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Historical Fiction with a Gay Theme or Character

19 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 8 September 2008. After reading As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann, I was curious about the availability of historical fiction that centers around a gay character or theme. Below is a select list. If you know of a historical novel that fits this description but is not on the list, please comment.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of the novels below. Or for books currently available at Amazon, follow the title links. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for referral purchases.

Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. Set during the English Civil War, the story involves a gay man’s slow descent into insanity. Read my review of As Meat Loves Salt.

The Bitterweed Path by Thomas Hal Phillips. Friendship and love between two Mississippi boys a generation after the Civil War.

The Carnivorous Lamb by Agustin Gomez-Arcos. A story of incestuous love during the politically repressive times of Franco’s rule in Spain.

The Charioteer by Mary Renault. Portrays the complicated relationships of gay men during World War II.

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal. A contemporary novel about a gay man’s coming of age in post-World War II America.

The Confession of Piers Gaveston by Brandy Purdy. On the relationship between Pier Gaveston and Edward II as told from Gaveston’s point of view.

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. Set in pre-World War I Italy, the novel focuses on the obsession of a middle-aged artist for a young man, who represents lost youth.

Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory. Set against the English Civil War, a gardener becomes lover to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. A historical mystery set in Victorian England circa 1862. Amazon calls it a “damning critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy.” Other titles in the series (Tipping the Velvet, Affinity) also deal with lesbians in Victorian times.

Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault. Biographical fiction on Alexander the Great.

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. The first book in the Masters of Rome series deals with Gaius Marius and to a lesser extent, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who had a homosexual relationship with the Greek actor Metrobius.

The Flowers of Adonis by Rosemary Sutcliff. Biographical fiction on Alkibiades, an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War. He was Pericles’ ward and Socrates’ friend. Classified as juvenile fiction.

Fortune’s Favourites by Colleen McCullough. The third book in the Masters of Rome series introduces Pompeius Magnus, Julius Caesar and Marcus Crassus.

Gaveston by Chris Hunt. On the relationship between Edward II and Piers Gaveston. Contains explicit sex; sometimes categorized as erotica. See my review.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Contemporary fiction on gay male relationships during the 1950s. Takes place in Paris.

Goat Song by Frank Yerby. Coming of age story during the Peloponnesian War.

The God in Flight by Laura Argiri. Set during the 1880s at Yale, this is a love story between a male student and a male teacher.

The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault. On the relationship between two Athenians, Alexias and Lysis.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon. The second book in the Lord John Grey historical mystery series is set during the Seven Years’ War and involves a Jacobite plot.

Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon. The third book in the Lord John Grey historical mystery series is an anthology of short stories involving Lord John. The best is Lord John and the Succubus.

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon. The first book in the Lord John Grey historical mystery series.

The Master by Colm Tóibín. Biographical fiction on Henry James.

Maurice by E. M. Forster. Contemporary fiction in that it was written during 1913-1914 and deals with Edwardian attitudes toward homosexuality. The book was not actually published until 1971, and in that sense could be considered historical fiction.

Mordred, Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg. The first book in the Mordred Trilogy treats Mordred, the illegitimate child of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay, sympathetically. It also imagines him as gay.

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. On the relationship between Bagoas and Alexander the Great.

The Phoenix by Ruth Sims. Deals with late 19th Century attitudes toward homosexuality. Includes themes of poverty, child abuse and insanity.

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander by Ann Herendeen. The novel purports to deal with bisexuality as well as homosexualty, but the outcome is unbelievable, totally silly. I gave it 2.5 stars on LibraryThing for entertainment value.

The Waters of Babylon by David Stevens. On the life and homosexual relationships of T.E. Lawrence (a/k/a Lawrence of Arabia).

While England Sleeps by David Leavitt. A doomed love story set during the rise of fascism in Europe and the Spanish Civil War. Read the full review.

Additional Resources

Speak Its Name – a blog on historical fiction with gay characters.

The List – the above-referenced blog compiles a list of fiction with gay characters. Be advised that it consists of fiction in many genres, including historical romance and erotica.

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How to Clean and Care for Your Books

17 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Keeping your books clean generally requires little more than patience and a few common household items. If you want to invest a small amount of time and money, you can protect your books and keep them in good repair.

What You Need

  • A soft clean cloth. I prefer soft cotton, such as flannel, or soft terry cloth.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Dry cleaning pad. Also called document cleaning pad. Library supply companies, such as Brodart, sell these.

Books with Laminated Covers

If the book has a laminated cover, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the cloth. Do not pour the alcohol directly on the book. Then gently rub the cover until it is clean. Use this method to clean softcover books or dust jackets protected with a layer of laminate.

Hardcover Cloth Books

For books without dust jackets, or books consisting of cloth-covered boards, rub the dry cleaning pad over the boards. As long as the cloth hasn’t begun to fray, you don’t have to be particularly gentle. Some stains may require a bit of hard rubbing.

I do this outside because the dry cleaning substance breaks down during the rubbing process – as it should. You’ll have to brush it off the book when you are finished.

Books without Laminated Covers

Some old paperbacks or old dust jackets do not have a layer of laminate. You’ll also see books where the laminate is peeling away. In this case, do not use rubbing alcohol because it’ll eat the color. It may even destroy the cover.

For dust jackets, protect them from further dirt and wear with a plastic book cover. Library supply companies sell these.

Books that Smell of Smoke

Despite what you may read elsewhere, nothing absorbs the smell of smoke from a book. At best, you may cover up the odor with a stronger fragrance – perfume, for instance. But you’ll never rid the book entirely of the smell.

What You Need

  • Box with airtight lid.
  • Room air freshener.

If you prefer a strong odor of perfume to the smell of cigarette smoke, for instance, find a box with an airtight lid. You can buy a plastic box with an airtight lid at most department stores.

Stand the book up in the box so that the lower page edges are the only part of the book touching the box. Place the air freshener in the box with the book, but make sure it isn’t touching the book. Keep the book in the box for 2-3 days.

Cleaning Gunk from Pages

If you have ever opened a used book to find a dead fly, or worse, stuck to the pages, then you know what I mean by “gunk.” If the gunk is thoroughly dry, take a small piece of light-weight sandpaper and rub it gently over the gunk until it falls away. This is a fairly gross job. You may want to wear rubber gloves.

Protecting Your Books

If you want to protect your books from dust, dirt or just day-to-day handling, store them in a bookcase in an upright position. Never store hardcover books in piles or place them so that the spine is horizontal rather than vertical. Doing so may weaken the spine and may cause it to break.

Use a feather duster often to keep them free of dust. Protect book jackets with plastic covers.

One final thought: If you use Glu-B-Gone, or a similar oil-based product, to remove sticker residue, take care. Do not use it on a book you want as a collector’s item. Rubbing alcohol – assuming the surface is laminated – will work to remove glue eventually. These products leave an oily residue that can stain the book.

Do you have any book cleaning or repair tips? Please leave a comment.

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Historical Fiction on Alfred the Great

15 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 30 August 2008. The reading list below comes out of a discussion in the Historical Fiction forum at PaperBackSwap.com. Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom was book of the month in July. While discussing it, a question about the historical accuracy of the characterization of King Alfred came up. Members also wanted to know about other historical fiction that deals with Alfred.

As Cornwell explains in the historical note, his characterization follows that of Alfred’s contemporary biographer, Bishop Asser. (For the full text of Asser’s biography, see Online Medieval and Classical Library.) 

The British Monarchy site states: “[A]t the age of 21, Alfred (reigned 871-99) was a strongminded but highly strung battle veteran….” Quoting Asser, the essay continues, ”‘Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them….’” Toward the end, it describes Alfred as a “religiously devout and pragmatic man” – all of which jibes with Cornwell’s portrayal.

In a review of The Last Kingdom entitled “Hits and Myths,” Bristol University research fellow Joanne Parker confirms the author’s reliance on Asser. ”Cornwell’s portrait of a sickly and sinful young Alfred is faithful to The Life of King Alfred, a history believed to have been written in or shortly after his reign, by a Welsh bishop called Asser.”

But the title of the review implies there is perhaps too much reliance on myth. Indeed, Parker wonders if Cornwell at times confused Alfred with Arthur. “Alfred’s name mysteriously mutates to ‘Arthur’ – the king who, throughout the 20th century, has so effectively supplanted the Saxon as the nation’s favourite medieval monarch.” (See pages 207 and 327 of the hardcover edition.)

There is an interesting discussion taking place on Historical Fiction Online regarding Cornwell’s characterization of Alfred.

Regarding additional historical novels that depict Alfred the Great, see the reading list below. Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of the novels below. Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

The Dragon and the Raven: The Days of King Alfred by G. A. Henty. Juvenile fiction about a young Alfred. No reading level provided.

The Edge of Light by Joan Wolf. Biographical fiction on Alfred flavored with romance. This is the last book in a trilogy on early British history. It includes The Road to Avalon (#1) and Born of the Sun (#2).

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle. Juvenile biographical fiction (Gr. 5 – 8) on Aethelflaed, the teenaged daughter of King Alfred.

Escape to King Alfred by Geoffrey Trease. Juvenile adventure story (Gr. 5 – 8) surrounding Danish invasions during King Alfred’s reign.

The Flame in the Dark by Basil Bonallack. On the first years of Alfred’s reign.

King Alfred’s Viking by Charles W. Whistler. Subtitled A Story of the First English Fleet, the book description states it involves “Alfred’s rise to the throne as seen through the eyes of an outsider, Ranald the Viking.”

The King Liveth by Jeffery Farnol. Carries the subtitle, A Romance of Alfred the Great Based on the Old Chronicles.

The King of Athelney by Alfred Duggan. Alternate title is The Right Line of Cerdic. Biographical novel on Alfred. It’s also a sequel to Conscience of the King, which is on the life of Cerdic Elesing, King of Wessex.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell. This is the first book in the Saxon Chronicles. Alfred is a young man – in his late teens or about 20. To date, subsequent titles are The Pale Horseman, The Lords of the North and Sword Song. Read my review of The Last Kingdom.

The Price of Blood by Doris Sutcliffe Adams. “A historical novel of the England during the reign of King Alfred, at the time of Viking invasions in the 9th century. A Christian Dane named Niall, who is taken prisoner after having been shipwrecked on the coast of Devon, is torn between loyalty to his fellow Danes and the people of Christian faith.” (BookSplendour Catalog at Biblio.com)

Raven’s Wind by Victor Canning. A boy serves Alfred before he becomes king. Possibly young adult fiction.

Wulnoth the Wanderer by Herbert Inman. Cited in Historical Fiction And Other Reading References For Classes In Junior And Senior High Schools by Hannah Logasa, this is probably young adult fiction. It carries the subtitle, A Story of King Alfred of England

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Historical Fiction on Revolts and Revolutions

14 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 30 July 2008. Having just concluded one of the most moving books I have ever read – As Meat Loves Salt – and following it with Q by Luther Blissett, it seems a good time to begin to list historical novels about revolutions that came about as a result of oppression. Because such a list could be a book in and of itself, what appears below are representative titles for select uprisings taking place from the late 13th Century to the 20th Century.

Over time, I will expand each subheading individually. The section on English Civil Wars has been expanded.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of these novels. Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

The American Revolution (1763-1783)

Arundel by Kenneth Roberts. On Benedict Arnold’s invasion of Canada through Quebec.

The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara. Sequel to Rise to Rebellion.

Rabble in Arms by Kenneth Roberts. Sequel to Arundel told from the loyalist point of view.

Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell. Loyalist point of view.

Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara. On the Boston Massacre and the days that follow.

American Slave Rebellions (1700s and 1800s)

Amistad by Joyce Annette Barnes. On the 1839 mutiny of the Spanish slave ship, Amistad.

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron. On Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831.

Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

English Civil Wars (1625-1660)

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. The first war provides the background. It deals specifically with the Digger Movement.

The Faithful Lovers by Valerie Anand. Part of the Bridge Over Time series (#4), the English Civil War provides the background.

The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Part of the Morland Dynasty series (#4), the book opens in 1630 and leads up to the struggle between king and parliament.

Pargeters by Norah Lofts.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge.

The French Revolution (1789–1799)

City of Darkness, City of Light by Marge Piercy.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. Multiple points of view.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

German Peasants’ War (1524-1527)

Perfection by Anita Mason.

Q by Luther Blissett. Currrently reading.

Speak to Her Kindly by Jonathan Rainbow. On the Münster Rebellion, a later (1534-1535) attempt by the Anabaptists to establish a New Jerusalem.

Hundred Years’ War (1339-1453)

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell. The U.K. title is Harlequin. This is the first of a trilogy that takes place during the Hundred Years’ War. Vagabond (#2) and Heretic (#3) complete the trilogy.

Kemp Passage At Arms by Daniel Hall.

Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Nigel serves King Edward III during the Hundred Years War.

The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Nigel now leads a band of English bowmen known as the White Company.

Jacobite Rebellions (1715 and 1745)

Devil Water by Anya Seton. On Catholic nobleman Charles Radcliff and his daughter during the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.

White Rose Rebel by Janet Paisley. Biographical fiction on Anne Farquharson, a female leader during the 1745 uprising.

Peasants’ Revolt (England, 1381)

Company of Rebels by Elizabeth Lord.

Confession of Jack Straw by Simone Zelitch.

The Constant Star by Prudence Andrew.

Russian Revolution of 1917

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

The Iron Flood by Alexander Seravimovich.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander. On the final days of the Romanov’s.

Petersburg by Emily Hanlon. On events in 1905, a precursor to the 1917 revolution.

The Revolutionist by Robert Littell.

Scottish Wars of Independence (1285-1371)

The Bruce Trilogy  by Nigel Tranter. Biographical fiction about Robert the Bruce. Includes The Steps to the Empty Throne, The Path of the Hero King and The Price of the King’s Peace. Covers the first Scottish War.

The Fields of Bannockburn by Donna Fletcher Crow. Subtitled A Novel of Christian Scotland from Its Origins to Independence, this is an ambitious novel.

The Wallace by Nigel Tranter. On William Wallace, one of the leaders during the first Scottish War against England.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

12 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

It’s been a long time since a book held me in its grip so completely I was unable to put it down. Fortunately, it’s the weekend and I could tune out all but the narrator, Jacob Cullen.

To say Cullen is a troubled man is to gloss over what drives him. Impoverished at a young age and sent from his home with his brothers to serve a wealthy Royalist family during the English Civil War, Cullen grows up disillusioned, insecure and distrustful.

Within the first 100 pages, he commits murder (to thwart a charge of treason), theft (to survive) and rape (to claim what is his). You witness a man who is violent and, perhaps mad. When he escapes into the arms of the New Model Army, and his lover-to-be, you know his story will end badly. But because you see the world through Cullen’s eyes, you hope against all reason that somehow things will turn out alright.

They don’t. But not because As Meat Loves Salt is a work of historical fiction and therefore, the ending is known. History simply provides the environment. Weary of the war, Cullen and his lover, Christopher Ferris, escape to the home of Ferris’ wealthy Aunt. Eventually, Ferris’ involvement with radical political thinking leads him to organize a farming commune with the biblical implications of a New Jerusalem.

Ferris is opposite Cullen in almost every respect. He is slight and gentle to Cullen’s muscular build and violent ways. But he possesses an inner strength that Cullen has never had. He’s stubborn. About the commune, he is Cullen’s equal in obsessive behavior.

The tale, then, is not just about history. It’s about a relationship between men when one borders on the brink of insanity. It’s about a Puritan upraising and sexual confusion. In the words of the author, who I think says it best, “It’s about longing, about being cast out from happiness into a shattered world, about the fear that there is some evil inside you that drives others away. It’s about the possibilities that love holds out to people, its power to ennoble and to enslave. It’s about the futility of trying to hold on to love by force.” Rating: Excellent. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)

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How To Find Used Books at a Good Price

10 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Often, the books I would like to read are out-of-print, so I have to look beyond the usual suspects (Borders, Barnes & Noble) to find them. Amazon, of course, sells out-of-print books through its marketplace (used booksellers), but is the lowest price the best deal?

Having sold books online for a time, I know that sources for readers (as opposed to collectors) are many and highly competitive. This means that if you’re willing to spend some time searching, you can probably find a good deal.

Tip: If the source (Amazon, eBay) rates sellers based on buyer feedback, pay attention to the numbers. Is that 1 cent book (with $3.99 shipping) the best deal if the seller has a 90 percent rating or lower? Review the feedback before you buy.

Under Find Books in the Fuzzy History menu, you will find many of the resources I use. My strategy for finding a used book typically goes like this:

  1. Search my county library system. Check with your local public library about online access to its catalog. Many libraries also provide access to the catalogs of other libraries. You may also try WorldCat, if libraries in your area participate.
  2. Search my online trading source, PaperBackSwap.
  3. Search BookFinder. I prefer this search engine because it returns the price with shipping included. If I find the book at a price I’m willing to pay, the search is over.
  4. If BookFinder fails to find the book, I search Amazon (and Google, if necessary) to verify that I have the correct spelling for the author and title.
  5. If BookFinder finds the book, but the price is too high, I search eBay and Half.com separately. If there are no copies, or if I want to try to find a better deal, I save the search in eBay. New results will be sent to my inbox. I’m patient because I have lots of other books to read while I wait for a good price.
  6. I set up a “want” at AbeBooks. AbeBooks is a consortium of used booksellers. Once you register (free) with the site, you may set up a want list. For each title, you may set the highest price you’re willing to pay. When a book matches your specifications, AbeBooks sends you an e-mail message. You’ll have to be fast, though, as someone else may have the same “want.” (One of my recent “wants” came in at $10, when my original search turned up $85 as the lowest available price.)
  7. Search for it at local book sales. Use Book Sale Finder to find the dates and locations for book sales in your area sponsored by non-profit entities, such as libraries and churches.

Finally, if the book you want to buy is a new book, use the resources in Find Books. (You may limit a BookFinder search to new books.) But before you buy, go to DealLocker and check out the book coupons. You will often find unannounced deals here.

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Historical Fiction on Edward, the Black Prince

9 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory


The son of Philippa and Edward III, Edward (1330-1376) preceded his father in death by a little more than a year, and thus, never became king. History recognizes his prowess as a military leader against the French during the Hundred Years’ War. According to Thomas Costain, he earned the sobriquet because “he wore black armor at the battle of Crecy, [which was] supplied by his father” (The Three Edwards, 1962, p. 267). But the title came later, after his death.

Edward married Joan of Kent in what was probably a love-match. They had 2 children – Edward, who died in childhood, and the future Richard II.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of these novels. Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell. The Hundred Years’ War supplies the background to this tale about the quest for the holy grail. Edward makes an appearance. The U.K. title is Harlequin.

The Black Plantagenet Pamela Bennetts.

The First Princess of Wales by Karen Harper. On Joan of Kent’s romance with Edward. Criticized for historical inaccuracy.

Katherine by Anya Seton. On John of Gaunt’s romance with Katherine Swynford. Edward and Joan appear within.

Lady of the Garter by Juliet Dymoke. The story centers around Joan of Kent, who married Edward for love after 2 previous marriages.

The Lady Royal by Molly Costain Haycraft. Biographical fiction about Edward’s sister, Isabella de Coucy.

Passage to Pontefract by Jean Plaidy. As Richard II and Henry IV struggle for the throne, the rivalry between Edward and John of Gaunt is provided as background.

Sir Nigel by Arthur Conan Doyle. Takes place during the Hundred Years’ War. While not focusing on Edward, the Black Prince appears within.

The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle. Takes place during the Hundred Years’ War. While not focusing on Edward, the Black Prince appears within.

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The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

8 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

The first book in The Saxon Chronicles introduces the fictional Uhtred, a 10-year-old boy whose family holds Bebbanburg (now Bamburgh Castle) in Northumbria. The year is 866 and the Danes have begun to invade the northern regions of what is now England. When they strike Bebbanburg, a Dane named Ragnar captures Uhtred, and then raises him as a son.

Through the eyes of a boy who longs to be a warrior, Cornwell presents the Danish side of the story. The Danes believe the English kings are weak. Indeed, they raid Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia with relative ease, destroying monasteries, churches, nunneries and the English way of life.

A gifted storyteller, Cornwell makes you feel a part of these violent times. He describes not only the raids and the killings in graphic detail, but the mindset. “Start your killers young, before their consciences are grown. Start them young and they will be lethal.”

To break up the intensity of the slaughter, Cornwell interjects humor. It is, however, a humor even more irreverent than what appears in the Sharpe series.

“Your gods are false gods,” King Edmund of East Anglia tells the Danes.

“Prove it,” they respond, which leads to a discussion of how the Christian god influences events through His will.

A Dane asks, “So would your god protect you from my arrows?” Edmund responds that He would if it were His will.

“We shall shoot arrows at you….” Unable to back down from his stance about God’s will, Edmund stands before the archers, who, of course, kill him. “Nowadays, of course, [remarks Uhtred] that story is never told; instead children learn how brave Saint Edmund stood up to the Danes, demanded their conversion, and was murdered. So now he is a martyr and a saint, warbling happily in heaven, but the truth is that he was a fool and talked himself into martyrdom.”

Regarding King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great), he portrays a man who is pious and sick, though intelligent and wise in the ways of warfare. He cunningly tricks Uhtred – after Ragnar’s death – into fighting for him. Alfred and the region of Cornwalum are the final holdouts by the end of the first book.

Since this is my second reading of The Last Kingdom, which I perhaps enjoyed more than the first reading, I can rate it none other than excellent. The Pale Horseman is the next book in the series, followed by Lords of the North and Sword Song. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral).

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Historical Fiction on Richard III

2 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 7 September 2008. The 30 years (1455-1485) that make up the Wars of the Roses – a period of intermittent civil strife between Lancastrians and Yorkists – tested the character of many a man. Much historical fiction stems from this era. Add to the troubled times, an unsolved mystery involving the disappearance of two princes, and you have the perfect background for a story. Since Richard III reigned at the time of their disappearance, and since the Battle of Bosworth, where he died, marks the end of the Wars, it was perhaps inevitable that he become a frequent subject of historical fiction. Thus, I’ll start the pathfinders to which I refer in my introductory post, with him.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of these novels. Or for books currently available at Amazon, follow the title links. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for referral purchases.

Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

Broken Sword by Rhoda Edwards. Very dry reading that covers the last 2 years of Richard’s reign. For the earlier years, see Fortune’s Wheel.

Crown of Roses by Valerie Anand. Realistic character portrayal.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard assesses the character of Richard III from his hospital bed. Somewhat dated ideas. Pro-Ricardian.

Fortune’s Wheel by Rhoda Edwards. Dry reading that covers the early years of Edward IV’s reign, when Richard served as his loyal second-man. For Richard’s reign, see Broken Sword.

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. First in a series that stretches from the Wars of the Roses to present day, this story features brief appearances from Richard III. It’s sympathic.

The Killing of Richard the Third by Robert Farrington. The first book in a trilogy that features an amateur secret agent. It covers the years, 1483 to 1495. Pro-Ricardian. The other two titles in the series are Tudor Agent and The Traitors of Bosworth.

The King’s Bed by Margaret Campbell Barnes.

King’s Ransom by Glenn Pierce.

The Lodestar by Pamela Belle. The main character joins the Duke of Gloucester’s household. The novel suggests one possibility concerning the fate of the young princes. The book is considered a prequel to the author’s English Civil War series.

The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters. While I enjoyed the early books in the author’s Amelia Peabody mystery series, I couldn’t finish this one. Roxane C. Murph, past chairman of the American Branch of the Richard III Society, said this about it: ”The Murders of Richard III has been rather controversial. I enjoyed the book, and was surprised by the unfavorable reactions of some Ricardians. Peters pokes fun at some of the more uncritical defenders of the king, but there is no malice in her work. I suppose it just proves that some of us are over-sensitive on the subject, or perhaps we take ourselves too seriously at times.”

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett. A sub-plot centers around what happened to one of the princes, but the book itself is not about Richard III. Major characters include Sir Thomas More and the German artist, Hans Holbein.

Richard III by Shakespeare. Largely exaggerated, historically inaccurate, but nonetheless a great classic.

The Rose at Harvest End by Eleanor Fairburn. Book 3 in a four-part series on Cicely Neville, Richard III’s mother. This one covers 1461 to the death of Edward IV in 1483. Other titles in the series: The Rose in Spring (#1), White Rose, Dark Summer (#2) and Winter’s Rose (#4).

A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith. An imagined love story about Richard III and his fictional mistress, Kate Haute.

Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewynne. A historical romance with the typical cheesy cover of a bodice-ripper. But consumer comments indicate it portrays better-than-average historical research.

The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth. This title is the first in a series. I thought the characterizations were over-the-top. Purple prose. Pro-Ricardian. There are two more in the series: Crown of Destiny and Fall from Grace.

The Seventh Son by Reay Tannahill. A bit on the dry side, the author gives a balanced portrayal of Richard III. He’s neither evil nor a saint.

The Sun In Splendor by Juliet Dymoke.

The Sunne In Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. An epic novel of the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. Pro-Ricardian.

To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell.

Treason by Meredith Whitford.

Under the Hog by Patrick Carleton. I haven’t read this one yet. It can be difficult to track down at a reasonable price. Originally published in 1938, it is a pro-Ricardian classic.

We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman. I haven’t read this one. Romantic. Pro-Ricardian.

The White Rose by Jan Westcott. I haven’t read this one. Westcott wrote more romance than historical fiction. Former Richard III Society Fiction Librarian, Jeanne Trahan Faubell, says The White Rose is “a romantic novel greatly sympathetic to Elizabeth and Anthony Woodville.”

Additional Resources

Barton Library Catalogue (Richard III Society)

Medieval Fiction Reading List

Ricardian Fiction: Trash and Treasures

The Wars of the Roses: Fiction

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Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

1 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Born Gruadh inghean Bodhe (also spelled Gruoch ingen Boite), Lady Macbeth was the granddaughter of Kenneth III, King of Scots (997-1005). As the author explains in the historical note, “So little is known of Macbeth’s queen that historians have drawn conclusions based on the events and circumstances around her.” Drawing such conclusions within the context of a fictional story works well.

The story of Gruadh opens with two kidnappings and rescues – the later event taking place when Gruadh is almost of marrying age (about 14). Consequently, Gruadh’s father seeks a protector and an alliance for his lineage.

About one year later, Gruadh marries Gilcomgan. Gilcomgan is mormaer or ruler of the Moray region – a region Macbeth covets. In this account, Macbeth attacks and traps Gilcomgan in 1032 “in a burning tower with fifty men at Burghead Sands.” He then marries Gruadh and becomes mormaer of Moray. King does a fine job of explaining how Gruadh feels about the loss of Gilcomgan and her new marriage.

But at this point, the story largely becomes Macbeth’s. While Gruadh struggles with almost equal desires to be both a warrior queen and mother, Macbeth serves as a general to King Duncan.

Duncan, however, was an inept ruler. By 1040, Macbeth garnered enough power to challenge and fatally wound the king.

The story then skips ahead to 1050, the year Macbeth went on a pilgrimage to Rome. On his return, rumors abound concerning Malcolm Canmore’s (son of Duncan) quest for the throne. In essence, history repeats itself. Canmore does to Macbeth what Macbeth did to Duncan. Macbeth’s rule ends in 1057 with his death.

Engaged from the start, I enjoyed this story immensely. The author is a wonderful storyteller. If there are weaknesses in the story, it’s the occasional narrative that reads too much like a research summary and the rushed ending. The last part, which covers from 1050 to shortly after Macbeth’s death isn’t as complete as the rest of the story. Nonetheless, Lady Macbeth deserves high marks and I await the author’s next book with bated breath. Rating: Excellent.

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