Some years ago, I began reading novels by Philippa Gregory and thus really began to delve into the history of the Tudor dynasty. I am revisiting this interest again in my reading of historical fiction, and quite enjoying the change of reading pace. I had been disappointed with some of Gregory's newer novels, but this one proved far more engaging.

Series: The Plantegeant and Tudor Novels, #8 
My Rating: 5❀'s
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Now, I personally have read these novels all out of order and it really doesn't matter. Even if you don't know the history, you'll link it all up as you read so do not worry about that at all. This novel focuses on Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's older sister, who married James IV of Scotland and was the mother to James V of Scotland. At first, Margaret's character and sense of pride in her royal lineage (new as it was) very much reminded me of her grandmother's character from The Red Queen. I could not stand her character as portrayed by Gregory, so I am was not sure if I would like this novel.

However, this novel proved a fascinating read. Margaret's was far more interesting than I thought, and it foreshadowed some of Scotland's later history as the second time around Margaret marries for love and this proves politically disadvantageous for her and for Scotland. This reminded me strongly of Mary Queen of Scots, but luckily for Margaret her story does not have such a violent ending. While Margaret makes some serious errors throughout the course of her so called reign as Regent, her story is compelling as her brother largely ignores her, makes war on her people and uses her for his own political ends. He is nothing like a brother should be. Largely alone in the world, Margaret must survive by her wits and yet she never loses her sense of who she is, a Tudor princess and the mother of the king of the Scotland.

I admired her for her feminist forward thinking, and I liked her for her sense of morality. The novel also cast new light on other historical characters, such as Katherine of Aragon, who did not seem as long suffering and pious as I had always thought of her as, and instead is portrayed as just as flawed as Margaret herself.

An interesting tale of a Tudor princess much forgotten about in history, this novel examines women's history and gives voices to the women of the time while highlighting how even queens and princesses had little power.

Happy Reading,
Jewels

Ages ago I added this book to my TBR pile and recently I borrowed an audiobook copy of it and began reading. I have to say, I wasn't sure what to make of this book at first. It started off as you might expect in the romance genre; girl is in distress, boy stops to offer assistance. But this rather obvious chance meeting did not take off from there the way you might expect at all.

Series: Belle Meade Plantation #1
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Historical Romance 
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I thought this romance might sizzle considering the way the hero and heroine meet, but the heroine Olivia is prim and proper and not interested in romance due to her violent  marriage to a brute of a man. Which is completely understandable. Outcast due to her husband being a traitor to the South, Olivia is now dependent on the kindness of a family friend for a home and work. This is an arrangement however, she knows cannot last long and it looks as though  against her wishes, a marriage will be arranged for her. Meanwhile, our hero Ridley is learning everything he can from a former slave on the plantation, Uncle Bob, so that he can open his own horse ranch out in Colorado.

So far, this does not a romance make and I will admit, I was seriously considering not finishing this book because I simply felt the story wasn't going anywhere. But, then Olivia and Ridley began interacting a little more, and the attraction between them began to heat up so I became more invested in the story.

I'm glad I finished this book. It really touches upon some important issues such as the education of the former slaves, and the rights and freedoms of peoples in my opinion. As the novel develops Olivia's independent nature becomes more apparent and I really admired her character. I thought she was exactly the sort of woman who could build a life on the frontier. I loved that the author painted Olivia as a woman willing to stand up for what she thought was right, for what she loved and I loved seeing Olivia grow from a woman who was prim and proper and therefore, quiet and meek, into one who was strong and more willing to assert herself.

Because the novel is very character driven, this is a book with a lot of meat to chew on, and the romance is one that is built over time coming to fruition in a sweet happily ever after. You won't get any scenes that steam up the windows in this novel but I thought the romance beautifully developed and didn't miss it one little bit.

A bit of a longer read, it really is worth it and I would recommend this novel for any lover of history and romance. I have to say the narrator did an incredible job, each character had their own distinct voice and listening to this was very enjoyable. My hats off to both author and narrator.

Happy Reading, 
Jewels

The month of April has gotten away from me. It seems like only yesterday I was celebrating Easter, which fell on April Fool's day, and now the month is wrapping up.

Without me having written a single review! Largely because the book I was reading was loooong--longer than I thought and then I had to return it on Overdrive and wait while someone else was listening to it, grrrrrrr.

Ah well, them's the breaks. But what I really wanted to blog about today was a tiny face lift I'm giving the blog. You might have noticed some time ago I changed around some things, polishing up the sidebar and widgets, hoping to make it more friendly for my readers and hopefully more useful as well. I started this blog five years now--which blows my mind--wanting to give my readers honest reviews, share my love of reading with those who had similar reading tastes and have the blog reflect a little bit of me. Over time, I've added features, removed some, reviewed a ton of books, changed the look of the blog several times now and polished things to give the blog more of a focused focus if you get my drift there. I haven't really changed much in a while because I finally got a look I love a couple of years ago and have stuck with it ever since. But a tiny face lift is all I thought the blog needed, and a tiny face lift is what is has been given.

Plus these new feature banners. As you know, I run three features on this blog that are all my own, What's the Scoop??? where I muse and share everything from all things bookish to updates on the blog, like today. The other two features are Quote It! and Feature Favourites and both have new banners as well. You'll see them soon. But today is the unvieling of the What's the Scoop??? new banner and while it's not really super exciting blog news, I thought I'd muse a little about how my blog has changed over the years and what not. My Devastating Reads has grown and changed with me and I hope it still offers you all honest reviews that are spoiler free (most of the time) and fun to read.

A book review it coming soon. I just finished up my loooong read today, whew!!

Happy Reading everyone, and stay tuned.

Jewels
I have long been fascinated by the Tudors and this new series by Alison Weir immediately caught my attention. Henry VIII famously had six wives, divorced two, beheaded two, kinda annulled his marriage to another, was widowed by one and survived by his last. Why so many wives...and what went wrong with his first marriage?


Series: Six Tudor Queens, #1
My Rating: 5❀'s
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Henry VIII married Katherine of Aragon at a young age and everything I have ever read has led me to believe he loved her. Notoriously, he put her aside even though the Pope declared their marriage good and valid, and married Anne Boylen. This novel tells Katherine story, and it is truly a sad and compelling one in my opinion. After a brief marriage to Henry's brother, which left Katherine a widow, she remained in an uncertain state as Henry's betrothed for several years in England. After the death of Henry VII, her long promised marriage to Henry VIII finally takes place and their marriage is a happy one. Henry genuinely loves Katherine, and seemingly did not enter into a marriage with her solely for political reasons, but also because he had long admired and loved Katherine. Sadly, their marriage is strained by the deaths or stillborn births of all of their children, six or seven, other than one daughter, later destined to become Mary I of England.

This is the true trouble at the heart of their marriage, this lack of a male heir. This is what went wrong with their marriage. When Katherine becomes too old to bear more children, Henry begins to question the validity of their marriage, and since Katherine is now older and Henry is younger and attractive, he begins to stray. I'd love to read the next novel (and plan to) and see exactly how Anne Boylen catches Henry's eye and draws him away from both his beloved wife and faith. This novel depicts Anne as ambitious, malicious and an upstart. We'll see what book two brings *wink, wink*

But back to Katherine. The first part of the novel showed the privations she suffered as she awaited a long promised marriage, and the second part depicted a happy marriage overshadowed by loss and in each of these parts, Katherine displayed great strength in bearing up under hardship and stress. I really admired her character for that, especially as she was not always given the best advice by those around her. I loved seeing her learn from those experiences and how they shaped her into the high minded, honest and strong woman she would need to be in her later years. The third part of the novel highlighted Katherine as a queen out of favour, striving to make her husband and the world understand that she was indeed Henry's wife and queen, even if he did send her away and marry another. Her staunch resistance and insistence that no one on earth save the Pope could say she was not Henry's wife made her a hero in my mind. It would have been easy to give into the pressure and threats, but Katherine stayed true to herself, knowing that she was Henry's wife. She did not sway through all the long years of the various hardships Henry visits on her, and I had to admire her for this strength.

I thought the writing poised and polished, artfully weaving fact and fiction together in a way that brought history beautifully to life. I don't think Weir departs too wildly from history, or interweaves too much supposition into her storytelling. This was one masterfully written historical fiction novel.

Happy Reading,
Jewels
Dear readers, I have loved this series, but The Fate of the Tearling let me down. There, I said it. I am disappointed. And it had been a while since I had run across a series that really drew me into a fantasy world in quite this way. But, c'est la reading life. This review contains spoilers, so continue forewarned.

Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #3
My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Fantasy 
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Now, I will say, if you have come this far in the series, don't give up. I think you need to finish this series. It's worth seeing it through to the end because as a whole, the series is pretty solid. But, this book has serious flaws which causes the series to as a whole to have flaws. At least, in my opinion.

Now, in earlier books there was some hinting at the Crossing being not a crossing of seas to some new land mass but rather, a crossing through time. And I was fine with that as long as the story didn't become too dependent  on this plot point. To me, the Tearling world was new and fanatical, a story set in some "other" world connected to our own, but very different as well. A world that was changed. A mirror world of sorts. A world that Kelsea needed to improve because society demanded change. Justice demanded change. I really liked how so many of today's problems were brought to the forefront in this series; the divide between rich and poor, the sexism that still exists, the inequalities that plague society at large. It made for compelling reading because it asked us to consider what is right, and what is wrong, to look at social justice through a different lens, one not coloured by prejudices or personal emotion.

All of this is still of the series, however the ending provided easy answers and felt a bit deux ex machina. The sapphires Kelsea has worn have always had power. It was unclear whether Kelsea could use the magic because the sapphires were magical or if the sapphires simply worked for her. But in the end, when the Tearling was lost, when Kelsea and all her loved ones were lost, these sapphires saved the world by allowing Kelsea to go back and fix everything so that Tear's utopia could be realized. A new world was built up, one which seemingly had no divisions in class, or even crime but a world in which Kelsea was no way connected to those she loved, not really.

I really hated that. It was too easy. It gave no credit to the hard work of people fixing or improving a flawed or troubled society. It gave no credit to the goodness of people or our capacity to love and be fair and stand together. So it killed the series for me. I wanted to see the struggle come to a more imperfect end if you will, one in which things are better but in which people still have to work hard not to become complacent, not to overlook the suffering of others, to embrace others despite differences. Instead, it all happens off page because of some magical sapphires. All in the past. And while Kelsea can be hailed a hero, I wanted her to be the one to lead the people into this brave new world, to realize Tear's vision instead of merely becoming apart of it because of some magic that is never even explained or understood by the readers. At least, this reader. I'm not saying the author could have accomplished this all in one book, but at least the groundwork could have been laid. At least I could have closed the book thinking, Kelsea is a leader who can bring about great change and that people have the capacity to love enough to change. Instead, it was all down to the sapphires.

I had expected more. But still, this series is brilliant in forcing you to think about the human condition, so while this book and series did not end as I would have liked, or expected, it's still worth the read.

Happy Reading, 
Jewels