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The King's Women (Onyx)
The King's Women (Onyx)
by Dinah Lampitt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good trash, April 26, 2014
The is the fourth Dinah Lampitt novel I've read, and aside from The Silver Swan - a sequel to Sutton Place that turned out to be a dud, mediocre historical romance - they're all magnificent.

This one is about Charles VII of France and the women in his life - wife, mistresses, Joan of Arc (who helped him gain his throne) - and while it's perfectly readable it takes awhile to become really compelling, which happens around the time Joan of Arc enters the story. Then it becomes riveting; I had been reading it slowly but breezed through the last 200 pages in two days (it's 556 pages).

One slight warning: The King's Women is written in a more `trashy', bodice-ripper style that Lampitt's Tudor novels (Sutton Place and Pour the Dark Wine). That didn't ruin it for this reader, but it was a surprise and at times a bit over the top, particularly in its portrayal of Isabeau of Bavaria, who comes across as almost comically depraved (recent scholarship, such as The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria (Rethinking Theory) and The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe, suggests that she was not).

I can't fathom why this author's novels aren't still in print. One of the publishers putting out reprints of classic historical fiction - by Jean Plaidy, Margaret Campbell Barnes, Margaret Irwin, etc. - should remedy the situation.

Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn Vol 1
Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn Vol 1
by Sarah A. Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.97
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3.0 out of 5 stars Needs to be properly edited and reissued a real publisher, March 3, 2014
It's a shame the author of this book had to resort to self-publishing with its attendant amateurish, or rather non-existent, editing, e.g. starting dialogue on a new line with a comma at the end of the previous paragraph instead of incorporating the previous sentence into the new paragraph. Hard to explain, but an example:

`You are correct, Your Grace.' Although each day I felt more comfortable in that world and more attuned with Anne, I intuitively sensed that this was a dangerous conversation. So I held back, preferring to listen. In my silence, My Lord Suffolk forged on,
[New paragraph] `Wolsey is naught but a butcher's son who has risen way beyond his station. His pomposity and grandeur is irksome.' (p. 130)

The author also doesn't appear to know that while it's normal practice to put a comma after an interjection at the start of a sentence - e.g. "Oh," "Why," "Goodness," "Well," "Ouch" - you do not automatically put a comma after a conjunction at the start of a sentence. There were lots of sentences that started with "Yet" and nearly every time she put a comma after "Yet", ruining the flow of sentences and making me cringe again and again. (She also sometimes put a comma after "But" at the start of a sentence when there was no need to.)

OK, this is nitpicky stuff, but it's a disappointment since this sort of thing can ruin the experience of reading a book, and the content is definitely of publishable standard. It's not a work of genius but it's one of the better novels about Anne Boleyn. It's obviously very well researched, and not the work of a hack who knew nothing about the Tudor era and dashed off a piece of error-ridden fluff in order to cash in on a fashionable topic. It just needed proper editing.

Part one begins in the modern world, where a modern-day Anne wins an `Anne Boleyn Connoisseur's Weekend' competition to visit Hever Castle, Hampton Court and the Tower of London. At Hever Castle Anne suffers a violent illness and, in a time slip device, finds herself transported back to 1527, in Anne Boleyn's body, where she lives through Anne and Henry VIII's events of the next year, in the early days of Henry's attempts to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. At the end of part two she returns to the contemporary world. While part two drags a little at times (parts of it could have been edited down) it's perfectly competent, if unconventional, historical fiction, written by someone who clearly knows the history very well.

This style of storytelling might sound a bit weird. But think of how awful most novels about this historical figure are. (I made a Listmania list of 33, and most are poor or tragically bad.) Aside from editorial problems the only serious problem with the book is part three, which spends too much time dealing with modern-day Anne's love life. The author needed someone to explain that, while writing a historical novel in this time slip style is fine, it's primarily a novel about Anne Boleyn, and modern-day Anne's life isn't very interesting - only interesting enough to very briefly bookend a novel about 16th century Anne. Frankly, I was bored by this chick-lit stuff. Modern Anne's affair with a man whose marriage has fallen apart but who is still married and who has a young daughter with his wife is presumably meant to provide an analogy with Anne Boleyn's situation with Henry VIII, but it just seemed dead weight. The first chapter of part three was necessary to the story, but the next four chapters felt unnecessary and I think it would have improved the book to delete them.

The bad editing means I'm not sure this book is worthy buying and keeping, unless it gets reissued by a proper publisher and judiciously edited. I certainly wouldn't re-read this edition. But if you're interested in the subject matter and can get it from a library, as I did, then it's worth a try.

Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England
Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England
by Adam Kuper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.40
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most interesting works of nineteenth century history I’ve read, February 12, 2014
Technically this book appears to be anthropology, but it reads like history – and very good history at that. It’s a study of the English Bourgeoisie that originated with the Industrial Revolution, and how frequent intermarriage helped create clans that, although they did not belong to the landed elite, became immensely influential in business, science, finance and politics, not to mention producing some of the greatest English novelists and historians.

Adam Kuper notes that before limited liability legislation was introduced in the 1850s and 60s “the typical nineteenth-century firm was a private partnership. The owners shared unlimited liability: each and every partner was liable to personal bankruptcy if the business failed. Trust was therefore essential, and so family businesses were the norm”. Brothers and brothers-in-law went into business together; they had reason to encourage their children to keep it in the family by marrying one another, and in an age of large families the pool of available cousins might run to dozens, leading to multiple marriages between sets of siblings (eg Charles Darwin married his maternal cousin Emma Wedgwood; Emma’s brother Joe had already married Charles’s sister Caroline). He also notes that Jews and Quakers, who were disproportionately represented in banking circles, preferred to marry among themselves, and had reason to do so as unlimited liability meant bank partners had to trust each other and their creditors. They therefore had incentive to marry one another or the people who borrowed their money, to whom they were probably already connected in some way.

Kuper notes the anomaly that throughout most of the nineteenth century men in Britain were forbidden to marry a deceased wife’s sister, while cousin marriage, which involved close relatives, was acceptable. Yet even marriages to a deceased wife’s sister, considered of dubious validity and voidable since the sixteenth century, was not made strictly illegal until 1835. This appears to have come about accidentally, after a duke married his deceased wife’s half sister and the marriage produced his only son. In order to prevent anyone from challenging the boy’s legitimacy and right to succeed to his father’s title, a former Lord Chancellor drafted a Marriage Act that recognised any such marriages contracted before 31 August 1835. During the debate “conservatives insisted that the law should be effective only retrospectively. They also tacked on an extra clause which provided that in the future, any marriage contracted within the prohibited degrees was to be void from the very start”. This explains a matter that had puzzled me for years: why marriage to a deceased wife’s sister was legal in Australia in the nineteenth century when it was so stringently forbidden in England, and it would be reasonable to assume that English law would have applied. (I had read that Queen Victoria attempted to get the ban removed when she wanted her daughter Beatrice to marry her daughter Alice’s widower, and that it was voted down by the bishops in the House of Lords.) It sounds as if it was more the other way around: marriage to a deceased wife’s sister was banned in England but left legal elsewhere or at least legalised at some point; Kuper notes that one of the factors that led to the ban being lifted in 1907 was that “most of the colonial countries had altered the law. In consequence, an Australian could make a perfectly legal marriage to his deceased wife’s sister only to find that his marriage was invalid in England, his children illegitimate.” Even then, marriage to a deceased husband’s brother was not legalised until 1921, and the Marriage Act of 1949 still banned a man from marrying his divorced wife’s sister. (Kuper doesn’t mention that even this restriction was removed in the Marriage Act of 1960.)

The much-married Henry VIII’s matrimonial affairs appear to have had influence on why cousin marriage was so acceptable in England. Kuper notes that when Henry VIII wanted to marry Katherine Howard in 1540 there was a legal issue, as she was first cousin to Anne Boleyn: “Katherine therefore counted as first cousin of Henry, on the principle that man and wife were “one flesh”. As the law stood, he could not marry her. He duly set about having the law changed”. Parliament then passed a law that permitted all marriages not banned under the Levitical degrees, and since cousin marriages were not prohibited in Leviticus they were permitted. While Protestants generally believed that only marriages with relatives that the Bible prohibited should be forbidden, the Catholic restrictions on marriage with relatives-in-law remained: “Indeed, the Tudors found these prohibitions rather convenient. After all, this was the doctrine on which Henry relied in order to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled. When Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth, became Queen, she very naturally endorsed the ban of marriage with the sister of a deceased wife, or indeed the brother of a deceased husband. She later excused herself from marrying Philip II of Spain because he had been married to her sister Mary.”

Incest and Influence traces the cousins marriages and influence of eminent bourgeois families – Wedgwoods, Darwins, Rothschilds, Barclays, Trevelyans, Macaulays, Wilberforces, Stephens – from their origins as industrialists, financiers, abolitionists, lawyers and merchants, through to their intellectual descendants who “recast the natural and social sciences, questioned theological doctrines, debated public policy in the language of philosophy, and made the novel the great art form of their class”. It ends with their Bloomsbury descendants in the twentieth century, who were no longer likely to marry their cousins since the declining birth rate and the death of young men in WWI meant they had so few of them. Darwinian concerns about genetic damage to the offspring of first cousins had also become an issue since the mid-nineteenth century, even though they are apparently not justified by science. What was once commonplace in Britain and North America is now frowned upon or considered downright incestuous, and since 1861 – and as recently as 2005 – has even been banned in many states in the USA.

Sutton Place
Sutton Place
by Dinah Lampitt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous Tudor fiction, January 29, 2014
I wish I'd discovered this author years earlier - her books are so good that after reading only two of them she's already one of my favourite historical novelists.

At the same time it's hard to sum up what Sutton Place is about, at least without making it sound like a dog's breakfast. You could say it's about the Weston family and particularly Sir Francis Weston, one of the men executed on trumped-up charges at the time of Anne Boleyn's downfall, whose father Sir Richard Weston acquired the manor of Sutton Place after the execution in 1521 of the Duke of Buckingham, one of whose forfeited properties it had been.

Then it's also about a character who appears in Dinah Lampitt's novel Pour the Dark Wine: Zachary Howard, an (invented) illegitimate son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who is clairvoyant and has a remarkable gift for foreseeing the futures of other characters in the book.

You could also say it's a novel about Anne Boleyn - one amongst so many, but one of the better ones. Since it's from 1983 the sixth finger myth is there, but it portrays her as a forceful and intelligent woman who is innocent of the charges that are used to destroy her.

And you could even say that Sutton Place itself is virtually a character in the book, along with the history of its previous owners, and even future ones; the novel is bookended by the story of the dying J. Paul Getty, `the richest man in the world', who bought it and died there in 1976.

It no doubt sounds like a mess of a novel, but all this is interwoven with such skill that it fits together seamlessly. Like Pour the Dark Wine, Sutton Place isn't quite highbrow; for example there's a supernatural element running through it, based on the idea of a curse having been laid on Sutton Place in the eleventh century by Queen Edith, rejected wife of Edward the Confessor. But it's still a magnificent accomplishment, and one of the most enjoyable historical novels I've ever read.

Pour the Dark Wine (Coronet Books)
Pour the Dark Wine (Coronet Books)
by Dinah Lampitt
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive writing and storytelling, December 23, 2013
Pour the Dark Wine tells the story of Jane, Edward and Thomas Seymour, from 1529 through to Edward's execution in 1552. It doesn't quite fall into the category of truly highbrow historical fiction, but with such good writing and such a big canvas (it's 515 pages) it's still much better than most Tudor fiction. It was the first Dinah Lampitt novel I had read, and was good enough that I will definitely read more.

A few minor complaints: The novel includes invented characters, such as Clovarella, an illegitimate cousin of the Seymours on their mother's side, and Zachary, an illegitimate son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. This is an acceptable practice in historical fiction, but although it didn't bother me there were times where I felt that too much attention was devoted to their stories rather than those of the real historical figures. Lampitt also includes the sixth finger myth about Anne Boleyn, but she's hardly alone there, and anyway the novel was published in 1989, the same year as Retha Warnicke's The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn, which does an effective job of demolishing that myth but is not included in the bibliography. In more serious errors, Lampitt portrays Jane Seymour as a passionate woman who has an affair with Henry VIII while Anne Boleyn is still alive and whose show of virtue is only a show, and also presents as fact the legend that she gave birth to her son by caesarean (the Historical Note indicates that she was led to believe this by historians who should have known better). Katherine Howard is also portrayed as a shameless wanton rather than the more sympathetic figure who emerges from Lacey Baldwin Smith's 1961 work A Tudor Tragedy, a book also missing from the bibliography.

Four stars nonetheless. It was a fantastic idea to write a novel about the three famous Seymour siblings, the book is beautifully written and, provided historical novelists stick predominantly to fact, minor and even occasional not-so-minor historical liberties are forgivable.

I, Jane: In the Court of Henry VIII (Henry VIII's Court)
I, Jane: In the Court of Henry VIII (Henry VIII's Court)
by Diane Haeger
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.48
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful cover - shame about the content, December 1, 2013
Although Diane Haeger is a former romance writer people might have been forgiven for thinking that after three prior Tudor novels she would have become familiar enough with the Tudor era to be able to give her novels and characters a sense of authenticity.

This has not happened. When I first tried this book a year ago I found the writing so flat that I gave up after 12 pages. This time I managed to get as far as page 74, and the prognosis is not good. The characters are shallow, clichéd or unconvincing, or all three. For example, the poet John Skelton knew Jane Seymour's mother in her youth, and in a poem entitled `To Mistress Margery Wentworth' described her as "Benign, courteous, and meek / With words well devised; / In you, who list to seek, / Be virtues well comprised" (quoted from Elizabeth Norton's biography of Jane Seymour). Yet Haeger sets her forth as a domineering shrew: "Margery Wentworth Seymour was the true power behind the family, and she was fond of quoting scripture shortly before meting out some punishment or other to her children" (p. 16).

This character should also not be referred to as "Margery Wentworth Seymour", since using a double-barrelled surname for a woman is modern practice (eg Hilary Rodham Clinton, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). There's another error on p. 29, when Haeger has Jane Seymour say to her brother Thomas, "With John and Henry both dead, you are the second eldest now." Jane's brother John was indeed dead, but her brother Henry was alive. Unlike Edward and Thomas Seymour he lived a life of relative obscurity, and his Wikipedia entry lists him as living until 1578.

On p. 39 the author writes "It was like trying to translate the Latin Vulgate of the Bible". Latin Vulgate of the Bible? That should be "Latin of the Vulgate Bible" - the Vulgate Bible being the fourth-century translation by Saint Jerome. A further problem involves poor dialogue with excessive exclamation points, eg:

"Margery, 'tis madness!" her father shouted impotently.
"Or folly! Either way, a daughter who behaves like our sons shall resemble one of them, at least until she gains a grain of humility! Thanks be to our dear Lord that Elizabeth is nothing like you! You must remember in the future that you are a Seymour and a Wentworth. A small drop of royal blood flows through your veins. Yet it is enough of the honeyed elixir for me to do all that I can to train you up, if not in my image, then at least to revere it!" (p. 18 - and the nasty, vicious Lady Seymour proceeds to cut off little Jane's hair as punishment for a misdemeanour).

There's more silly writing, eg "She was a boulder of commitment rolling downhill, gaining more speed with each thump of her heart" (p. 34), "Thomas laughed at the absurdity of her statement, but then as usual his expression fell more serious" (fell more serious? - p. 29) and "Jane was counting on that, even as she was distracted by the pierce-your-soul blue eyes that she was sure were the deepest, most beautiful eyes in the world" (p. 67).

In a factual error, Haeger has Jane going to the French Court with Mary Tudor when Mary marries Louis XII in October 1514. The idea that Jane Seymour went to France has been discredited by modern historians and apparently originated in Agnes Strickland's `Lives of the Queens of England' - if I recall correctly, due to a misidentified portrait. I'm betting one of Haeger's sources was Strickland, whose work was first published in the 1840s and, while it has some merit and entertainment value, is out of date.

At the start of chapter four Haeger also writes:

`The glory of the Seymours lasted only so long as the King of France did. By January 1515, Louis XII was dead of consumption, and his young English queen was pregnant by her secret lover, Charles Brandon, her brother Henry VIII's most trusted companion. Everyone who had been left in France had returned to England shortly after Jane and the others had left.'

Mary Tudor was not pregnant by Charles Brandon in January 1515. Louis XII died on 1 January 1515, and Brandon was only sent to France on an embassy in late January. Mary may have married Brandon for the first time in mid February; her biographer Hester Chapman states that Brandon and two other ambassadors were received by Mary on 10 February and that they were married shortly afterward - "it seems a few days later, in the little chapel of the Palais de Cluny". After Cardinal Wolsey obtained Henry VIII's forgiveness of their marriage they returned to England and were publicly married again on 13 May 1515 at Greenwich Palace. Only then did Mary become pregnant, giving birth to her first child in March 1516, ten months after the wedding.

Did the author alter historical fact for the sake of drama and scandal? Or did she not undertake adequate research, and accidentally make a blunder? Whatever the reason, I gave up on the book here. Even as a mere amateur expert on the Tudor era, I couldn't take the inaccuracies anymore. On p. 71 Haeger also has Anne Boleyn as "gazing up at the tall, powerful Duc d'Orléans" and describes him as the "heir to the French Crown". Two problems: the heir to the crown was Francis, Count of Angoulême and Duke of Valois, and at this time there was no Duke of Orleans. Louis XII was Duke of Orleans before he became king, and if he had had two sons he would probably have bestowed that title on the younger one, just as Francis I later bestowed it upon his second son, Henry. But Louis XII had no sons at all. In a further avoidable mistake, Sir Francis Bryan is referred to as "lord Bryan" when he was a mere knight and only barons, viscounts, earls, marquesses and dukes are members of the House of Lords. The correct way to address him would have been "Sir Francis" or "Master Bryan".

One last complaint: in a note at the start of the book Haeger refers to Dr Pamela Gross, author of a biography of Jane Seymour, as "herself a descendant of Jane Seymour". This is impossible, since Jane's only child, Edward VI, died childless and Jane Seymour therefore has no descendants. Jane can therefore be no more than a collateral ancestor of Dr Gross's - and, if so, why not tell us from which one of Jane's relatives she is descended?

`I, Jane' is a poor attempt at historical fiction. It's the sort of book that's hard to concentrate on, easy to put down and an effort to pick up again - and then you have to try to get back into the superficial story and sort out the wafer-thin minor characters from one another. It is not proper historical fiction, but rather a mish-mash of fact, factual error and fantasy. If you're after that sort of historical romance then good luck with it, but people after proper historical fiction will be disappointed and may also give up on it after a few chapters.

It's several years since I read Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) but I recall that I got through the whole thing, so that might be a better option. I also have Dinah Lampitt's Pour the Dark Wine (Coronet Books), a novel about the Seymours, waiting to be read, and with any luck it will be better than this. It's certainly difficult to believe it could be worse.

I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International)
I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International)
by Robert Graves
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.76
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it and you'll be rewarded, November 28, 2013
It took some time to work out why this book is considered a classic and one of the greatest historical novels ever written. Of course, it's obvious from the start that it's by someone with immense knowledge of the Roman era. But it was often rather heavy going, and by the time I was halfway through I considered abandoning it because I could only read it in short segments before my attention waned, and I had realised that it's the sort of novel that doesn't work that way - as with such novels as War and Peace, you have to set aside a lot of time and get really caught up in the story rather than dipping in and out of it.

But I persisted and was glad I did. In Chapter 25, about two-thirds of the way through, there's a hilarious conversation between Claudius and his grandmother the Empress Livia, in which Livia matter-of-factly regales Claudius with the terrible crimes she has committed throughout her life (allegedly committed, I gather, but let non-fiction writers speculate on that). The novel's pace then picks up and manages to keep going for the rest of the book, so that it's a breeze to get through. It also turns into a family soap opera on a grand scale, and is completely riveting - particularly everything to do with the Emperor Caligula's life and crimes.

By the end I understood why it was a classic and was eager to read the sequel.

The Merry Wives of Henry VIII: A Tudor Spoof Collection
The Merry Wives of Henry VIII: A Tudor Spoof Collection
by Ann Nonny
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.69
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hits and misses - but worth reading for the hits, November 6, 2013
Historical fiction, the Introduction to this book declares, "is very odd. It takes real people and makes them do weird things that they would never have done in reality."

And so the sketches in this collection mercilessly satirise the outrageous absurdities, cringeworthy clichés and shameless historical liberties in such fictional portrayals as The Tudors, The Other Boleyn Girl and Hilary Mantel's Tudor fiction offerings (although I re-read Wolf Hall and still think it's magnificent except for the sleazy portrayal of Anne Boleyn).

There are over 40 sketches, most of them no more than three or four pages. Most are either mediocre or actual flops, but for people who have overdosed on bad historical fiction and feel they can't cope any longer without satirical therapy it's worth reading, since the ones that hit the mark get it so, so right. Ones that fall into the latter category are:

* `Homage to Historical Fiction'
* `10 Things to Remember when Reading Historical Fiction' (This includes: "3. Although there may be a bibliography of non-fiction work at the back, ignore it; it will soon become apparent that the author did' - spot on!)
* `Bring Out Your Dead' (brilliant spoof of Bring up the Bodies)
* `The Trial - A Report'
* `The Strange Tale of Henry the Giant'
* `The Devil and Mr. Tudor'
* `The Premiers 1: Badger Manor and Bring Out Your Dead'
* `The Premiers 2: The Second Boleyn Tart'

The `Handy Hints for Writers of Historical Fiction' at the start is also amusing, and pokes fun at historians who present speculation as fact as much as it does at `historical' novelists who do the same.

This book is just over 180 pages and, with cartoons taking up quite a bit of space, reads in under three hours. Recommended with one reservation: don't expect to be entertained all the time. But if you've read every cliché in the Tudor book, expect to be very entertained when you are.

Lives Of Talleyrand
Lives Of Talleyrand
by Brinton Crane
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.13
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant except for the last two chapters, August 30, 2013
This review is from: Lives Of Talleyrand (Paperback)
This is a really interesting study of the most complex and controversial of historical figures - as readable as Duff Cooper's biography, and far better than Robin Harris's dull but worthy Talleyrand; Betrayer and Saviour of France. (which, in spite of my great interest in the subject, I had to give up on after 100 pages due to the dull, clinical writing style). It's by no means strictly impartial - Crane Brinton believed that Talleyrand was, on the whole, "good" rather than "bad". But it sets Talleyrand in context, lays out his achievements, and makes a firm case that "Over the course of a long life he employed his technical skill so to help make France and Europe more agreeable places for sensible men to live in". It reminded me somewhat of Lacey Baldwin Smith's Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty.

It's written in a swift, witty and highly readable style and is full of amusing and incisive comments. The best was this, on Talleyrand's deathbed conversion: "Detailed descriptions of what went on at his bedside have been given by witnesses, and by many who were not witnesses. To Catholics it was an edifying spectacle, to neutrals a comedy, and to anti-clericals a farce, a Jesuit plot, a final mockery on the part of the man who had never believed in anything - not even in anti-clericalism." (p. 218). Another good one: "One-way principles may lead to Heaven or the scaffold - perhaps to Heaven by way of the scaffold - but not to diplomatic victories."

The only thing that slights marrs the books is the last two chapters, which aren't specifically about Talleyrand, but are more about the art of politics in general. They aren't quite boring, but are a bit of an anti-climax compared to the brilliance of what comes before.

The King's Favorite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II
The King's Favorite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II
by Susan Holloway Scott
Edition: Paperback
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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother, July 17, 2013
I made it through 105 of over 400 pages of this book and wish I hadn't bothered continuing that far. The writing isn't terrible, as in `How did this person secure a publishing contract?', but it's lame and lifeless and the characters come across as shallow and utterly insignificant. They're not quite cartoonish, but they're not fully human. As for dramatising historical figures and events, there's nothing inspiring or even interesting. Pedestrian would be a good word to describe this book, except that it's so lacking in substance that even that's too generous. This was a surprise, since the author's novel about Sarah Churchill was well above the average standard of historical fiction.

People would be better off with Jean Plaidy's trilogy about Charles II, The Loves of Charles II: The Stuart Saga, or, if they can overlook the unfortunate and gratuitous sleaze - which really should have been toned down by the publisher, and mars what would otherwise be a very well-written historical novel - Gillian Bagwell's The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles.

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