THREE SISTERS, THREE QUEENS by Philippa Gregory (Audiobook)

Three Sisters, Three Queens (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #8)
THREE SISTERS, THREE QUEENS by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

If you enjoy audiobooks, I would highly recommend listening to THREE SISTERS, THREE QUEENS, because Bianca Amato’s narration is outstanding. This book has a big cast of characters with different voices and accents, and Ms. Amato handled it beautifully. Very entertaining and well done!

So, the title refers to sisters Margaret and Mary Tudor, and their sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon. The book focuses mainly on Margaret, from her girlhood days in the Tudor court, to her years as Queen of Scotland, though Mary and Katherine are always there on the sidelines to annoy, betray, and support, like sisters can do.

I enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s portrayal of Margaret, though she wasn’t easy to like at first. Her character makes quite a transformation from a spoiled princess obsessing over the best gowns and titles to a struggling Regent holding the crown for her only son. She was a fascinating woman whose life was almost as turbulent as that of her granddaughter, Mary, Queen of Scots.

It was interesting to read about Margaret’s life (though, yes, a fictional account) and her rivalry and friendship (frenemies?) with pious Katherine and beautiful Mary. I love Ms. Gregory’s storytelling, didn’t want this one to end. THREE SISTERS, THREE QUEENS is book #8 in The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, though it can easily be read standalone.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel {Audiobooks}

zWolfHallBringUpTheBodiesSeries: Thomas Cromwell, #1 & #2
Publisher: Henry Hold & Company
Released: October 2009 & May 2012
Source: Borrowed from the library

WOLF HALL

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power.

whEngland in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

BRING UP THE BODIES

The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

butbThough he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

———

After hearing so much buzz for so long about this series, I decided to dive in and listen to the audiobooks. Overall, I thought the books were very good and lived up to the hype. I enjoyed that they were tales of the Tudors told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, someone who usually doesn’t have the spotlight.

I found Hillary Mantel’s Cromwell a compelling character. He was an ambitious self-made man, the abused son of a blacksmith who rose to become Henry VIII’s Principal Secretary and chief adviser (among other titles).  In spite of his ruthless, power-hungry nature, he had a charming, witty, vulnerable side that appealed to me.

The first book, WOLF HALL, covers Cromwell’s rise to power and his involvement in Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine. The second, BRING UP THE BODIES, is all about the downfall of Anne Boleyn and the hand that Cromwell played. Anything to stay in the king’s good graces!

This series brings the political intrigue of the Tudor court and all of the major players to life. There were some slow-paced and dry parts to the books, but for the most part, I was hooked. BRING UP THE BODIES was my favorite of the two, mainly because Anne Boleyn’s story is so fascinating to me.

The audio performances were by Simon Slater (WOLF HALL) and Simon Vance (BRING UP THE BODIES). I thought that listening to their narrations really added to my enjoyment of the books. Their accents and voices for the different characters were fantastic. I particularly loved Slater’s voice for Cardinal Wolsey — exactly how I’d think he’d sound.

So, yes, there will be one more in the series that concludes Cromwell’s story, called THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT (according to Goodreads). Life is good when the king loves you, but when he doesn’t…eek.

Audiobook Review: SISTERS OF TREASON by Elizabeth Fremantle

SistersOfTreason
Format: Audio; 15 hrs, 29 mins
Narrators: Teresa Gallagher, Georgina Sutton, Rachel Bavidge
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Released: July 8, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


From the author of Queen’s Gambit, a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness – and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.


It’s good to be queen, but what happens when you’re in the precarious position of being next in line, and a threat to her crown? SISTERS OF TREASON tells the fateful story of the Grey sisters, Catherine and Mary, younger cousins of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. After the execution of their older sister, Lady Jane Grey, and their father, the two girls were eyed suspiciously, having come from a family of traitors. With their cursed Tudor blood, life at court was fraught with peril, especially under Elizabeth’s rule.

The story is told from the point of view of Lady Catherine, Lady Mary, and Levina Teerlinc, the royal portrait painter. Levina was a loyal friend of the girls’ mother, and she promised to watch over them while at court. Catherine was a sweet and frivolous girl whose love-struck heart got her into deep trouble with Elizabeth. My favorite character was Mary, the youngest Grey sister. Mary was small with a crooked spine, but what she lacked in physical stature, she more than made up for in intelligence, cleverness, and kindness.

SISTERS OF TREASON on audio was a joy to listen to. It was narrated by Teresa Gallagher, Georgina Sutton, and Rachel Bavidge, and they all gave brilliant performances.

Elizabeth Fremantle is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I loved her debut novel, QUEEN’S GAMBIT, and SISTERS OF TREASON is just as wonderful. She has an enjoyable writing style, and her words are gorgeous and descriptive. One of the characters described words she was saying as being “like a fat toad plopping out on the planks.” I just loved that!

SISTERS OF TREASON is a compelling blend of fact and fiction about two of the lesser know Tudors who deserve to have their stories told. I also enjoyed learning about the Flemish artist, Levina Teerlinc, and what her life was like as a female painter supporting her family during the Renaissance.  This was a very enjoyable book, and I’m on pins and needles waiting on Ms. Fremantle’s third book in her Tudor trilogy.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.