIII's sister and is viewed as the true heir to the English throne - in blood and in religion.  She has plotted to take the throne from Elizabeth and has finally been caught.  Even in captivity, she masterminds and inspires rebellions and plans, which eventually leads to her demise.

Unfortunately, that's all you need to know about the book.  Gregory attempts to add color to the story by illustrating the entrepreneurial spirit of Bess, who has successfully changed her status, repeatedly, in life, starting as a farm lady and landing at countess.  Gregory also focuses on the forbidden, unrequited and incredibly awkward love that George develops for his prisoner, Mary.  George and Bess have marital issues.  Things are uncomfortable.

Even worse, Mary is insufferable.  Her "holier than thou" attitude mixed with her pompous delivery just made me want to fast forward to the part when she gets executed.  Gregory doesn't even make an attempt to make her a likable character.  Or if she did, I missed it.  Most of the time, I was thinking, "I know Elizabeth executes her.  Can we just get to that part?"

My OCD required that I finish this book and thus the series.  I feel like I should get an award for struggling through this one.  There were multiple pages in this book that could have been eliminated entirely.  Where was Gregory's editor?  This book was lazily written, frequently repeating story points or just... rambling.  My best assumption is Gregory wanted to finish out the Tudor line and hastily put this book to market.

Anyways, read it if you want, I know I've made it sound awesome!  But my suggestion is you skip this one all together.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review :: The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

The fifth book in Gregory's Tudor series The Virgin's Lover tells the frustratingly romantic tale of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley.  Faced with war in Scotland, supported by the French, Elizabeth must make "kingly" decisions without a husband.  Thus, her betrothal and resulting marriage become a hot topic, in addition to the uncertainty of religion in England.  Robert Dudley feels he's best suited for the role and woos Elizabeth into a passionate romance.  The problem?  Robert is married.  Elizabeth's lifelong advisor William Cecil helps her navigate the constant challenges that face her as queen and leads her to her final decision.

First and foremost, if you have any notions of how Queen Elizabeth was as a successful monarch, put those aside for this novel.  She is portrayed as selfish, spoiled, and without a backbone.  The emphasis on her need for a man is frustrating - though historically accurate.  Unfortunately, Gregory made Elizabeth pathetic in her need for a man, rather than stressing the political implications of marrying.  I almost put the book down for this reason alone.

Knowing the scandal that surrounded Robert Dudley and his wife Amy during this time, I was very curious to see what stance Gregory would take with the theories.  I was not disappointed.  I won't ruin the end for you.  It's a particularly delicious mystery because it's real.

I struggled with the love story between Elizabeth and Robert for the sole reason that I couldn't bring myself to trust Robert and his ambition.  History tells of an undying devotion to each other, but perhaps in the way the story was written, I was not convinced.  Plus, he was kind of a douchebag for the way he treated his wife.  Not until I read Gregory's Note at the end of the book did I get snapped back into historical record and you feel the real love that existed between the two of them.  Don't forget to read it - it'll make your heart melt.

I'm moving on to the final book in the Tudor series tomorrow.  We'll see how she rounds out the series with Mary, Queen of Scots.

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