28.5.10

Historical Fiction

I’ve always had a passion for historical fiction. I read all of Jean Plaidy’s novels as a girl, also Norah Lofts, Anya Seton, Mary Stewart, and others. I’m still addicted. Now I enjoy Susan Holloway Scott, Elizabeth Chadwick, Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory, among others. I’ve recently finished reading Royal Affairs, by Leslie Carroll. Described as ‘A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures that Rocked the British Monarchy.’ It’s non-fiction but great fun. Each section is quite short and dishes the dirt on such as Jane Shore, Katherine Swynford, and the ladies who entertained the various Kings through history from Henry II, including Henry VIII, Charles II, and the various Georges, to Wallis Simpson, and others from modern times. Carroll is American and has a lively, robust style with a wry sense of humour. I like the fact I can dip into it as I please.

A recent novel I’ve enjoyed is Wife to Charles II, Hilda Lewis. This was originally written in 1965 but still reads well. Lewis has a good narrative style and you really feel for Catherine of Braganza. She was sweet and naïve, excited at the prospect of marriage, but soon becomes hurt and bitter. Her misfortune was to fall in love with Charles, but not be able to produce the required heir, while his many mistresses produced a bevy of beautiful healthy babies.

Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott is the story of Lady Castlemaine, mistress to Charles II. She was what my mother would have described as a trollop – no better than she should be – I love that phrase. Scott gets over her adventurous, greedy character very well, yet despite the fact she is completely amoral you nonetheless feel you’re on her side. Most entertaining and compulsively written in the first person.

I can heartily recommend all three.

4 comments:

  1. I am still working on reading all of the authors that you mention, but I heartily agree with you! Thanks for the heads up on Hilda Lewis!

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  2. Thanks so much for the kind words for "Royal Harlot", Freda. As you can imagine, a subject like Barbara was a LOT of fun for a writer. She's almost always portrayed as the most wicked of villains in Restoration-set novels, so of course I couldn't resist taking her side. :)

    Seems esp. appropriate that you've mentioned books about Charles II this week, since today is the 350th anniversary of his restoration and his 380th birthday. Happy birthday, Your Majesty!

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  3. I, too, have been remembering Charles II this week. May 29th is Oak Apple Day, which commemorates Charles's famous escape after the Battle of Worcester, when he hid up an oak tree whilst Roundhead soldiers searched for him below. I loved that story as a child.

    Pleased to see that we share a passion for Anya Seton and Hilda Lewis, Freda.

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  4. I'm revisiting my love for historicals - rereading one of my favorites of all time - "Oriental Hotel" by Janet Tanner and that's got me pumped to read more. Thanks for the recommendations!

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