Original date of publication:
My edition: 2010 (Harper)
Why I decided to read: Saw it in a bookshop in London
How I acquired my copy: LTER, October 2010
I’m reading historical fiction less and less lately, but when I found out about this one, I thought I’d give it a try, since I’ve enjoyed three of Christie Dickason’s other novels. In this one, she remains in the seventeenth century, focusing on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of James I. She and her brother were widely popular, so much so that their father tried to keep them away from the public as much as possible. This novel focuses on Elizabeth’s early life, primarily with the arrangement of her marriage and all that that entails.
Christie Dickason is a good writer, but there were some points in the novel where I found myself rolling my eyes. Elizabeth is a royal daughter, but in this book the author has her dressing in men’s clothing and running off to brothels in Southwark. And nobody would have noticed this? Elizabeth’s friendship with Tallie is interesting, but Elizabeth’s attitude towards the musician is a little too PC to be believable. In fact, in many places, Elizabeth has a modern-day sensibility, especially when it comes to her impending marriage—which she would have been brought up to expect. I never truly “bought” her as a living, breathing seventeenth-century person. I just didn’t care for her in the end.
I love the historical details that the author uses throughout, since she really knows the period she’s writing about. However, there’s way too much detail on clothing. Also, James I comes across as a drunken buffoon, which turns him into a one-dimensional character at times. There’s a lot of name-dropping in this novel, but none of it really added to the plot. For example, the author gives her reader a full biography of Arbella Stuart, but her story adds nothing to the main plot. The novel moves at a very swift pace, but there were other chapters that were written from the point of view of another major character, which distracted from the overall flow of the book.