‘Passion, Treachery, Betrayal. The virgin queen has arrived...Uncovering the love triangle between Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and his wife Amy, and her mysterious death, A Court Affair is an unforgettable story of ambition, lust and jealousy. The future of the realm is in her hands...Accused of conspiring with rebels to steal the throne, Princess Elizabeth is confined to the Tower of London by her half-sister, Queen Mary. There she finds solace in the arms of fellow prisoner - her childhood friend, Robert Dudley. But with Elizabeth's ascension to the crown, Robert returns to his wife and the unhappy union he believes cheated him of his destiny to be king. As Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth knows the cruelty of marriage and roundly rejects her many suitors - with the exception of the power-hungry Robert. But their relationship carries a risk that could shake the very foundations of the House of Tudor...A Court Affair is a fascinating portrait of both the rise of Elizabeth I and one of the most compelling periods in history.’
‘A Court Affair’ follows the fortune of two women: Queen Elizabeth I and Amy Dudley – the wife of Elizabeth’s favourite Robert Dudley. Elizabeth and Robert became close when they were both imprisoned in the Tower of London by Elizabeth’s sister, Queen Mary.
Robert’s ambitions to rule alongside Elizabeth lead to him regretting his early nuptials. He neglects Amy in favour of spending as much time as possible at Court. But regardless of Robert’s wishes, Amy won’t just disappear, so just how far will he go to end his marriage and clear the way for him to wed Elizabeth and become King?
I love historical fiction, but whilst I do enjoy the Tudor period, I do feel that it’s been a little over done in recent years. However, by bringing Amy Dudley into the mix, Purdy has introduced something a little different. I found Amy’s story very engaging, and actually preferred her parts of the novel to those focussing on Elizabeth.
I liked Purdy’s writing style, which was fresh and relaxed, and enjoyed her descriptions of the fashions of the period – a subject she clearly has a strong interest in. An unexpected bonus was that the story taught me plenty about medical practices during the Tudor period, and in particular the treatment of breast cancer. The postscript completed the story nicely and was a useful addition.
Robert was a devilishly awful character, and was great to read about. He was completely self-absorbed and treated Amy terribly. His ambitions controlled his life completely, and I couldn’t wait for him to meet his downfall.
One thing that I found very frustrating for Amy’s character was the extent to which she was controlled by Robert – he could just sell her family’s property and demand that she go to live with complete strangers, and there really wasn’t much she could do about it.
By investigating the story behind the love triangle involving Queen Elizabeth and Robert and Amy Dudley, Purdy has produced a very readable piece of historical fiction which, thanks to the details of Amy’s medical treatment, really stands out from the crowd of Tudor-based novels. Nicely written, and full of lust, greed and intrigue, this is a book sure to earn Emily Purdy many new fans.
3 and a half stars
‘Georgia, 1177 For twenty years King Giorgi has defended the throne of his fragile kingdom against all comers. Now on the threshold of old age he faces a grave new threat: he has no son to succeed him. There is only his daughter, Tamar; a clever, indomitable and fearless girl. When a revolt threatens her life, Tamar is sent to live in the mountains, disguised as a boy, until a devastating betrayal places her in the hands of her enemies. Her courageous escape convinces Giorgi she should be his heir, but the nobles are outraged - no woman will ever rule them. While her father is alive, Tamar has some protection from the hostile forces that surround her, but once he is dead, she is truly alone. She must find the strength to control the bitterly warring factions at court. She must win the respect of her friends and the fear of her enemies. And she must marry a man of whom the elders approve. But her heart belongs to a reckless boy from the mountains - a poor match for a queen. With rebellion brewing at home and powerful foes circling her borders, Tamar must make a terrible choice between the man she loves and the land she adores...’
In the twelfth century, to the shock of the whole kingdom, the indomitable King Giorgi of Georgia names his eldest daughter Tamar as heir. How can a woman possibly be ‘King’, especially at a time of great unrest? Many believe Giorgi’s decision will be the downfall of his dynasty, but those close to the royal household are not so sure: it’s true that Tamar will not be able to ride into battle, sword raised, to strike down her enemies, but she has many other qualities of a strong ruler if she’s just given the chance to show them. However, to be a great leader, Tamar will have to make many sacrifices to her own happiness, which she may be unwilling to do.
‘The Girl King’ covers a fascinating piece of history, from a part of the world which I haven’t previously read any historical fiction about. This really is what I’d call a ‘proper adventure’ story - we’ve got mean bad guys, a clever and determined princess, a brave hero and plenty of fighting, all in a gripping setting. The tale itself is well told, with great pace throughout, but I would have liked it to have been much longer and to have contained more information, particularly about the politics, mores and customs of the time.
Tamar works well as a heroine for me: she really is her own person and doesn’t let herself be dictated to. She’s also not afraid to go against tradition if necessary and stands up for what’s right. I really enjoyed the moments when she allowed her sense of humour to make an appearance, much to the consternation of some of her advisors.
I thought the author did a good job of making the history accessible whilst producing an extremely readable tale. She’s very honest about the liberties she’s taken, and adds a useful note at the end of the book detailing the reasoning behind her decisions. Yes, she admits she fiddled with the events at times, changing a little of the chronology, and making some fairly improbable assumptions, but if it encourages people to find out more about the history of Georgia, then surely that’s not such a bad thing?
3 and a half stars
‘Francesca Felizzi, former mistress of the Duke of Ferrara, is now an aspiring courtesan. Astonishingly beautiful and ambitious, she revels in the power she wields over men.
But when she is visited by an inexperienced young man, it becomes horribly clear to Francesca that despite her many admiring patrons, she has never truly been loved. Suddenly, her glittering and sumptuous life becomes a gaudy facade.
And then another unexpected encounter brings with it devastating implications that plunge Francesca and her two young daughters into the sort of danger she has dreaded ever since she began to work the streets all those years ago.’
Set in Naples in 1564, ‘The Courtesan’s Lover’ picks up the story of Francesca Felizzi, a minor character from Gabrielle Kimm’s earlier novel ‘His Last Duchess’. Francesca was mistress to the Duke of Ferrara, but has now fled the court with her twin daughters and faithful manservant Modesto, and established herself as a courtesan. Business is going well for Francesca until she finds herself falling in love for the first time, and with someone who most definitely would not approve of her career choice. But as Francesca struggles to change her life, it looks like there may be some parts of it which she cannot escape.
‘The Courtesan’s Lover’ could be read as a sequel to ‘His Last Duchess’, but worked well as a stand-alone. Before starting I’d steeled myself for what I’d anticipated to be a series of very steamy romps. However, although there were a fair amount of sexual scenes, none were particularly graphic.
The book started at a beautifully leisurely pace, allowing the reader to really relish exploring the characters’ lives and the city they lived in. When I felt nicely settled into the period, the drama and tension increased dramatically during the second half of the novel when Francesca found that her own safety, as well as that of her beloved daughters, was under threat from a dangerous foe.
Interwoven with the main plot were the stories of Francesca’s clients and so Kimm ends up with a pretty large cast! Modesto was definitely my favourite: he was an extremely absorbing character with a terribly sad back story. I really enjoyed his relationship with Francesca; they were certainly not a typical sixteenth century mistress and servant!
Kimm’s attention to detail is exquisite, I really did feel transported back to the period and everything from the descriptions of the food to the birth control used seemed completely genuine. The setting provided the perfect backdrop to the tale, which contained plenty of drama and excitement to keep the reader captivated, whether they are a historical fiction fan or not.
4 and a half stars
“It was Charles I's love for his Queen Henrietta Maria which plummeted England into the darkness of the Civil Wars, but it was the love and loyalty of another man that sustained her through days of betrayal, destitution and death. Tall and brave, Harry Jermyn is captivated by the witty French princess, just fourteen years old when she sails with him to Dover, queen of a land she has never seen, of a people whose language she cannot speak, who despise her for her faith - and wife of a king she has never met. Charles grows to love her but rebellion and the threat of execution force her into exile and into the arms of Harry, who risks his life for her sake. Together they work for the royalist cause, pawning the crown jewels, securing men and arms and returning to England to lead an army south. As England is torn apart, Henrietta's heart is torn between the two men she loves, between duty and illicit passion. The subject of dangerous gossip and public scandal, she is powerless to calm the storm which will lead to tragedy.”
‘Cavalier Queen’ begins at the onset of the marriage arrangements between fourteen year old Princess Henrietta of France and Charles I of England. A political match, the alliance was intended to end the poor relations between England and France at that time and go someway to healing the rift between Catholic and Protestant in Charles’ homeland. However, rather than being a soothing balm, the union instead causes more discord, and soon England is in the midst of a civil war and Henrietta risks not only losing her own life but those of her family and her adored lover, Harry Jermyn.
It took a little while for me to properly get into this book; I was waiting for Henrietta to go to England and for her life as Queen there to start. But once she was married, I loved seeing Henrietta’s character develop as she grew up and experienced all that her very turbulent life threw at her. Who’d have thought that the pretty young princess who spent her time doing her hair and playing with her beloved dog would be capable of leading an army and organising the huge quantities of supplies sent to aid her husband’s efforts during the Civil War?
Mountain did a good job of untangling Henrietta’s feelings and convincing me of the Queen’s love for both her husband and her lover. She cares about them in very different ways, but it is her love for Jermyn that consumes her and gives the young queen her first taste of passion. She cannot give Jermyn up regardless of her duty to her adopted country and her husband.
The religious and political arguments of the period were obviously well researched and feature prominently throughout the book. I felt that I was given a good overview to comprehend the context and import of the king’s actions, but wasn’t overly bogged down with too much information, which might have taken away from Henrietta’s story.
I love history and found the historical side of the book as fascinating as its human aspect. Mountain uses historical fact as a firm basis to the plot whilst making good use of fiction to fill in any gaps. The result is a well-paced and extremely readable novel, appealing to general fiction lovers as well as history fans. ‘Cavalier Queen’ was beautifully written, utterly compelling and extremely engaging.
4 and a half stars