Welcome to the ‘Friday Five Challenge.’
Would you BUY or PASS if you had only a thumbnail image and five minutes to decide?
Here is my contribution for this week:
I’ve recently embarked on a Netflix marathon where I was totally hooked with ‘Reign’, an American historical romance series based on Mary, Queen of Scots. It’s a highly fictional series (bending the historical facts to meet the needs of a modern young audience), but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. So, with Kings and Queens on my mind, I decided to search for Mary, Queen of Scots and this is what I found:
The Other Queen (The Tudor Court Series Book 6) by Philippa Gregory
A dramatic novel of passion, politics and betrayal from the author of The Other Boleyn Girl. Mary, Queen of Scots, fights to regain her kingdom whilst under the guard of Queen Elizabeth’s trusted accomplice, Bess of Hardwick.
Mary is Queen of Scotland but she has been forced to flee her land and take refuge in an England that is ruled by her cousin Elizabeth. But England, precarious in its Protestant state, set against the mighty powers of Spain, France and Rome, fears Mary’s power as a charismatic Catholic figurehead while she has her freedom. Mary is placed under house arrest with Bess of Hardwick.
Bess is a self-made woman, a shrewd survivor. She is newly married to her fourth and most distinguished husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury. But what marriage can withstand the charms of Mary? Or the threat of rebellion that she always carries? Mary may be trapped in privileged imprisonment awaiting her return to Scotland and her infant son; but waiting is not the same as doing nothing…
With her characteristic combination of superb storytelling and authentic historical background, Philippa Gregory brings to life this period of great change, in a riveting tale of betrayal, loyalty, politics and passion.
Cover – I have always loved the cover art on Philippa Gregory’s books. They are all so elegant, simple and yet striking. Like a calling card, you know this is a Philippa Gregory book before you even get to the blurb.
The book blurb – Unlike the Netflix series, Reign, there appears to be more historical accuracy in this book. It’s nice to lose yourself in a television show that bends the rules to provide the romance, deceit, and action needed for the screen, but I do crave the real-life element.
The Stats – There are 449 pages, and the Kindle price is £3.99 (also available in paperback and audio). There are 237 reviews on Amazon.co.uk, 144 of them are four and five stars. There are 311 reviews appear Amazon.com. Here is an example of a three-star review:
“The Other Queen” is about Mary, Queen of Scots’ imprisonment in England, focusing on the early years of her imprisonment. The story alternates between three perspectives: George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick who were charged with responsibility for the Queen; the third narrator being Mary, Queen of Scots. Bess is an ambitious social climber who initially thinks that hosting Queen Mary will be a way to advance the family fortunes, but who is dismayed to find that it drains their financial resources instead. George on the other hand becomes infatuated with the Queen, which causes irreparable friction in his own marriage.
I’ve enjoyed other books by Philippa Gregory, but The Other Queen lacks momentum. It’s a long book and not a lot happens (and when things do happen, they’re invariably taking place somewhere else). I enjoyed it in a mild way, but it felt so repetitive: countless variations on Bess complaining about money, George idealizing Mary and Mary telling us how charming she is. Bess was actually quite a remarkable woman for her time, but she comes across as being so unpleasant that she failed to elicit my sympathy. You also get the feeling that most of the exciting parts of Mary’s life have already taken place, so there is lots of time spent filling in her back story.
As always, Philippa Gregory has done her research. I didn’t necessarily agree with her interpretation of Mary’s personality, but I couldn’t fault it on historical grounds. It did feel however as if she couldn’t quite make up her mind what the nature of Mary and Bothwell’s relationship had been and why Mary had chosen to marry him, which I think is something that she needed to establish more clearly. Towards the end of the book events also get twisted and compressed, presumably to bring about a neater conclusion. Mary’s execution (still 15 years away) is described in a dream sequence: couldn’t Philippa Gregory come up with a better way to include it?
I kept waiting for the book to get going, but it never really did. At one stage Bess writes: “I can hardly believe that this nightmare goes on, goes on and on, and we never achieve victory and we never achieve peace”. In many ways that reflects how I felt about the book. It’s not a bad book, but nor is it terribly compelling.
BUY or PASS? – I’ve only read Philippa Gregory’s young adult series, Order of Darkness, which was fantastic. I would love to read her Tudor Court books but after reading some of the reviews, I don’t think The Other Queen is the best place to start, so it’s a PASS this week.
The Other Queen – buy your copy.
Take a look at who else has taken part in the Friday Five Challenge:
Rosie searches for Irish authors.
Cathy goes for a thriller.
The original idea for the Friday Five Challenge comes from Rosie Amber, and you can join up at https://rosieamber.wordpress.com
What is the Friday Five Challenge?
In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions on small postage stamp size book covers (thumbnails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they spend making that buying decision?
AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?
The Challenge is this… IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES…
1) Go to any online book supplier,
2) Randomly choose a category,
3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,
4) Read the book Bio/ Description of this book,
5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,
6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?
(then write a little analysis about your decision)