Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another book review, actually two of them at once

Kyle, Barbara
The Queen's Lady
Kensington Publishers, New York, 2008, 530 pp.

The King's Daughter
Kensington Publishers, new York, 2009, 489 pp.

I don't usually read "Tudor-themed" historical novels, much preferring earlier periods, or reading nonfiction about this period, which I sometimes do for information. However, I more or less stumbled across The King's Daughter, by accident, at my local library. And I'm glad I did, because it was a good, satisfying complex read, and an interesting tale with a heroine who won't let anything get in her way: not her parents, not Queen Mary Tudor, nor anyone else.

The book was so good, that I decided to look at The Queen's Lady, which was the first book in this set. They are both related, as the mother is the heroine in the earlier book, and the daughter in the later one. In both cases, they face religious misunderstanding and persecution for their (eventually) rahter freewheeling beliefs.

As both stories take place at a time when religious passions(and religious persecution) were a huge feature of the European landsacape, there is, as one might expect, an underlying theme that what we now call "tolerance" should be strived for. I think, given the dates of the original publication, and the reissue of both books(they were first written about 15 years ago), that people need to think on this message of toleration once again, given that various religious sects and traditions, and people of no faith or religious tradition, are again all shouting at each other that "only they" are right, and one should "only" follow "them" to true enlightenement and salvation.

This is not an eeasy message for a lot of people to swallow, but I think the books both go a long way to making it easier, at least for those people who happen to read them.

Both heroines, and the men they encounter, at least the heroes they eventually end up with, are engaging, and the stories have lots of overlapping subplots, which tend to involve famous people of the time(e.g., Mary Tudor, about to marry Philip of Spaion, Henry VIII, in the earlier book, Katherine of Aragon, etc.). Kyle picks one or two famous characters to focus on, then exposes them to what she thinks are both their flaws and their virtues. In the case of The Queen's Lady , it's Sir/Saint Thomas More, who stubbornly clung to his version of Christian faith, but in Ms. Kyle's hands, seems to come on like an intolerant fanatic with, uh, problems. Queen Mary Tudor is also flawed; she insists on marrying Philip of Spain, even though she knows this marriage is unpopular with the English in general. It is against these backgrounds(which involve the pursuit of "heretics", among other things), that the heroines of both books must move, and both of them are determined to wade right in.

They wade right in, which gets them both into various kinds of trouble, from which they get dramatically rescued, and the machinations of the villains in both books are dramatically thwarted.

It is these last "twists" in both tales that seems most "artificial", because they almost seem like a kind of "deus ex machina" device in both books, but it more or less works. The heroine has done everything she can do, though perhaps from certain perspectives, the fact that the hero has to step in and save her at the end might seem a bit "forced"

However, oddly enough, I found that both books have a good deal of strength. For one thing, they are longer than most books by relatively unknoown authors, today. They each run about 500 pages, which is very unusual nowadays. My own feeling is, that character and plot, at the hands of a novelist who knows what they're doing(and I think Ms. Kyle does), are better handled at this length, than they are with shorter books. It's really too bad that considerations other than "writing" ones are dominating the market at the moment. You have to practically be someone like Stephen King or Dan Brown, to get away wirh writing a long(er)novel. Which is too bad, because I think there is a place for such work, even among "unknowns". And, quite frankly, a longer book somehow just feels more satisfying.

In any case, I really liked these books, and anyone who likes historical novels should at least take a look. I cannot say how "accurate" they are, although I'm sure Ms. Kyle did her best, by the look of things. But perhaps it doesn't matter. As I've said elsewhere, even in a historical novel, story needs to come first. But that's another "story".
Anne G

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