Tag Archives: Philippa Gregory

WWW Wednesday, 9-October-2019

9 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I think I’ll finish When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan soon. Unless it’s Wednesday and I’m responding to comments on this post, I usually get through a few pages during my lunch and there’s not much left. I think this will come off next week!
I continue to move through The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli but no faster than I have been. I’m enjoying it, but it’s a bit dense and not gripping enough to keep me reading when I get tired. I was able to extend my time with it until the end of the month and I feel confident I’ll finish it by then.
I was able to start We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix on Saturday. So far, I like it but I’m not really feeling the horror element to it yet. I think I’ll get through this pretty quickly since I’m listening to it in my car and when I’m running/cooking/doing chores on my phone. I have a few to get through so I want to speed this one up.

Recently finished: I was happy to finish The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory the day of my Friend of the Library meeting so I could return it in the evening! I enjoyed the story and the ending was a bit of a shock to me which was a nice twist. This book will fulfill a new time period in my When Are You Reading? Challenge so I’m super excited to add it to my list!
I was able to finish A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab Saturday during a road trip! So excited to wrap up this series. I liked how it ended though I think there’s more to the story that I’d like to hear. But I always feel that way with good books. I hope more V.E. Schwab comes across my path soon, it’s been a joy.

I also posted my review of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I’m always a sucker for a good memoir and this was no exception. I’ll be posting my book club reflection of the book tomorrow so more to come on this one!

Reading Next: I will start Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine as soon as I finish Travels. It will be good to have some historical fiction to motivate me as I do NaNo prep.
I already have another audiobook lined up thanks to book club commitments. I’ll be starting Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter as soon as I finish Souls. I’m really hoping to have a lot of audio time and get through these quickly! I hate feeling rushed for book club.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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WWW Wednesday, 2-October-2019

2 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m really close to finishing The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory, I was hoping I’d be done by now! I’ve got a slug of eaudio to finish up and I’m going to take a break from physical audio once I finish this one. Maybe it will be today?
A half marathon wasn’t enough to finish A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. This is longer than I thought it would be! I’m wondering if there’s a bit too much fluff in here but it’s keeping me engaged so far. We’ll see how I feel as it gets closer to the end.
I’m excited to be over halfway through When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan. It’s getting a little darker now and I’m not sure where this is headed. I didn’t expect some of these elements from an MG book!
I’m still enjoying The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli but I’ll have to see about picking it up a bit and reading faster. I’m approaching my initial due date and because it’s an interlibrary loan, I only get one more renewal. I’m not sure I’ll finish at my current pace.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week! And no new reviews. I’ve got some coming again eventually. I am mostly caught up at this point and it feels really good to be able to say that!

Reading Next: I can’t wait to start the eaudio for We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix. It’s teasing me on my bedside table and I really want to pick it up soon.
I almost never do this, but I accepted an ARC! Though the book is out already so I guess it’s not very ‘advanced.’ Maybe Early Reader Copy? Anyway, the book is Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine. I was won over by the 1920s setting and decided I needed to have more giveaway books on my list this year. This seems like the best place to start.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 25-September-2019

25 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I think I need about another week with The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. The longer commute is nice to get through these long books faster and sit through traffic. Though I think the construction on my drive is almost done so this shouldn’t be an issue much longer.
One more week of half marathon training to go but I don’t think it will be enough to finish A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I’ll wrap this up soon, I hope. I have another book club selection to get through soon.
When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan has been a good lunch read for me. I’m really going to try to stick to shorter books so I can remember the beginning better when I finish them!
I’ve started on The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli and I’m enjoying it so far. She’s using a lot of stories and anecdotes to tell the story which makes it a lot more enjoyable! I don’t think I’ll fly through this one, but I’ll enjoy the ride.

Recently finishedI wrapped up Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I’m looking forward to my book club discussion on this one, I think a lot of people will have a lot to say. My review for this one won’t be up for a while because I have so much planned out on the blog. I’m running about two weeks ahead!

I’ve had two book reviews go up already this week. The first was The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie. This was a super cute short book and I enjoyed it though I’m not sure I would have guessed it would get the response it has. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. This one really wasn’t for me and I’m glad I’ve read it but I think a paragraph in a history book could have summarized it better for me. I gave the book Two out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: My next book club pick is We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix. It’s our Halloween pick but our leader thinks it will also be a funny read so I’m excited to see how that combination works.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-September-2019

18 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I got through so much last week that I’m not surprised there’s little movement this week. I’m making great progress with The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory due to the longer commute. I don’t mind it at all, really. It’s just under a half-hour and without too much traffic. Perfect for listening!
I’m still listening to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab while I run in preparation for a half marathon at the end of the month. I’m liking it a lot and it’s very high energy! Great mood for running.
I’m trying to wrap up Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance quickly due to a library hold. I’m liking it, but parts seem to drag a little more than others. I think this will be a good discussion book for our group.
I’m glad I picked When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan for my ebook. It’s moving quickly and the shorter chapters are good for the start-and-stop nature of how I read ebooks.

Recently finished: Nothing finished this week but I’m not at all surprised after the landfall of books listed last week! It has to fall short after such a great week.

I did get two book reviews written! The first is for Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. I liked this book, but it wasn’t the best one I’d read on craft this year. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian. This was a book club pick so I’ll be posting about our discussion soon but it’s safe to say I liked this one but was disappointed in the ending. I also gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: My hold on The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli came in at the library and I’m hoping I can finish Vance quickly so I can dive in to it before the reading period ends! I might be rushing a bit.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-September-2019

11 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ll be moving faster through The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory now that I’ve started my new job with a longer commute. I’m actually a little excited to have a bit of time for myself and my audiobook each day. It helps me to calm down or get ready for the day, whichever is needed.
Now for all the updates! I started listening to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab when I went for my ‘last run’ on Friday before my Saturday race. It was just a half-hour but it was enough to get me invested in the story! This one is picking up right where the last left off so it’s all systems go and I’m enjoying that a lot.
Due to availability, I decided to read a physical copy of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I’m enjoying the mix of anecdote and research so far so I’m excited to see how this one develops.
I decided on a shorter book for my next ebook and picked up When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan. McMullan teaches at my alma mater so it seemed like one I should pick up!

Recently finished: All of the updates! I realized I only had a chapter left in Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min so I finished it up while I was at my parents’ cottage and had time to relax. I’m so glad I’m finally done with this one! I was reading it for far too long.
I was able to wrap up Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian on Thursday morning and I was a little disappointed with the ending. It just could have been a bit more conclusive, it kind of left off with not much closure. My book club just met to talk about it so I’m sure I’ll have more to share about it soon.
I sped through The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie. It was a very short and sweet book and I’m glad I read it, though there wasn’t too much of a story to it. I’ll get into that more in my review. I’m curious to see how a movie and a TV show came out of this small little book!

Two book reviews up as well! I reviewed The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma on Friday. It was a fun read and I really enjoyed it! Four out of Five stars.
I also reviewed An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. My book club already met about this book so there’s more coming on it in the near future. I also gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I put in an interlibrary loan request for The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli. It’s been a while since I read some non-fiction so I think this will be a welcome break. I’m not sure when it will come in but I hope I’m close to finishing Vance when it does!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 4-September-2019

4 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: No progress with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min, as predicted. Once I figure out my new work routine, I’ll have a better idea of when I can expect to finish this book. I’m hesitant to focus on it because reading on a device before bed will probably make it harder for me to sleep.
I need to finish Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian before Monday so I’m focusing on it a little more than I normally would. I’m thinking of going for a walk after I write this post where I listen to it (and play Wizards Unite) just to get some time in listening. It’s not a chore by any means, but a much more compressed time frame than I was hoping for.
I’ve made decent progress with The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory though I think I’ll be getting through it faster once I start my new job and have a longer commute. I’m not sure what the main action is that I should focus on yet, but I’m sure it will become clear soon.
I was able to pick up a new book from the library last night, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie. This is one a fellow writer recommended to me years ago at a writers’ group meeting. I’ve only just started it so no telling yet how I feel about it.

Recently finished: I finished up Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going yesterday. It’s probably a bad idea to keep reading books on writing while I’m trying to finish editing my book. It keeps me wanting to make more and more changes so I feel like I’ll never be done! There was some good advice in this book, but I felt it could have used some more details. A review might take a while because I’m very behind on them right now!

Reading Next: I still plan to get to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab soon but it’s not ‘next up’ anymore. I’ve given that spot to Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This is an upcoming book club selection and I’ll need to get through the audiobook pretty quickly. Some upcoming half-marathon training should help with that!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-August-2019

28 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m probably going to slow down on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min for a few weeks. I’m sad because I’m finally getting close to finishing it, but there’s not a lot of good time to work on reading it without work lunches to keep my structured. I’m sure I’ll find my groove again soon.
Time for a lot of new books! I picked up a new physical book, Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. I’m really pushing myself to finish my edits and it seemed like a good time to have a craft book fresh in my mind. I’m hoping this is a pretty fast read and that I can learn from it.
I started in on Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian on Monday so I’m still at the early stages. I have two weeks to finish it so I’m not worried and I think I’ll be able to take my time and enjoy it.
Because I’m not in such a rush to finish my eaduiobook, I picked up a CD audiobook for the car. I’ll be reading The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory, a favorite author. Gregory is also helpful when trying to fill in rogue time periods from the When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’m excited for more Tudor England.

Recently finished: I was desperate to finish The Map of Time by Félix Palma and lugged it to a wedding weekend with me only to not finish it until I got home. Oh well, I tried. I adored this book but I’m wondering about the other two in the series. There wasn’t much left that needed to be wrapped up. Right now, I’m not sure I’ll keep reading the series. I did love the writing, though, so that has me tempted. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I sped through An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and finished it the morning of my book club meeting! I really liked it which made the speed-listening no trouble at all. I’ve read Jones before so I knew the emotional journey I was about to jump in on and I adored it. The narration was great, all of it. I’ll have a full review coming soon. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted two reviews this week. The first was for 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. This was a delightful little book and I’m so glad I read it. It was the perfect vacation book, too. Four out of Five Stars.
The second went up yesterday. I reviewed A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab and I can’t describe how excited I am to finish this series soon. This was a great second novel in the trilogy. I also gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It seems odd to talk about my next books when I’ve just started so many. I do expect to get to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab soon. I so often leave series unfinished and it would feel really good to wrap this one up.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Favorite Female Writers: #2

17 Oct

And I’m back! Yesterday I posted to tell you why S.E. Hinton is my #3 favorite female writer and today I’m back to give you the story behind my #2 favorite female writer. Get ready.

Philippa Gregory
Image via Fantastic Fiction

Philippa Gregory

My mom introduced me to Gregory’s books in late high school and instilled a love for British historical fiction that I still suffer from. I’ve read a stupidly high number of Gregory books and enjoyed a lot of them. One of the best part of Gregory’s books is that there are still some coming out! Her interpretation of the lives of the Tudor queens, in particular, has blended with history in my mind and I’m not sure I’ll ever tell them apart well.

To be sure, there are books of Gregory’s I’ve enjoyed more than others. I always recommend the same few titles to those who are unfamiliar with her work: The Other Boleyn GirlThe Queen’s Fool, and The Constant Princess. There are some I’ve disliked over the years, but remembering how much I enjoyed these three has made me come back to her time and time again. My experience with Gregory has helped me branch out to other historical eras and genres and I’ve found a love for the genre and a desire to write my own history.

I’ll admit I’m not a dedicated reader and many Gregory books have come out that I’ve skipped or not gotten to. I read ones about historical figures that spark my interest. Catherine of Aragorn is very interesting to me, thus my love for The Constant Princess. Gregory has focused on many women in history, some I find more deserving than others in my personal assessment and those have earned my readership.

One of the things I adore most about a Gregory book is the detail and history involved. Now, some of her books can get a little too detailed, but many of them have rich details that enhanced the story and keep it moving along. Her depiction of the daily parts of life is my favorite. There are practices and pastimes she brings into the stories as well as vocabulary and niceties that I adore. She weaves them in seamlessly and makes the reader feel like he or she is living in the time period.

I know many people commented they hadn’t explored Gregory’s vast works yet when I was reading her recently. I encourage people to give her a try because there’s such a variety that it’s hard to think there’s nothing in her booklist for any reader.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-October-2017

11 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I started reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison last week. It seems to be going fast because my ereader already says I’m 10% of the way through it after only two lunch readings. I’m thinking this one will move very quickly.
I started Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and I’m very engaged so far. I know it’s set in the 30s but it has a very 20s feel of it to me so far. We’ll see how this goes!
I started Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks on audiobook very recently. It’s still a bit too early for me to make a call on it so stay tuned!

Recently finishedI made great progress to finish Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. I’m glad I read this one and sorry it took me so long to get to it! It was a better version of Edan Lepucki’s California and I’m glad I found it. My review went up Monday so please go take a look.
I was able to wrap up The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory as well. I can’t say this was my favorite of Gregory’s books, but I still liked it. This was a little heavy on the history and didn’t seem to have much drama to it. I like when Gregory invents scandals (or embellishes the ones that are already there) and romances. This one seemed too teemed in history. A review went up yesterday so you can see my complete set of comments there.

Reading Next: No plan now as I just started three books! I’ll see how these progress before I decide on the next one to pick up.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

10 Oct

I found this book at a used book sale, I believe. When I started going through audiobooks of books I owned, it made it to that list. When I was getting worried about the When Are You Reading? Challenge this year, I chose this one to help me finish up some hard-to-fill time periods. I always enjoy Gregory so it was no hardship for me!

Cover image via Goodreads

The Other Queen (Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #16) by Philippa Gregory

Other books by Philippa Gregory reviewed on this blog:

The Boleyn Inheritance (4/5)
The Lady of the Rivers (3/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

Two women competing for a man’s heart.
Two queens fighting to the death for dominance.
The untold story of Mary, Queen of Scots.

This dazzling novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents a new and unique view of one of history’s most intriguing, romantic, and maddening heroines. Biographers often neglect the captive years of Mary, Queen of Scots, who trusted Queen Elizabeth’s promise of sanctuary when she fled from rebels in Scotland and then found herself imprisoned as the “guest” of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick.

The newly married couple welcome the doomed queen into their home, certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court. To their horror, they find that the task will bankrupt them, and as their home becomes the epicenter of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question. If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treachery and treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman.

As always, Philippa Gregory makes history come alive in her historical novels. She has great figures, like Mary, Queen of Scots, speaking in a way that makes her feel real and relatable. She makes sense of a history that at times seems twisted and outlandish. I love that about Philippa Gregory. What I didn’t like about this one is that it felt too strongly settled in history with no fun to it. There seemed to be written accounts of everything Mary said or Bess referenced that stand today. Not much seemed invented and fun. I wished for a little more scandal and maybe a few fewer characters. I miss Gregory’s storytelling that you see in her earlier novels. This one felt a bit too much like a history book.

I’m certain the three narrators are as historically accurate as possible. There’s an author’s note at the end that talks about how the Queen Mary we see in this book is based on new evidence about her plotting and life in prison with the Talbots. I’ve never doubted that Gregory does her research. The three have distinctly different personalities and the audiobook narration did a wonderful job of accenting that. The two women are night and day of each other and George was given a rather distinct, though not admirable, personality.

Bess was my favorite character. George was so weak that he was hard to like and Mary was such a liar I found her hard to like, too. Bess, on the other hand, was smart. She was always thinking of her future and her children’s inheritance. She knew what she wanted and would go after it. She wasn’t afraid to say what she thought, either. I take care of finances in my home and it was fun to see a woman doing that 500 years ago and the pushback she got for doing it!

I think Bess was the most relatable character in the book. She had a great rags-to-riches story and I think she appeals to a modern woman. She was very ahead of her time with how concerned she was about her share in a marriage and amassing wealth. It made her unusual in her own time but someone a modern reader could relate to very well.

Philippa Gregory
Image via Fantastic Fiction

Bess’s back story was fun to read about. She endured a lot to get to where she ended up and it made her easy to root for. I have to imagine there were few people like her in England at that time and it makes it understandable why she liked Cecil and why she would treat Queen Mary the way she did.

I found this book a bit dull in places. It seemed like Gregory was so determined to use all of the historical research she did and include every note between Queen Mary and her friends, conspirators, and lovers, that there was so little action for long stretches of the book. She would sit in the castle and plot for chapters at a time before another plot would come and fail. I felt this should have been sped up a bit and could have done with a few chapters removed. Though, when you get to the sixteenth book in a series, your publisher is probably about done editing you.

The audiobook had three narrators. Jenny Sterlin was the voice of Bess. I thought she did an amazing job. Bess was authoritative and bossy while still being submissive and demure when needed. Sterlin got the anger in Bess’s inner thoughts just right. Stina Nielsen did the voice of Queen Mary and was my favorite of the narrators. She was cunning and sweet at the same time, just marvelous. Ron Keith did the voice of George and I have to say he did well because I hated George as I was supposed to do. He was weak and whining. Ugh. The three narrators together had a tremendous effect and were very helpful for keeping straight if it was Bess or Mary narrating.

Though in school we learned about all the great things Queen Elizabeth I had done, this book shows her darker side. We also see a woman who was executed for treason and a murderous plot and how her deepest wish was to be freed. There are two sides to every story and two sides to many people. While this book shows the dark sides of each woman, it’s important that it shows a positive side to Queen Mary, who history painted in a very dark light.

Writer’s Takeaway: Historical research is paramount for a historical novel but I feel it was overdone here. When I research for my historical book, I only end up putting about 30% into the story. The rest is for me to know and build a back story for my characters. I think that’s important to remember and sometimes, authors seem too eager to throw everything into a book and I feel the plot can suffer for it.

Enjoyable but a bit dense. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1500-1599 time period in the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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