Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Tudor #Histfic Essex: Tudor Rebel by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from AJ Lyndon. Find out more about her here http://ajlyndon.com.au

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

AJ has been reading Essex: Tudor Rebel by Tony Riches

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Genre – Historical. This is the second book in Tony Riche’s Elizabethan series.

The story is set in England during the later years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. It follows the life of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, from his father’s death in Ireland in 1576, leaving him “the poorest earl in England” to his own death in 1601.

It is peopled with a wide range of historical characters including Robert’s cold, distant and ambitious mother, his sisters Penelope and Dorothy and his younger brother Wat. Queen Elizabeth herself, an ever-present background threat, is onstage at times, along with Drake, Raleigh and the queen’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who becomes the young Robert’s stepfather and friend.

Each chapter is from a different time period, chronicling every twist and turn of Robert’s life, year by year. It describes in great detail his childhood separation from his family, his increasingly difficult relations with the powerful Cecils, his warm relationships with his sisters and supporters such as valet Anthony Bagot and lifelong friend Gelly Meyrick.

As the growing boy becomes a young man, he transforms from impoverished ward of the Cecils to an ambitious young courtier who quickly supplants his stepfather in the dangerous position of the queen’s favourite.

From the first chapter, I was impressed by the everyday details of 16th century life from lace coifs and beeswax candles to manchet bread and the steps of the galliard.

“After three quick hops with alternate feet, on the word cadence, Robert jumped, landing with one leg ahead of the other, in a move called the posture.”

Every intrigue Robert participates in throughout his life is described, from the ongoing military campaigns and plotting by and against the Spanish, to the many court intrigues and rivalries of the Elizabethan court.  The end result is a wealth of convincing detail which left me with a much greater knowledge of this famous nobleman, courtier and military general.

Despite being surrounded for most of his life by those who seek to guide him, Robert remains prey to others who, jealous of his position at court, seek to profit from him or to oust him. Somewhat surprisingly for the modern reader, having been born the poorest earl in England leads Robert, in the author’s portrayal of him, into a lifelong and fruitless quest to restore his fortunes. He is hampered by his inherited love of gambling, by his fondness for beautiful women, and by the cynical use the queen makes of her leading courtiers. In his anxiety to please her, Robert is led further and further into debt as he repeatedly raises troops at his own expense to fight military campaigns.

I could not fault the historical detail.  The author resists the temptation of describing only the romantic side of the era. London’s Strand is already dominated by great houses, but St Paul’s cathedral has only a broken spire and the sound of bear-baiting drifts across the Thames. Yet Robert Devereux himself remained elusive. Despite the many dramatic events described, it was only in the closing scenes that I felt the emotion behind this doomed and tragic figure.

Like many established historical novelists, Tony Riches sticks closely to the facts and includes as much as possible about his subject. It might be interesting if he adopted a slightly different approach, focussing on a few of the major episodes. This would give him the opportunity of bringing each event to life, even if it means taking chances, rather than risking it being overshadowed by a swift transition to the next. 

This is the first novel I have read by this successful author, but it will probably not be the last.

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Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Tudor #HistoricalFiction DRAKE-TUDOR CORSAIR (The Elizabethan Series Book 1) by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Drake-Tudor Corsair by Tony Riches

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Avast, all you fans of Tony Riches! The author has gone to sea, introducing us to Sir Francis Drake. Having confined himself to land with the Tudor series and other wonderful stories of men and women peopling the Tudor era, the author has found his sea legs.

I am, probably like many, cognizant of the name Francis Drake but know little about him except for a vague colorful impression. Born in Devonshire, England, Drake was the son of a tenant farmer on the estate of the earl of Bedford, but was brought up in Plymouth by his relatives, the Hawkins family. The Hawkins worked as merchants and privateers (pirates) and introduced Drake to sailing. The book opens with Drake’s first posting as crew on the Tiger, a slave ship in the flotilla of Hawkins ships. Drake’s thirst for adventure is satisfied as the flotilla sails to seek fortune and trade goods in the Caribbean after visiting Africa for a cargo of slaves. Riches handles this distasteful aspect of Drake’s life in a straightforward fashion with tact.

He follows Drake through his early voyages and his rise through the ranks to become captain of his own ship. Skirting death and capture by the Spanish during these voyages, he learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life to return to England more than once with a large amount of Spanish treasure, an accomplishment that earned him a substantial reputation along with a fortune.

Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. In 1577, she commissions Drake to lead an expedition around South America through the Straits of  Magellan. Sailing the Golden Hind, he becomes the first to complete circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, returning with enough Spanish treasure to force the Spanish to assemble an armada to attack England.

Written in first person, the author explores Drake’s motives, audacity, personal disappointments, successes and failures with an objective eye. Riches is terse in detail – something I’ve noticed sets him apart from many of the female writers of the Tudor era – but gives us enough of Drake’s world to put us en scene. As a sailor, I especially liked being at sea with him, feeling the deck roll beneath my feet, the force of a good wind, and the swelling and snapping of the sails.

It was a surprise to discover that Drake was not the swashbuckling, flamboyant figure I thought he was, but a practical man, certainly drawn into Elizabethan court intrigue but not really of it. Riches creates a real person, one whose main pleasure in life is being the captain of a ship, with a purpose for his voyage.

If there is one criticism I would make, it is my frustration with not knowing what the different types of ships mentioned, or on which Drake sailed, look like. A chart or some line drawings at the beginning would have been lovely, along with a map of the Caribbean and the places Drake explored.

Notwithstanding that, I think Tony Riches’ first sea voyage is a successful one that will please not only his usual readers but also anyone drawn to sea adventures.

Book description

From the author of the best-selling Tudor trilogy – the Elizabethan series begins.

1564: Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure.

Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune.

Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. Her unlikely champion becomes a national hero, sailing around the world in the Golden Hind and attacking the Spanish fleet.

King Philip of Spain has enough of Drake’s plunder and orders an armada to threaten the future of England.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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