Want to read a book that reveals 17th c history set in Charles II's English Court, filled with illustrious details of court life filled with historical precision along with love and the times (not to mention the glorious descriptions of setting and costume)- then RUN to get this!
By now most of you know how much I adore reading anything that has to do with Charles II, so imagine my thrill when I began reading the story of Katherine Sedley, James II' mistress. I never really heard much about her until now and I'm glad to say that this novel added another dimension to what I already knew about this grand court.
Katherine Sedley was no regular lady (especially by 17th c standards!) Not only did she not fit in in terms of beauty (too thin and rather homely for the times), she also spoke what was on her (witty) mind- and what came out was usually accompanied by swearing! Yet, she was of the nobility and her father (a politically involved playwright) was in Charles II's immediate circle...making Katherine by no means an ordinary or invisible lady.
Against her father's will, she refused to be bound in marriage and had no real aspirations for love (having been disillusioned and often mocked for her meager looks). How could she ever expect The Duke of York- future King James II to fall madly in love with her? Impossible- yet true! The poor Catholic King-to-be was completely mesmerized by this Protestant temptress. The powerful counsel of Catholic priests strongly advised James against this temptation; all the while making Katherine all the more seductive to his eyes...The King could in no way abstain from Katherine's lure.
Yet, Katherine Sedley was not the type to make demands on James- nor did she ever assume to be granted any favouritism by others- nor did she allude to the sort of grandiosity that other Grand mistresses (such as Louise de Keroualle- King Charles' favourite)...with Katherine it was always 'what you see is what you get'. Her love for James was real and she stood tall in her convictions and loyalty to England. A doting mother, a loving companion (lusty too- but written in such good taste!), Katherine remained steadfast to her English pride and would not be swayed from her own religion. Convinced that James was being brain-washed by his priests (her own mother's experience could not shake Katherine's conviction or disdain about this)-despite this, she never attempted to convert him to her own beliefs (but neither he, to his).
A tempestuous political time where Catholics and Protestants fought for idealism and restoration in England- the Countess and The King is a delicious read for anyone interested not only in the love story itself, but also in the politics and religious conflicts of the times.
I must say that this is a superb novel which will leave you completely satisfied in terms of history, historical figures in accurate detail, love story, entertainment (you've never met such an outspoken character as Katherine Sedley!) splendour of the court, perceptions and deceptions and- ultimately, the sadness that eventually befalls this type of love that is never quite meant to be.
I LOVED this book.
Note: You should also read French Mistress by Susan Holloway Scott; which is the story of Charles II's last mistress- I LOVED that one too. You can read my review here.
Next one up for me is: Duchess: A Novel of Sarah Churchill- Can't wait!
To read more of what is happening for this Grand Susan Holloway Scott Event go to: HFBRT Calendar here.
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