New English Royal History Book Releases!
Please note: Publication of Susan Higginbotham’s Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower, has been delayed. According to its publisher, Amberley, it should be released sometime in 2016 but the exact date has not yet been determined. I will keep a watch out (I would love to read Higginbotham’s “take” on Margaret Pole), and let you know when it appears!
15 December 2015
Richard III: A Ruler and his Reputation, by David Horspool
Nonfiction: Bloomsbury Press, 336 pages
I am a firm believer in keeping an open mind. I have read volumes authored by avowed Ricardians and I have read volumes authored by Tudor enthusiasts (or, at least, apologists – very few people are actually enthusiastic about Henry VII). My library overfloweth with books about Richard III! And Amazon keeps wanting me to buy more, and more, and more… How to decide? My decision was to concentrate on books, such as Horspool’s Richard III, that are said to be intelligent and judicious (Booklist). Or “Among the better histories on this subject… a densely detailed account of a man who was no more villainous than the average 15-th century baron” (Kirkus Reviews). Or, how about “refreshing, incisive and fluent,” and an “intelligent person’s life of Richard, strong in ascertainable fact … [with] characteristic precision and a pinch of droll humour” (The Times). Sounds like just the ticket!
December 18, 2015
Jasper: The Tudor Kingmaker, by Sara Elin Roberts
Nonfiction: Fonthill Media, 224 pages
Jasper Tudor, Henry VII’s uncle, was one of those elusive characters who operated quietly behind the scenes. Without him, however, history might have been very very different! Jasper’s life took him from Wales, to England, to Brittany and France as he fought for, first, the Lancastrian cause, and then to preserve the life (and, later, the crown) of his nephew Henry Tudor. Roberts’ “take” on Jasper should be both interesting and reliable. She’s a native of Wales, a graduate of Bangor and Oxford Universities, and a lecturer on medieval history at the University of Chester, and has also made regular appearances on television and radio.
January 4, 2016
The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen, by Elizabeth Norton
Nonfiction: Pegasus, 416 pages
I will admit to largely avoiding Elizabeth Norton’s biographical works. They are, indeed, well researched and well written. Often, however, they seem more like overviews, of which there are no lack. (I will admit a preference for “big books” – hefty enough to not only answer the questions I already have but to add, and answer, questions that had never occurred to me.) This book, however, by honing in on a particular time period and the interactions between some extraordinarily intriguing characters, has really piqued my interest.
January 12, 2016
The Lost Tudor Princess: A Life of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, by Alison Weir
Non-fiction, Jonathan Cape, 400 pages
Readable biographies are Weir’s forte. In Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor and granddaughter of Henry VII, she has a wonderful subject. Margaret’s story intersects with just about every royal of the Tudor family and beyond. Margaret’s uncle was Henry VIII; his daughters Mary and Elizabeth were her first cousins. And that’s just the beginning. Margaret’s story gets even more interesting when she marries …. but let’s just wait until January, and let a masterful writer spin out this fascinating and little-known tale!
January 12, 2016
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant (paperback), by Tracy Borman
Nonfiction: Grove Press, 464 pages
Tracy Borman’s Cromwell was published in hardcover back on 2 December 2014 and, I must admit, I avoided it. There’s just something about that Holbein portrait of Cromwell that is so unappealing! Then came Mark Ryland, playing Cromwell in Wolf Hall, and now I very much want to know more about the man! (Shallow of me, undoubtedly, but there it is.) Fortunately, Borman’s book is newly available in paperback. Thomas Cromwell has received excellent reviews, and Borman is both an accomplished historian and an excellent and engaging writer.
January 19, 2016
Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance, by Amy Licence
Nonfiction: Amberley, 304 pages
The royal couple whose romance continues to fascinate! Edward and Elizabeth have been treated individually in several excellent biographies. As a couple, they have certainly garnered the attention of historical novelists – with wildly differing perspectives. For some, Elizabeth was a cool and calculating seeker after power and family advancement. For others, she was a warm and admirable wife and mother, facing hostility for her less-than-royal background. I look forward to Licence’s (nonfiction) examination of what history tells us about the actual relationship between these two charismatic characters.
February 15, 2016
How to be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life, by Ruth Goodman
Nonfiction: Liveright, 320 pages
Ruth Goodman’s specialty is lively, first-person living history. First, she thoroughly researches the period that has caught her attention (she did a masterful job, previously, on the Victorians). She then lives the life, capturing the flavors (and scents and sounds) of the past. This promises to be a fascinating book and will undoubtedly answer dozens of questions that most of us have never even thought to ask!
May 19, 2016
Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen, by Kathryn Warner
Nonfiction: Amberley, 336 pages
Isabella of France is one of England’s most fascinating queens. Alison Weir wrote a biography several years ago. Now Warner, who has spent years immersed in the subject of Isabella’s husband, Edward II, takes on his notorious wife. I wasn’t a huge fan of Warner’s earlier book on Edward, but no one can dispute her painstaking and thorough research. I am, therefore, intrigued. I will definitely be adding this book to my “Pre-order list” and look forward to reading her “take” on Isabella.
May 31, 2016
Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen: A Novel (Six Tudor Queens), by Alison Weir
Fiction: Ballantin Books, 624 pages
I am intrigued by the idea of one author writing a novel for each of Henry VIII’s six queens. Talk about having to do a sharp about face, as the focus and point of view moves from Katherine of Aragon to Anne Boleyn! Actually, each of Henry’s women was a polar opposite to the one who preceded her. (You can almost hear Henry saying to himself, as the initial “glow of love” wears off, “Well, I won’t make THAT mistake again!” And then making an entirely different massive mistake.) It will be fascinating to see if, and how, Weir inhabits the very, very different mind sets of each of the six wives!
June 1, 2016
Red Roses: Blanche of Lancaster to Margaret Beaufort, by Amy Licence
Nonfiction: History Press, 384 pages
What a group of fascinating, captivating, extraordinary women! The list includes some of the most interesting and influential people in English history (who just all happen to be female and Lancastrian). Of course, the queens – Joan of Navarre, Katherine of Valois, Margaret of Anjou. But also the equally powerful noblewomen who held power both in their own right and through their children – Blanche of Lancaster, Katherine Swynford, Mary de Bohun, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Margaret Beaufort. Sounds interesting!
June 28, 2016
Henry the Young King, 1155-1183, by Matthew Strickland
Nonfiction: Yale University Press, 416 pages
“Henry the Young King” is one of the most shadowy of Plantagenet monarchs, excluded even from the “numbered roster.” The oldest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, his father arranged that he be crowned during his father’s lifetime. His exact status, however, was not clear – to either of the Henrys. Rebellion and unhappiness ensued; “Henry the young” died before his father. Strickland’s book, the first major study of “Henry the Young King,” looks to be fascinating and groundbreaking.