Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Loves of Charles II by Jean Plaidy

This is an omnibus of three books - The Wandering Prince, A Health Unto His Majesty, and, Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord.

Overall this is a great book albeit a long one but, it didn't feel after I had finished it that I had read three books. Of them all the last one was the best for me as it featured the lovely Nell Gywn.

The book starts with how Charles come to become Charles II and the relationship with his sister, I really liked this as though I have read a little of Charles it has mostly been about his later reign, the second book moves on to the telling of Charles wife, Catherine (I believe Jean Plaidy has written a book about her seperately which I intend to get so hope its not too much a repeat of this), though being an admirer of Nell Gywn I never knew a great deal about Catherine but, I really rather felt for her as she had trouble bearing Charles an heir.

Here Lies Our sovereign Lord as I said was my favourite of the three and focusses mainly on Nell though also Moll Davies.

Charles was a very colourful king and it is easy to see why he was so popular, this is a big read but, it really doesn't seem it - if you love this period of history (which I do, I would love to have lived in London during this period, much nicer than it is now!!).

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Courtesan by Diane Haeger

Amid the disapproving gossip of the Court, a royal romance defies all obstacles.

The Court of Fran├žois I is full of lust, intrigue, and bawdy bon temps—a different world from the quiet country life Diane de Poitiers led with her elderly husband. Now a widow, the elegant Diane is called back to Court, where the King’s obvious interest marks her as an enemy to the King’s favourite, Anne d’Heilly. The Court is soon electrified by rumors of their confrontations. As Anne calls on her most venomous tricks to drive Diane away, Diane finds an ally in the one member of Court with no allegiance to the King’s mistress: his teenage second son, Henri.

Neglected by his father and disliked by his brothers, Prince Henri expects little from his life. But as his friendship with Diane deepens into infatuation and then a romance that scandalizes the Court, the Prince begins to discover hope for a future with Diane. But fate and his father have other plans for Henri—including a political marriage with Catherine de Medici. Despite daunting obstacles, Henri’s devotion to Diane never wanes; their passion becomes one of the most legendary romances in the history of France.

Although in historical fiction circles Diane Haeger is not regarded as one of the best historical fiction authors this was a darn good read. The story of King Henry II of France and Diane de Poitiers, his mistress. This is a royal romance I know very little about in fact I only found out about it after Googling Diane to find a little background about the book. So that means I don't know if there were any historical inaccuracies, although from other reviews I believe there was although some say there wasn't.

But, whether or not there were lots of historical accuracies the love Diane and Henri shared seemed so powerful and a really beautiful love story. Diane did seem to be portrayed as quite perfect, whether she was in reality I don't know. I think possibly the author was very sympathetic to Diane as we have seen in other authors who are sympathetic to their subject.

It is a beautiful telling of a 30 year love affair with a woman and a man 16 years her junior, I would love to read more about them I understand there is another book about them by Princess Michael of Kent but, apparently its awful, pretty much like the woman herself (my opinion!)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Gift by Cecelia Aherne

Step into the magical world of Cecelia Ahern If you could wish for one gift this Christmas, what would it be? Everyday Lou Suffern battled with the clock. He always had two places to be at the same time. He always had two things to do at once. When asleep he dreamed. In between dreams, he ran through the events of the day while making plans for the next. When at home with his wife and family, his mind was always someplace else. On his way into work one early winter morning, Lou meets Gabe, a homeless man sitting outside the office building. Intrigued by him and on discovering that he could also be very useful to have around, Lou gets Gabe a job in the post room. But soon Lou begins to regret helping Gabe. His very presence unsettles Lou and how does Gabe appear to be in two places at the same time? As Christmas draws closer, Lou starts to understand the value of time. He sees what is truly important in life yet at the same time he learns the harshest lesson of all. This is a story about people who not unlike parcels, hide secrets.They cover themselves in layers until the right person unwraps them and discovers what's inside.Sometimes you have to be unravelled in order to find out who you really are. For Lou Suffern, that took time.

As one of those people who absolutely adores Christmas I couldn't not get this book! The only thing I regret is not leaving it until Christmas to read it. The way the book is marketed is quite cute just like a gift with a red ribbon.

Now on to the actual book I have been just a little disappointed with cecelia's books of late and haven't found anything to match Where Rainbows End and PS I Love You and whilst this still isn't as good as those I definitely preferred it to the more recent ones.

This book has a story contained within another story we start of seeing a child throwing a turkey at his fathers house and the second story is of the policeman telling the story to the child. The story follows throughout the Christmas period and whilst it may not sound very exciting it really is a brilliant story.

I always find with Cecelia's books that though they can be quite light hearted and easy to follow there is always an underlying message for us all especially at the festive time of year.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Captive Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy

Scotland has been torn apart by civil war and the young and passionate Catholic Mary Queen of Scots is in the hands of her enemies. Under duress, Mary abdicates in favour of her son, James VI, and fleeing to England she boldly seeks refuge from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. But Elizabeth has never trusted the ambitious Mary, and consequently has her imprisoned. So begins a treacherous battle between two of history's most powerful and ruthless women. Without once meeting her cousin, Mary is held captive for nineteen years, whilst Elizabeth rules in the shadow of countless Catholic plots against her life...

As an admirer of Elizabeth I this book (and its predecessor) is rather biased towards Mary QoS however, having said that it was rather interesting to see things from Marys side I did find myself sympathising with her. I found Elizabeth in this book to be portrayed as rather jealous, if she was really like that I do not know but, possibly.

I did find this book a little drawn out in places and somewhat tedious but, overall it was as I said interesting to see things from Mary's side. I have yet to read Margaret George's fictional account of this story so will be moving that up my TBR list quite a bit as I do find Mary QoS rather intriguing.

And you cannot help but, feel sad at the end of this at Mary's beheading and her poor little dog who never ate after her death!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Royal Road to Fotheringay by Jean Plaidy

At just six days old, Mary Stuart became Queen of Scots. At just six years old she was betrothed to the Dauphin Francois, the future King of France. Reluctantly leaving Scotland, Mary is raised in the decadent French court in preparation to become the Queen of France. But her reign with Francois is short-lived. Widowed at just eighteen years old, Mary is once again forced to leave her home to return to Scotland. Now a Catholic queen of a Protestant country, Mary must rule with caution and choose her next husband prudently...

Royal Road to Fotheringay is the telling of Mary, Queen of Scots childhood and her early days as Queen.Having moved to France Mary became the King's little darling and then marrying the Dauphin only for him to die so tragically young and for Mary then to flee back to Scotland but, Mary was every inch the little young french lady and remained so something which was disapproved of by so many.

Later Mary marries Darnley who was probably not right for her from the outset and I think we all know how Darnleys life came to end.

I have to admit I do not know a huge amount of info about Mary, Queen of Scots except the main facts of her story so this was a very interesting insight into her life and though I have a huge interest and fascination for Elizabeth I Marys life was so tragic and I felt for her so much.

This was an amazing book and loved it, of all the Jean Plaidy books I have read so far this has to be one of my favourites.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Firemasters Mistress by Christie Dickason

In the troubled year of 1605, Papist plots are rife in the gaudy streets of Shakespeare's London as the fifth of November approaches ! Francis Quoynt, Firemaster, is recently returned from Flanders and dreaming of making fireworks rather than war. Instead, Quoynt is recruited by Robert Cecil, First Minister, to spy on Guido Fawkes and his fellow conspirators. Meanwhile, Sir Francis Bacon is scheming for high position and spying on Quoynt. Kate Peach, a glove maker, was Quoynt's lover before war took him away. Now living in Southwark, she is brought into grave danger. She is a secret Catholic. A fugitive Jesuit is concealed in her rooms. While Francis hopes to prevent the death of King James I and everyone in his parliament, Kate will have to save herself !

Based on the famous Gunpowder Plot to try and blow up James I and his parliament, the two main characters being Francis & Kate, Kate Peach is a glove maker and Francis Quoynt is hired to prevent the Gunpowder Plot from happening.

But, of course the story is more than that and it is so brilliantly weaved, if I am totally honest I didn't think this book would be that great and in fact I only bought it because it was on a 3 for 2 in Waterstones and was frantically searching for the third when I saw the cover and Philippa Gregory quoting her thoughts on the book and thought it had to be a winner, I never even read the blurb on the back before buying it!

This book for those who like me only know the basics of the details of the Gunpowder Plot is really interesting to see the details more in depth and the background of how the Gunpowder Plot came about and what happened before and after.

I loved this book from beginning to end and was so engrossed a really brilliant historical fiction novel!