Happy Monday friends! Can you believe that Christmas is less than a week away? It always sneaks up on me – we don’t even have our tree yet!
This year, it may have snuck up on me because I have been reading so much this month, so I won’t complain because it’s my own fault. But I have three more finishes that I want to share, so grab your coffee!
Since watching The Crown on Netflix, I have been wanting to dive into the world of the British monarchy. The best way that I know to do that is with Philippa Gregory, so I picked back up on the Tudor series with The Boleyn Inheritance. The inheritance that the title references is what was passed to Jane Boleyn – Anne Boleyn’s sister in law. Jane is one of the women that gave evidence against Anne and her brother George (Jane’s own husband) that led to their deaths. Jane inherited a title and a small pension, but since the death of her husband she has been living in a village and she desperately misses the court. But luckily, her conniving uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, has found a place for her with the new queen.
Henry VIII’s latest wife, Jane Seymour, has died in childbirth and he is on the hunt for his next conquest. He takes his bids and then sends an artist out to draw sketches of the top contenders so that he can make his final choice. When I type it out, this sounds like a reality show! But really, becoming the next queen of England on the Tudor court usually takes all of the feminine wiles that you see displayed on The Bachelor – and then some.
Henry surprisingly chooses Anne of Cleves – a twenty-something from Germany who is desperate to get away from her controlling and abusive brother and mother. Anne is different than the typical queen who Henry is drawn to, and their relationship is a challenge from their very first encounter.
New to Anne of Cleves’ court is little Kitty Howard, a fourteen year old related to the Duke of Norfolk and Jane Boleyn. She quickly becomes a pawn in the Duke’s chess game and the family once again seeks the throne. And of course, at this point Henry is nearing 50 and is no longer the handsome man that he was when he became King and married Catherine of Aragon. He stinks, literally. He has a festering wound on his leg and his teeth are rotting out of his head. He’s gorged himself on whatever food he wants, so he’s gained an enormous amount of weight. These women are subjected to his every whim of desire and it’s how they react to it that determines their fates.
One of the things that I like about Gregory’s work is that she repeats facts multiple times; normally that would drive me crazy in a book, but it’s so helpful in these because the story line can quickly get confusing and it’s hard to remember who’s who. I have to admit that I LOVE these books. They’re a bit risque, but I just fall into this opulent world of beauty and power. While these women actually led miserable and fearful lives, I do wonder what it would have been like to be dripping in pearls and diamonds and wearing the latest fashions. But I can be superficial at times. In fact, after watching The Crown and reading this, I went on a pinterest spree and pinned a ton of royal interior decorating pictures, trying to figure out how to make my house look like a palace (which is impossible).
All in all – this was very enjoyable and I intend to pick up the next in the series at the library ASAP.
The next book that I read was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. This was my first Sittenfeld and I am definitely going to find more by her. It was so much fun! This is a modern adaption of Pride and Prejudice, which I usually have absolutely no interest in. P&P is too perfect and nothing could hold a candle to it. But you must read this! All of the characters are named the same and their directions in the story are exactly the same, but they are modernized in the most perfect way. Lizzie is a big shot writer and editor and Jane is a yoga instructor in New York City when they are both called home to Cincinnati due to Mr. Bennett’s sudden heart attack.
All of the daughters, except for Lizzie, depend on their father’s inheritance heavily to make it through life and Mrs. Bennett is desperate for at least one of her daughters to find a nice, wealthy man to marry. And when Mr. Bingley comes to town, a recent reality TV star on a show that is very much like The Bachelor*, it seems like the perfect opportunity for some matchmaking. Hilarity ensues. Seriously, this was laugh out loud funny in multiple places and I am so glad that I picked this up. I was looking for a fun, light read for the holiday season, and this was perfect.
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson is heralded as a fast paced thriller set in Paris in 1909-1910. Maud has moved to Paris to go to art school, but she quickly realizes how expensive Paris can be. The previous winter was very difficult for her – she ate too little and used very little heat in order to save money, but this led to an illness that never quite lifted and ended up costing her even more money.
A classmate, a wealthy girl from Russia, introduces her to a kind woman at a job agency that finds the perfect solution for her: a man is looking for a companion for his younger sister. He’d like someone to help her improve her English, and stroll through the streets of Paris looking at fine art. After meeting the pair, everyone quickly agrees that this is a match made in Heaven and Maud moves into their luxuriously warm and spacious apartment. But as soon as she moves in, she realizes that things are not as they seem and she gets swept into Paris’ underground world of drugs and deception.
I enjoyed this book very much. I wouldn’t describe it as a fast paced thriller, but there was a bit of a mystery about it all and it did feel like something of a whirlwind. What I loved about this book was the setting. Imagine yourself in a dusty attic studying with one of the greatest art teachers of all times; sacrificing every penny that you have to ensure that you get the best possible education before setting out on your own as an artist. Imagine walking through the streets of Paris in 1910 – it would be incredible! With this book, you get a little snapshot of that life, which I fell in love with.
Last week was very productive for me! It felt like the old days when I would spend every possible minute reading, which was so nice. I love that my boys are seeing me read so much and I hope that I’m doing a good job instilling a love for books — and not just neglecting them! But I think almost all mothers worry that they aren’t paying enough attention to their children, when really, every little thing that they see us do is what forms their beings – even if that is seeing mommy curled up on the couch under a quilt, with a cup of coffee and devouring her latest library acquisition. Hey, it’s better than meth, right?
I hope you all have a very happy holiday week! Mine is full of work Christmas parties and lots of cleaning to get ready for the festivities we are hosting this weekend. But I also plan to let perfection fall to the wayside and get plenty of reading done – and I hope you do too!
*It’s a little disturbing that I’ve referenced The Bachelor twice in this blog post and I haven’t watched it since about the second season. It’s been that kind of month, I guess!