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A Woman of Passion Mass Market Paperback – March 7, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran romance writer Henley (A Year and a Day) would have readers believe that sexual liaisons were the primary focus of society in 16th-century England. Based on the life of Elizabeth (Bess) Hardwick, the determined commoner who served Elizabeth I as a lady-in-waiting and later became the Countess of Shrewsbury, the book's formidable heroine is unfortunately stifled here by the confines of the romantic fiction genre. Haunted by the nightmare of being ruthlessly thrust out of her beloved home during childhood, Bess decides early on to raise her station in life, vowing to become a lady of position and wealth, and to win back her beloved Hardwick Manor. The exuberant Bess makes speedy progress toward the elevated noble status to which she devotes single-minded energy. Circumstances lead her to wed four husbands, including royal financial adviser William Cavendish (whom she loves) and Sir William St. Loe (whom she doesn't). Henley fixates on her heroine's numerous sexual experiencesAfrom a fumbling, unconsummated first marriage to the many passionate encounters that result in six children by the time she is 28. The amply researched tale aims to delve into the notorious court life celebrated by Henry VIII and later, his daughter Elizabeth I, but much of the period detail and dialogue stray into a jarringly modern-day sensibility ("we are two oversexed people who can't keep their hands off each other!"). The complex politics of the day persistently take a backseat to the licentious habits of royals and upper-classes. While the scintillating sex passages may please some readers, others may feel that Henley skirts the challenge of fully exploring the spirit of this indomitable English woman whose remarkable legacy remains in historic sites such as Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Best-selling romance writer Henley based this tale on the true story of Elizabeth Hardwick, a commoner who became lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth and married successfullyAfour times.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Island Books (March 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440222087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440222088
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
So good, that I am thinking of getting the hardcover edition too to add to my keeper shelf.
I am new to Henley and so far, of the few books I've read, this is my favorite one of hers. She reminds me of another author I like--Bertrice Small. Both have the knack of writing vivid, lusty historicals with heroines I envy to be and heroes I'd envy to know.
The fact that this is based on a real person's life is why I loved it so much. And her believable rendition of Elizabeth I and all the other notable people of the time made for a juicy read. The sex scenes sizzle but aren't kinky or gross 9compared to alot of the other stuff out there these days, it's nice to read a sensual erotic romance that has not degenereated into porn, but has remained romantic through and through. Sexy stuff, and despite what her critics say, Henley one of the few authors who's purple prose is fun to read, not annoying. And her sexual banter between the characters is as always great fun to read. Ribald and very much in keeping with the Elizabethan setting. The sexual tension between Bess and Shrew is well developed, and the ending (in the book at least) is a happy one.
In real life, for those who care, the real Bess had 8 children and lost 2, her first marriage took place when she was 13 and may well have been consumated, her third husband was twice a widower and had kids of his own and was no virgin as implied, Shrew was a cheater who conducted an affair with a chambermaid that Bess was an eyewitness to, and she and he lived most of their lives in separate residences till his death, which left Bess the richest woman in England, second only to the queen. Mary Queen of Scots was kept prisoner in many of Shrewsbury's holdings, and it was alledged that Shrew and Mary had a fling.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was given this book for my birthday in may of 2000, and when I read the back cover, I wasn't too excited about the story at all. I ended up staking A Woman of Passion at the end of my TO BE READ pile. What does the author mean by having her heroine as a lady marrying three - no four times? Personally I thought it was an odd story, and usually when I read romance, I would only like it to be one hero/man in the stories. Well this New Years, I finally got down to reading A WOMAN OF PASSION... and you know what? It was not bad at all! Let me start by helping you out and clear some facts first:
The Hero is: William Cavendish and George Talbot (Her man in her later years...)
The one and only Heroine is: Bess Hardwick
The whole story is set it London, England and is between the years of 1533 - 1567
Here's a brief summary of the plot. A Woman of Passion is actually based on the true story of Bess Hardwick, who married four different men in her lifetime. She started off life as a commoner and was given an opportunity to serve in a noble family and a chance to marry someone of high-class. She fell in love with the king's financial adviser, William Cavendish, but at that time he already had a wife. William was strongly attracted to Bess, but knew that a relationship between them was wrong. So Bess was in a way forced to marry Robert Barlow, a young man whom Bess worked with during her childhood. Shortly after their marriage, Robert becomes deathly ill, passes away and leaves Bess widowed. At the same time, Cavendish's wife passes away, and this gave an opening for Bess and Cavendish to marry. During her happy years married to Cavendish (I don't remember how long, though it was quite a while), Bess was introduced to Queen Elizabeth, and a strong friendship was developed.
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Format: Hardcover
Though still a young teenager, poverty-stricken Bess Hardwick attains a position in the household of Lady Margaret Zouche. Ultimately, she gets to go the King Henry's court and meets Princess Elizabeth.
However, due to family pressure and English inheritance laws, she is forced to wed the ailing Robert Barlow before she is sixteen. Because of his health, they never consummate the marriage. A year later, he dies. When Rogue Cavendish's wife dies, he marries Bess. They have a passionate love affair. However, when Henry dies and Queen Mary attains the throne, unbearable pressure is placed on Rogue. He soon dies from a heart attack. Bess next accepts a proposal from the kind but elderly William St. Loe. Four and a half years later, he dies. Throughout all this time, Bess has been attracted to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, but knows that there chance for a lifetime together is remote.
With her newest novel, Virginia Henley proves that readers know a good thing as evident by her numerous best selling novels and awards. A WOMAN OF PASSION is more than just an Elizabethan romance. Instead it is biographical fiction that brings an era and a brave person to life. This well-written fictionalized account of the real life and events of Bess Hardwick, an influential figure during the Elizabethan era may be Ms. Henley's best work to date, which is saying a lot because her resume of erotic historical romances include some of the all time best works.

Harriet Klausner
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