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All For Love: The Scandalous Life and Times of Royal Mistress Mary Robinson Paperback – February 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historical romance queen Elyot shines her light on Mary Darby Robinson (1758–1800), who, during her brief life, burned with a passionate intensity. Born to a successful British merchant who abandoned the family, Mary nonetheless enjoyed an education that nurtured her passion for prose, poetry and drama. Elyot convincingly evokes the ambivalence Mary feels at 15 as she struggles with her mother, who pleads that she give up her upcoming acting debut to marry Tom Robinson, the supposed heir of a rich uncle. After doing as she's told, Mary suffers the first of many romantic disappointments, all the while finding refuge in her poetry and other writings. Tom's philandering and financial irresponsibility finally return her to the stage, and there the auburn-haired beauty catches the eye of the Prince of Wales. Mary's daring and anguished existence is truly the stuff of novels—her own writings, particularly her feminist essays, were acclaimed in her lifetime—and Elyot's telling of her life, in Mary's voice, honors her legacy. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451222970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451222978
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,973,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on July 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
All too often, when a novelist comes up with a character that does outrageous things, or seems to be in the prominent spots, or knowing the famous over and over again, the author gets accussed of going far too over the top and being unrealistic. But sometimes, every now and then, such a person does appear in history.

Author Amanda Elyot tells the story of a woman who grew up in near poverty and turned herself into a celebrity in late eighteenth century England. Mary Darby is the cherished child of a wealthy merchant, with a father that adores her, a mother who watches closely over her and two brothers. It's clear from the opening that Mary has everything that she needs, including a very rare education. And she is blessed with exceptional prettiness and a gift for mimicry and acting. But her love isn't enough to keep her father home. Mr. Darby is returning to his adventures in the Americas, and tells his wife bluntly that he considers their marriage over. He'll send some money, but the rest will be up to her, and he walks out of their lives.

It's a devastating blow to the little family. Their fine possessions are stripped away and sold, leaving them destitute and relocating to the City of London. Mary is able to meet several people, and her attention is ever drawn to performing on stage -- right up until the manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, Mr. Garrick, asks her to audition for him. When the audition turns out to be a success, and the manager agrees to train her up for the stage, Mary is delighted.

Not only will she have a career of her own, but she will have her own income as well. It's a lure that Mary can not resist, but her mother is less than pleased about her daughter's choice.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Darby Robinson was nothing less than famous - first for her acting, then for her affairs, and lastly for her prolific writing. However, as a feminist and history lover with a penchant for the Ton, I found "All for Love" to be a somewhat dull novel for a book based on a life so fascinating. The author's note at the end helped to explain some of my complaints (ie: the reason for some outlandish scenes), but finding this at the end of the book was too late to alter my reading experience.

Mary's life was marked at a young age when her father abandoned her family and left her mother bereft; it was the first time of many that the men Mary loved would desert her and leave her in the lurch. She escaped her depressing reality by delving into her education, and found she was able to express her anguish through poetry and eventually dramatic roles, a pattern she would sustain through her life.

Overall, Mary's early years are explained in detail, yet they are not particularly fascinating. Her affair with the Prince seems comparatively lacking in detail, particularly since it is highlighted in the title of the book. The last third of the book seems torn between chronicling her tumultuous 15 year affair with Banastre Tarleton and highlighting her rise to literary fame. Though Ban's treatment of Mary was the impetus for her many works, neither subject is fully developed enough to be satisfying to the reader. The culmination of this book, and thus her life as it is told to the reader, comes across as rushed and lacking in depth. I wanted more romance, more character development and more overall depth than I got.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By booker on January 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
I knew precisly squat about Mary Robinson before I picked up this book, except from what the back blurb told me. I was hoping for a tale of the theater with a feisty heroine I could root for and sympathize with. Unfortunately, the theater world, when it does appear, is given life with a lackluster pen. Since Mary Robinson's stage career was brief anyway, it would have been nice to make the most of it when it did happen. Sheridan and Garrick appear, but they are just names and there is really nothing to them beyond what one would find in a Wikipedia entry. In fact, Garrick is treated somewhat curiously. In Chapter 15, Garrick is alive. In Chapter 16, Mary referrs to "the ghost of my dear mentor Garrick." I had to wiki if Garrick had died in that time. (He had.) Then, nearly 30 pages later, we get a more in-depth description of Garrick's illness and death. It was quite a "wires flapping" moment in the narrative structure, given Garrick's stated importance in her life by Mary herself.

As for the feisty heroine, she was not to be seen. For someone touted as a front-line Romantic poetess and mover and shaker, she was suprisingly drab and a pawn in the hands of many: her mother, husband, and the two loves of her life, the Prince of Wales and Banastre Tarleton. If Mary Robinson was truly such a manipulated and desperate doormat, I doubt any author could make her into an engaging focus of a book. If Ms. Elyot deliberately emphasized that aspect in order to create a romantically suffering character at the hands of those utterly unworthy of her, then it misfired.
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