Book Review – ‘Tudor Roses: From Margaret Beaufort to Elizabeth I’ by Amy Licence


I was so excited to get a review copy of this book from Amberley Publishing. It doesn’t disappoint as it discusses the Tudor women across the whole period and how they compare to each other in their styles of motherhood, queenship, and relations with the men in their lives. It shows how resilient the women were and how essential they were to the dynasty. It doesn’t just examine the period 1485 to 1603 but looks at the women before this period who shaped it, like Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort, the matriarchs of the dynasty, without whom it wouldn’t have existed.

This book tries to tackle some of the prevailing myths about these women and the dominating views of the past centuries. It opens up new areas for exploration and tries to redress the balance of views on these incredible women. It’s good to focus on the women, who are often seen as supporting rather than leading figures, as the focus is often on the men who wield the power. The women of the period may have often been side-lined, but they often wielded power behind the scenes more often than in the public eye.

Although it is a long book and can seem daunting to start with, it is well worth investing the time to read it, as Amy Licence manages to sprinkle little details throughout and asks questions which make you think and consider different angles. It makes me want to delve into others of Licence’s books which are sat on my shelves, but I haven’t gotten around to reading yet! It also makes me want to know more in particular about Henry VIII’s sisters, Margaret Queen of Scotland, and Mary Duchess of Suffolk.

I would thoroughly recommend this, even if you don’t know that much about the Tudors, as it offers different angles on people sometimes overlooked in the period or misunderstood. It is easy to read and written chronologically so that if you are looking for a particular thing, it is easy to find. Obviously well-researched and concisely written.

Chapters:

  1. Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort 1437-1460
  2. Women as Witnesses 1460-1463
  3. A Queen is Made 1464-1469
  4. A Queen is Unmade 1469-1472
  5. Elizabeth of York 1472-1485
  6. The First Tudor Queen 1485-1486
  7. Dynasty in Danger 1487-1492
  8. Tudor Princesses 1489-1501
  9. The Spanish Bride 1501-1503
  10. The Two Margarets 1503-1509
  11. New Wives 1509-1515
  12. Widows 1513-1515
  13. Legacies of Love 1516-1520
  14. Gold 1520-1525
  15. Breaking the Queenship Model 1525-1533
  16. Wives and Daughters 1533-1534
  17. Queen, Interrupted 1534-1536
  18. The Search for Love 1533-1537
  19. Changing Times 1537-1540
  20. Women in Danger 1540-1542
  21. Weathering the Storm 1543-1546
  22. Such a Brief Happiness 1545-1549
  23. Dangerous Women 1547-1553
  24. Queens in Conflict 1553-1554
  25. The Half-Spanish Queen 1554-1555
  26. Saving the Nation’s Souls 1555-1558
  27. Autonomy 1558-1562
  28. Gender Politics 1563-1569
  29. The Queen’s Person 1570-1588
  30. Finale 1589-1603
  31. How the Tudor Dynasty was Built by Women 1437-1603

Book Review – ‘Three Sisters’ by Heather Morris


Having read Heather Morris’s other books in this trilogy: ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ and ‘Cilka’s Journey’, I couldn’t wait to read this final one in the series. I listened to it on audiobook from the library as I need to wait for it to come out in paperback as I have the others in paperback before I can buy it myself and I couldn’t wait that long!

As the title suggests, this is the story of three Jewish sisters who end up in Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War Two. Cibi, Magda, and Livia promised their father before he died that they would always be together and look after each other and it is this promise that runs throughout the book as the trio are separated at several points for various reasons but are always determined to reunite when they can. The story runs from the invasion of Slovakia by the Nazis to the settlement of Palestine as a home for the Jewish people, and into the modern day for the epilogue.

It’s a beautiful story of sisters determined to beat the odds and protect each other, and fight for the others of their faith to make sure that their children and grandchildren have a better life. But it is also about talking about experiences. No matter how bad the experiences we have in our lives they become a part of us and form who we are. We can’t shut them out. For me, that was the biggest thing to take away from this story. Although most of us probably cannot imagine what it was like to be in a concentration camp under the Nazis, and there are very few survivors left now, we all have our challenges, though the sisters faced more than most. They found their happy endings and their experiences have been shared, allowing us to work towards making sure the Holocaust never happens again.

This trilogy has been haunting and beautiful to read with tales of horror and hardship, but also of hope and love. A fitting end which sees the story through to the creation of Palestine and the journeys of the early Jews who travelled there after the Second World War.

Book Review – ‘House of Tudor: A Grisly History’ by Mickey Mayhew


Thanks to Pen and Sword for gifting me a copy of this to review.

This is quite a different take on the Tudor period which I really enjoyed. It’s written in really short chapters which makes it easy to read and dip in and out of and return to if you want to refresh your memory on a particular event.

The book covers 45 different events of the Tudor period which are the most grisly events of the period rather than the most common events. These include the poisoning of Bishop Fisher, the blackened heart of Katherine of Aragon, Mary I’s phantom pregnancies, and the kidnap of Mary Queen of Scots, among many others. Particular attention is paid to some of the more gory or unusual aspects of the events described which is quite novel and something that some history books skate over.

The book has a great selection of images, and a comprehensive index. There are two things I will say that stops this being a 5-star read for me, maybe just as a historian myself, there is a lack of original / contemporary primary sources listed in the bibliography though they have been used in the text itself, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the excellent discourse and ease of reading of this book which I thoroughly enjoyed! There is also only mention of Henry VII in the Bosworth chapter but no further mention of him really, even given the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions and the execution of the Earl of Warwick.

Aside from these two things I can’t really fault it! This is a fantastic addition to my Tudor bookcase and one that I will certainly come back to when working on my own writing! It really does cover so many different things that there will be something for everyone whatever your interests are; political, personal, medical, or death. A brilliant gory discourse on my favourite period of history!

Book Review – ‘Ask a Historian: 50 Surprising Answers to Things You Always Wanted to Know’ by Greg Jenner


I absolutely ADORED this book! It took me a while to read it because I had to keep going back to reread bits and pieces, and I was sending snapshots to friends as I was reading. There were times when I was rolling around in bed laughing while I was reading it.

Greg Jenner really has a way of writing that is so engaging, no matter whether the subject is one you’re completely interested in or not. My favourite questions I think were ‘Why do Greek statues have small penises?’, ‘Is it true that a dead Pope was put on trial?’, and ‘Who invented meringue and why?’, though the historiography section was also particularly interesting for me as a historian myself, particularly looking at how we name periods.

I would love a series of these books with different questions from members of the public – it’s such an engaging way to learn about different parts of history that you might not know much or anything about, but this makes you want to go away and learn more, I think in large part because Jenner is so good at writing about these things in a way that you can understand it without having a lot of contextual knowledge.

I needed something like this to read right now given where my head is at, and I’d been eyeing up this book for a while and I just thought, sod it, I’m going to buy it, and I am so unbelievably glad that I did! I will come back to it over and over again, and now I just want to read ‘Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen’ and I can’t wait for the next series of the ‘You’re Dead to Me’ podcast either!

Book Review – ‘The Architecture Lover’s Guide to London’ by Sian Lye


Thanks to Pen and Sword for the chance to read and review this book.

I’m really enjoying these books, having first read ‘The Book Lover’s Guide to London’. They are really handy and engaging little guides to London, and I plan to take both on my next trip down there!

This one focuses on the buildings and architecture of London and how it’s developed over time, starting with Roman Londinium, through Medieval, Tudor and Stuart London, into the Georgian and Victorian periods, and finishing in the present day. This includes locations like the Tower of London, Westminster Palace, 10 Downing Street, the British Museum, and the Shard, with everything in between.

It’s structured in chronological order, so it is easy to see the development of the city from the earliest buildings to the newest ones, and some revisited within the book as they changed or were destroyed and rebuilt in a later period. As someone who didn’t really know much about the general architecture of London – I’ve visited places like the Tower of London, Westminster, Windsor, and Hampton Court as part of my love of the Tudors but never really explored the wider development of the city – this was a really handy introduction and there are several places I would like to know more about.

It has an easy-to-follow, clear and concise layout, but I do wish there was just a bit more information, and a bibliography of where you can go for further reading and where the author got their information.

If you’re planning on doing a sightseeing tour of London this little book will give you information you might not get from the London tour guides, and you can strike out on your own quite easily to explore some of the most iconic buildings in London and discover the history of one of the oldest cities in the UK, and the men and women behind some of the architecture as well.

Book Review – ‘On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes’ by Stephen Browning


Thanks to Pen and Sword for giving me a copy of this to review.

I’ve only read the Sherlock Holmes novels once, but I loved them, and this book certainly wants to make me read them again. I’m eyeing up the beautiful Wordsworth editions I have to admit. I’ve been to London quite a few times, where many of the Sherlock Holmes stories are set, but I didn’t think about the places I visited and how they tied into the stories, nor did I realise that Sherlock visited quite so many familiar places!

This book is set out as a series of walks around London, taking in locations frequented by Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle as well. It gives you the backstory to Conan Doyle and how he came to write the books. Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character in literature and it’s really interesting to find out which places were actually real, and which were fictitious, with Conan Doyle mixing up the two seamlessly.

I don’t know what I expected from this book; I guess I thought that there wouldn’t be quite as much detail linking the London we know today with stories based in Victorian London. Browning tells you exactly where to go and what was there in the days of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle, and there is a surprising amount that doesn’t really seem to have changed.

I loved the appendices at the back as well, with lists of the stories in chronological order, lists of the actors who have played Sherlock Holmes on screen and a miscellany. A must have for any fan of Sherlock Holmes.

Chapters:

  1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Creation of His ‘most notorious character’, Sherlock Holmes
  2. London: Where it all began – a walk in Baker Street and immediate area
  3. London: A Walk along Northumberland Avenue, up the Strand, Fleet Street and on to St Paul’s Cathedral
  4. London: Walking along Oxford Street, Regent Street, around Piccadilly Circus and into Haymarket
  5. London: Around Tottenham Court Road and into Holborn and Covent Garden
  6. London: At the centre of Government – a walk in Westminster and Victoria
  7. London: Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall and Mayfair
  8. London: A Walk around the City and East End
  9. Walks and Trips elsewhere … in London; in the UK as a Whole
  10. On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes

Book Review – ‘Ariadne’ by Jennifer Saint


Having already read and loved ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller as well as ‘Circe’ I was looking forward to this one when it was chosen as our book club book for February 2022. I don’t know much about Greek mythology but the stories I’ve read are really engaging and I’d like to read some more. I was expecting a telling of the minotaur story, but this is so much more; it covers Ariadne’s entire life rather than just the minotaur event which is within the first third of the novel I would estimate.

Ariadne was an intriguing character, especially seeing her development across the years of the novel. She starts as a rather innocent and naive girl, but grows through the events of characters like Theseus, Dionysus, and Phaedra (without giving too much away), up to her tragic end. I’d be quite interested in reading more about Ariadne and Dionysus in particular, if anyone has any book recommendations I’d be pleased to hear them! Phaedra was also an intriguing character and her relationship with Theseus and how she handled his secrecy and lies.

There are beautiful moments when Ariadne spends time with her children and defies her father to run away with Theseus. There are a few lovely moments between Ariadne and the maenads as well on Naxos which are amazing to see. There are some slow moments in the middle as the story builds to its crescendo but that’s also where some of the beautiful moments are.

The style of writing is also quite easy, despite it being based in an ancient period. Some books based in earlier history have quite complex writing, but this one doesn’t have that problem. I didn’t know what to expect of the novel, but it really is in the vein of Madeline Miller which I was really pleased about. Another author writing Greek mythology fiction for me to look out for!

Book Review – ‘The Book Lover’s Guide to London’ by Sarah Milne


Thanks to Pen and Sword for giving me a copy of this to review.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram @tudorblogger would have seen this morning that I was asked to take part in the InstaTour for this book, and I was thrilled to be asked!

I really loved this book, it’s a little gem full of titbits about authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and George Orwell, some of the greats of literary history, and their connections to London. It discusses not only the connections of the authors to London, but their characters as well.

The book divides London down into sections including south, north, west, east, and central, and then into areas inside that including Bridewell, Clerkenwell, Holborn, Kensington, and Whitechapel. There are also some lovely images demonstrating the places in and around London, including blue plaques marking the places where famous writers lived or worked.

There is a very handy list in the back of the book of all of the books mentioned in the main text, classics and modern texts listed alphabetically by author. Reading this book has certainly expanded by want to read list; and that’s already miles long.

It’s amazing all the places and things that you can walk past in London without realising their significance but now I certainly won’t miss any of the bookish spots in London when I’m wandering around with the help of this guide. It’s a little pocket gem!

Book Review – ‘A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects’ by John Matusiak


Thanks to The History Press for a copy of this book to review.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a refreshing new look at the Tudor period through the objects that have survived. I’ve read several other books by John Matusiak before, including his biographies on Henry VIII and Thomas Wolsey. This one is my favourite because it is so different.

Objects examined in the book include the silver-gilt boar badge found at Bosworth, Lady Jane Grey’s prayer book, and a lock of Elizabeth I’s hair. These more famous artefacts are examined alongside things like a sun mask, a birthing chair, a pocket pistol, and the world’s oldest football. There are so many different objects and some that you didn’t realise even existed in this period.

There are images of all of the artefacts discussed and a discussion of each object, along with the context in which they would have been used and were discovered. Some are quite recent discoveries, like the bedhead of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and others had been handed down through generations or are in museums. The history of these individual objects is almost as interesting as the contextual history.

The writing is clear and concise, giving plenty of detail without going overboard. I also like how each object has its own section, so no one object is given more attention and information than any other, even the more famous and well-known ones. In a way this book gives more attention to the lesser known and general objects because there are more of them, which is quite nice.

I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Tudor history or of historical objects and the history of them. One that I’ll definitely come back to!

Chapters:

  1. Dynasty, Politics, Nation
  2. Birth, Childhood, Marriage, and Death
  3. Women, Work, Craftsmen, and Paupers
  4. Food, Drink, and Fashion
  5. Home, Hearth, and Travel
  6. Culture and Pastimes
  7. Health and Healing
  8. Religion
  9. Superstition
  10. Warfare, Weapons, and Defence
  11. Crime and Punishment
  12. Novelties and New Horizons

Book Review – ‘The Traitor’s Mark’ by D.K. Wilson


I think what really attracted me to this book is that it’s based on a real historical mystery, not something completely made up and inserted into the historical context. The Prebendaries Plot was real, and Holbein did die at the time the story is set. But combining the two is really clever, especially given that we don’t know exactly how Holbein died.

It’s a gripping mystery with so many different strands that all come together. There are plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings to contend with which keep you gripped to the end, until the mystery is resolved. The cover says that you’ll love this series if you love the Shardlake books, but I do think the Shardlake books are actually slightly better because Shardlake is a more interesting character I’ve found. But that doesn’t deduct from the genius of this mystery.

The 4 stars rather than 5 was because the writing in parts felt clunky and didn’t flow as well as it could have, but the engaging mystery rescued it. Perhaps it felt clunky because there was a lot of, obviously well-researched, information about the religious discord in England at this time and how it was affecting people, but it didn’t really add to the story. I didn’t feel that the amount of information given was entirely necessary to the story.

What was interesting to me was the potential insight into Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, as a person. I haven’t really read much about him as a person, though he obviously comes up as part of my research into Tudor England, so it was intriguing to think of him as a person thrust into one of the highest positions in England but not very good at the political machinations and having to rely on others to assist him.

It’s good that, at the end of the book, there is an explanation from the author of what is actually history and what is fiction, it helps to keep it clear for those looking to research further. I wish more authors would do this when writing fiction as otherwise lines become blurred.

%d bloggers like this: