For years, during times of stress, I’ve made a habit of delving into books that could be described as escapist by nature.
It first started in college, when I had a double major in english and history. And usually happened during finals week. Even though there were papers due or tests, I would always find time to read an early science fiction novel by Jules Verne. His “voyages extraordinaires” took me far, far away from real life. Set at the bottom of the sea, or up to the moon, or down in the fiery depths of earth – all featured fantastic struggles of life or death. Later, in grad school, I found Stanislaw Lem’s classic, haunted SF novel Solaris during just such a time.
Now that I’m older, I still enjoy novels that take me away from modern life’s pressure and deadlines. But now my fiction focus is more on looking back than forward. Especially when the stories of real historical characters are retold with a new twist on “what might have been.”
So I’m fond of novels about queens. And really like reading Tudor-era fiction. So much so that, during the last busy weeks at work, I’ve been immersed in recent novels about the War of the Roses. Plus the dangerous world of Henry the VIII’s bloody reign and his successors. Here a few recommended titles of this type that can be found in the adult fiction collection:
The Red Queen (2010) & The White Queen (2009) – both by Philippa Gregory. These books are part of Gregory’s “the Cousin’s War” series and retell the story of the opposing sides of the battles of the Plantagenants known as the War of the Roses. The White Queen refers to Elizabeth Woodville, one of the most beautiful women of her day, who married Edward IV in secret and was the mother of the two missing princes in the Tower of London. The Red Queen refers to the powerful and determined Margaret Beaufort who would stop at nothing to secure the throne for her son, Henry VII, the eventual first ruler of the House of Tudor.
No Will But His: a Novel of Kathryn Howard (2010) by Sarah A. Hoyt. This tells the story of Henry VIII’s “Rose Without a Thorn,” his ill fated young bride who became Queen yet was executed less than two years later. She was actually a cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry’s infamous second wife whom he had sentenced to death after tiring of her temper and inability to produce a son. Of his wives, Kathryn was the only one who was poorly educated. And this, plus her infidelity and youthful misconduct, made her no match for the dangers and treacheries of the Tudor Court.
The “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series by Kate Emerson includes three titles published in 2009 and 2010. These include The Pleasure Palace, Between Two Queens, and By Royal Decree. Emerson’s approach to telling the story of the Tudors is to use the perspective of real life but less prominent members of the Court. There’s a bit more romance in these re-tellings but plenty life or death suspense. A fourth title due out in August is called At the King’s Pleasure.
The Queen’s Governess (2010) by Karen Harper tells the story of Katherine Ashley, the daughter of a poor country squire, who secured an education and a place for herself in the Tudor court of Henry VIII. As a dying favor to the doomed Anne Boleyn, Kat became the governess and surrogate-mother to the young Elizabeth Tudor … ultimately emerging as one of the few lifelong confidantes to Gloriana herself, Queen Elizabeth I.