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Friday, February 19, 2016

The Reign of Queen Victoria by Hector Bolitho

I enjoyed this biography of Queen Victoria but I am only giving it three stars because I found the writing a bit old-fashioned and wordy. However, I certainly prefer Bolitho to many modern historians.  Some of them are almost unreadable, and they also rely heavily on gossip and get their facts wrong.  Unfortunately, I think that they are just trying to be salacious. For example, I have read at least two books about Elizabeth 1 that strongly imply that she had a child with Thomas Seymour, and there is very little evidence for this 'old wive's tale'!

Bolitho studies Queen Victoria's life and her relationship with Prince Albert in depth in this book.  He provides lots of interesting anecdotes about this formidable woman.  For example, when she learned the piano, she closed the lid when her music teacher used the word 'must', assured him that there was no such word, and walked away!  In spite of this, she was a wonderful pianist. She also once said that 'expediency is a word I neither wish to hear again nor to understand.' (I hope to use that quotation in future!)

However, she was very indulgent with her servants.  When she was Queen, a man who tended the lamps fell because he was so drunk and dropped a lighted lamp.  When the Master of the Household sent her a written report, she just wrote 'Poor Man' in the margin!

The tale of her marriage with Prince Albert is a bit sad.  Before she married him, she loved to dance and have a good time.  But Albert was very 'strait-laced' and insisted on respectability.  He was also a bit of an autocrat and, of course, there wasn't much time for the Queen to enjoy life when she was constantly pregnant.

Anyone interested in royal history will like this book.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne

I think that this romantic novel was just too young for me.  I started it but it didn't grip me and I didn't find the characters very likeable.

Circle of Pearls by Rosalind Laker

I couldn't get into this historical novel set in the English Civil War.  The writing seemed a bit too simple.  However, I will try other books by Rosalind Laker.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Courtesan and Countess The Lost and Found Memoirs of the French Consul's Wife Jana Verhoeven, Alan Willey & Jeanne Allen

Celeste de Chabrillan was certainly a formidable woman.  She blamed her stepfather's abuse for setting her on the 'road to ruin' and became a famous courtesan, nicknamed Mogador.  She wanted respectability when she married the count, who was given the position of French Consul in Australia when seeking his fortune on the goldfields.  However, her memoirs detailed her adventures as a high-class courtesan so the snobbish ladies of Australian society refused to associate with her. She started to write successful novels in spite of this.

These memoirs concern her life in France after her husband died.  She wrote plays and novels and enjoyed the company of famous people including the Emperor himself.  They are interesting but fairly melodramatic and 'flowery'.  Celeste is often nasty, for example, she describes her step-daughter as useless.  However, she could be kind-hearted - she set up a home for orphans which is still a shelter for vulnerable girls today.

I am really more interested in Celeste's life in Australia but this is worth reading if you like the Victorian era.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton

This could have been an extremely interesting book with its tale of a powerful rivalry between two brothers to assert power over the young King and the jealousy of a mature ex-Queen of an attractive teenage princess who gains the attention of the rakish Thomas Seymour.  However, I found Norton's style fairly dry.

I also found her evidence for some of her theories somewhat elusive.  For example, she writes that Princess Elizabeth wanted to marry Thomas Seymour after his wife died.  Most of the evidence suggests that she was attracted to him but she was extremely wary of his attentions. Her statement after he was executed about his having 'much wit, but little judgement' shows that she knew exactly what type of man he was.

Norton also brings up the old canard about a midwife delivering a secret baby in the middle of the night, suggesting that the baby might have been the Princess's child.  Apparently, this story was old when Princess Elizabeth was born. It's an old legend that has been passed down through the centuries and it's based on rumours and supposition.  Many historians have discounted it.  It's probably better than the myth that the famous Queen was a man, however!

I will read more of Norton's books but I think that I will take them with a grain of salt.

Monday, February 01, 2016

I'll See You In Paris by Michelle Gable

Giovanni Boldini [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I am afraid that I gave this up, because I found the stories very strange and disjointed.  The most interesting part of the book was about Gladys, the former Duchess of Marlborough.  I will read a biography of her instead!