Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

Queen of Love picks up where Eleanor of Aquitaine left off. Eleanor is now married to Henry II and Queen of England and she starts dropping children left and right – including the future Richard I and the infamous John Lackland, and continues as their now grown sons revolt against their father, Richard’s crusade and marriage to Berengeria, and into her old age and John’s rule and the murder of his nephew Arthur.

I found the first person narrative as an aging Eleanor reflects back her life really bogged this book down – there is just too much telling and not showing. Although when Savage does have Eleanor in the thick of things that *showing* is downright hilarious . From seducing her husband’s mistress Rosamund Clifford in the bath,

“…as she moved towards the steaming tub, pushing up her sleeve, added, “Not with your hand, girl. With your ass.'”
“My hand coursed up her thigh and over her left buttock, then moved up to her shoulder………I brought my hand out of her hair and back to her shoulder, then slid it in front, down to her breast, to cup it and hold it, and gently pinch the nipple.”

“…the fact that we had shared a bath, because after she had soaped me I had her in the tub on top of me, and as the water had flowed out our mutual desires had flowed in….”

To her relationship with a young William Marshal (oh my that wardrobe error),

“…and released the cord holding his hose. This promptly slipped about his ankles. Or certainly tried to do this. But it was impeded, and so, with dainty fingers, I helped it on its way…….. And I realised that the entire business would have to be in my hands. Well, it was, most literally.”

Then there’s her relationship with Blondel the lute player (I mean come on, she’s over 50 already and still getting it), although she did have to share him with her son Richard (well, maybe sharing is the wrong term – Richard picked up after mom was done).

But the hands down laugh out loud moment was Eleanor giving sex-ed lessons to her future daughter-in-law Berengeria. Knowing Richard’s taste for men, she was very very careful to give her a blow by blow of anything she could do to encourage him along the path to marital harmony, as well as any orifice that one might use to encourage his interest in one of the female persuasion. I’ll spare you those details -you don’t want to know, trust me. Although we do have Eleanor discussing the marriage with her long-time maid and friend,

“But this girl is our last hope, she must be to Richard what Richard wants and requires.”
“She doesn’t have a penis, your Grace.”



As in the first book, Eleanor does it with just about everyone but the Pope and Thomas Becket (although for a while I was afraid that was going to happen). But it’s not just Eleanor who gets to play around – her sons Richard and Geoffrey both get to diddle with the French King. Read these two books for the laughs only and not for the history.

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Despite a cover that has all the appearances of a serious historical novel, well all I can say is don’t judge a book by it’s cover . This is the first of two books Savage has written on the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and is written in the first person as an older Eleanor reflects back on her life. Just a brief run down for those not familiar with her life – heiress to the Duchy of Aquitaine, she is married to the very pious King Louis of France (he was the second son and was intended for the church until the elder brother died), they go on a disastrous crusade and after bearing only two daughters Louis has the marriage annulled and she goes on to marry the future Henry II of England, where this book ends.

Although according to the book jacket this is part of a “colourful romantic series”, I’ve got to tell you – enter at your own risk. Eleanor does it with just about everybody except for the Pope, Abbe Suger, the eunuch and a monk or two, starting from the age of twelve (!!) when her governess leads her into the arts of pleasure:

Albina had been appointed my governess following Mama’s death…….Albina had never married, but she was definitely experienced. She it was who now undertook to instruct me in the business of being a woman and the duties of a wife. Well, I can’t say I much cared for the second half of her schooling…….and proceeded to tell me the facts of life. Well! My first reaction was consternation, that anyone, and particularly any man, should be allowed – and apparently encouraged – to make as free with my body as Albina indicated and was demonstrating.”

“As to the ways of myself or my maidservants, I was not in the least curious. Albina had taught me that our desires were mutual – in fact they were happy to tell me theirs, and their various means of satisfying them, in hopes of pleasing me – but however often we romped together our conversation always returned to the same subject, that of male codpieces and what might lie beneath them and what use may be made of such a remarkable apprutenance. As may be imagined, those of my attendants who actually claimed to possess personal acquaintance with such entrancing objects were in great demand, even if I was always uncertain as to whether they should be whipped for lying or wantonness.”

And then there’s the escapade with a young page (mind you, she’s still 12/13 years old) that leaves a telling stain on her skirt and raises eyebrows in the laundry (think Monica Lewinski):

I will let you put your hand beneath my gown if you will untie your codpiece.”…… “he slipped his hand up my calf, carressed my knee, and moved it higher to my thigh…….I allowed Alfred full freedom, even to reach the silky down he was seeking…….he was full to bursting……”

Oh but we’re not done yet, let’s not forget the female bath attendants at Constantinople:

I would be lying were I to claim that I did not feel a pang, several pangs, of alarm, when these girls began soaping my breasts and buttocks, sending their hands between my legs to arouse the most intense emotions. But I recalled the old saying that when in Rome…and Constantinople was far grander than Rome.”

Her uncle Raymond (ya’ll remember Deep Throat?):

“…my uncle knelt on the bed beside my shoulders, threw his other leg across me, and kneeling astride my breasts, allowed his weapon, huge and poised, to caress my face”

I’ll spare you the rest. Whilst on crusade she encounters the twelve year old Saladin:

Saladin had me on my knees like the veriest bitch. Indeed, had he commanded me, I would have barked. Perhaps I did.”

Woof woof. On to Geoffrey of Anjou (oh my).

“Soon enough he was banging away again. Fortunately twice in rapid succession was sufficient even for the Angevin, at least in the short run….”

Although the hands down laugh out loud moments were at the end where she takes up with Henry’s mother the formidable Empress Matilda. Priceless.

Outside of the OTT sex scenes the rest of the novel is rather dry and suffers badly from the use of the first person narrative. Eleanor comes across as quite vain and full of herself and an entirely unsympathetic character. Read this one for the laughs and not for the history. I do have a copy of the second book, Queen of Love and I am curious to see what Savage does with the rest of Eleanor’s life. Wonder what she does with the Lionheart? William Marshal? Rosamund Clifford? Stay tuned….

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“The moaning ceased, and there fell a silence that howled like an
empty wind as it blew through us, changing everything,
binding us together in a massive chain without shape or
substance. Forged of grief eternal, this chain was more
powerful than any steel, for it secured us in its black claws
for all time and was never to be broken.”
p. 223 of Lady of the Roses

Howling silence? And WTF is an empty wind? Chains without shape or substance but with black claws?

The book had the usual cast for this author: angels and devils, with hardly anyone falling in between. I can’t say much more about it because I gave up about a third of the way through.

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 Do you remember those campy sci-fi movies in the 50’s that were so bad they were fun to watch? Well, that’s pretty much the way I had to look at this book and certainly the only way I finished it (although I don’t think the author intended this to be a satirical farce). The basic premise sounded interesting for readers looking for an entertaining time slip of a book – masons working at Hampton Court in 2070 find a woman’s body and a letter that leads them to believe that she was Henry VIII’s mistress and pregnant. Curator Kaitlyn Rose has issues of her own, as Anne Boleyn’s ghost seems to really have it in for her, and she’s in love with her boss Colin. Half brothers Colin and Brighton (who have a mysterious past that shocks the you know what out of Kaitlyn)hate each other, and the aging Queen Mum sends them all back to Henry VIII’s court to find the pregnant woman and bring her back to the future so England will have an heir. Once our intrepid time travelers arrive they hook up with Henry and Anne and their court and surprise (!) Henry immediately starts lusting after the beauteous Kaitlyn while the evil brother Brighton schemes to leave his hated brother Colin in the past. OK, now that I’ve put that down on paper it _is_ sounding a bit silly.

Where to begin on what is wrong with this book when there are so many places to start? First off, this is apparently self-published POD which means no editor. And boy did this book need editing. Typos on almost every page — you instead of your, now instead of know,there instead of their, ware instead of wear, you’re instead of your, 5:00 shadow and then two pages later it’s five o’clock shadow — get the picture? Now for the setting of London in 2070, outside of a few Jetsonesque like references to 3D TV, I really didn’t get much feeling for being decades ahead of our current lifestyle. Worse yet, the way the dialogue was written in an attempt at British accents was way over the top – virtually every sentence had either bloke, bloody or bollocks in it.

Now for the story itself. Two men and a woman traveling alone walk right into Hampton Court and they’re just accepted like that? No one is shocked at unmarried Kaitlyn traveling alone with two men and no chaperone? No lady to attend her? Righto. They’re promptly given rooms by Henry and Kaitlyn’s given the room of his absent mistress – yet still no lady to attend her. Worse yet, Colin comes and goes and spends the night (!!) in Kaitlyn’s room and not an eyebrow raised. Want more? How about Anne Boleyn the Queen of England running off to the forest to make whoopee with Brighton and nobody notices? I could go on and on but you get the picture.

Now, why is this so campy and hysterically funny? For starters, the emergency kit brought along by Kaitlyn was priceless – “her tried and true pink and blue plaid pajama pants with their matching pink tank top”, biscuits, diet cola, chocolate, tampons, anti-bacterial soap and lice killing shampoo (I did not need to read about the other part of her body that needed shampooing). Kaitlyn keeps getting tipsy during the Court entertainments and ends up on Colin’s lap (!!), or better yet all the times she’s mad about something and in front of the King and Queen she pouts and puts her arms akimbo. Although the flat out hands down winner that had me on the floor laughing was when our intrepid heroine displays her skill in martial arts and karate chops Henry’s guards when they attempt to arrest Colin. One of my favorite quotes:

“Without hesitation, Henry snapped back into king mode, hastily slipped through the door, sans shirt, with his breeches half opened, barely containing his thwarted…” (I won’t use the word but it starts with an “e”).

There you have it, a silly plot filled with huge gaping holes that falls apart quickly, poor sentence structure laden with typos and way too many commas along with cartoon cut-out characters all add up to a mess of a book and a serious waste of a tree. If you find it at the used bookstore for a penny (no more) and want a few laughs go for it, otherwise skip this. It doesn’t even deserve one star.

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Although I understand my ARC was an uncorrected proof, this one was supposedly published in the UK last year so you have to wonder about who on earth let this stuff get past them.

“She nodded back. Avoided Jane’s eye. ‘My lord,’ she answered, with all the poise she could manage; then, neutrally to Jane’s shoulder, aware of Jane’s hand settling on Will Hastings’ arm on Jane’s waist; of the moist, hungry look in her sister’s eyes: … ” (I think this was the day after Edward died)

“When Hastings kept his temper, Dorset, unnervingly, began to stare at him. Jutting his jaw out. Leaning forward over clenched hands. Trying to stare Hastings down; the stare of a man with death in mind; holding the eye-lock for so long Hastings had thought he might pull out a sword then and there.”

“But, quietly but firmly, he moved her back. Turned away. Reached for his buckler, with muscles taut as wire again.”

Our own 15C Superwoman: “The important thing now was to stay calm; avoid getting rattled; take one step at a time. She was managing it all so far. Having Alice and the Prattes see the Italian workers today, for instance. Tomorrow, visiting the princess and sewing in her new laces for the violet silk gown. After that, snatching another hour with Dickon on the way back. Then innocently chatting with Will Caxton at his gate about her time with the princess. It was all possible, if you kept your head. It could all work.” Whew, thank goodness there’s no kids to take to soccer matches.

Here our silk merchant Isabel is having an intimate (!!) conversation with the Princess Elizabeth who has told her she’s going to marry Henry Tudor: “She shook herself. ‘Well, so….what’s he like, your future husband?’ she said, trying to look and sound warmer without saying anything overtly treasonous”

Isabel having a conversation with R3 about the rebellion and looming battle: “She said, doubtfully, thinking of all those armies blundering around different parts of the West Country, trying to meet up. ‘Well, it seems…messy.”

Messy???? Gawd, what a mess of a book.

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Gawd, with a cover like that to start with can it only go downhill from there? I was tipped off about this *fanciful* take on Margaret of Anjou from a couple of authors well researched in all things Wars of the Roses that this book might be worth a laugh or two. Since I didn’t know when I’d get to it, I had a tip off to look at Chapter 13 and here’s what I found when Margaret is making whopee with a French General,

“For Brezé had also served in the East, in his youth, and had long abandoned the Christian way of Love. Thus he made me kneel, my buttocks locked against his groin like some bitch on heat – but this I was, at that moment – while he seemed to impale me to my very stomach. All the while his hands were caressing my breasts until he took them away to grasp my hams until we shared a mutual explosion of joy – my second of the evening – in which I cried out my lubricious happiness and no doubt alarmed my ladies in the next room.”

Queens just have all the fun don’t they? Now do I really want to go back and read the rest of this and see how truly bad it all is? Even for fun?

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