Book Review: “Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England” by Kathryn Warner

cover260838-medium (1)When we think about the more intimate moments in the medieval period of European history, a few misconceptions and myths come to mind, thanks to historical fiction and medieval movies. The idea that girls as young as twelve were married off to much older men was the norm, and there were such things as chastity belts. Everyone was filthy and smelled awful, so they only married in the spring when they would take their annual baths. And the brilliant idea that the wealthiest lords of the village were able to have their way with the bride on her wedding day. The latest book by Kathryn Warner, “Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England,” aims to eliminate these myths to reveal the truth of the intimate lives of those who lived during the medieval period.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I have enjoyed the previous book in Pen and Sword’s Sex and Sexuality series on Tudor England by Carol McGrath, so when I heard that Kathryn Warner was writing the next book on Medieval England, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Warner begins this book by exploring the cleanliness of those from the medieval period and how they dressed. Cleanliness was vital in all aspects of life; the people took baths more than once a year. She then tackles the marriage myths, exploring everything from young marriages and marriages year-round to the moments when relationships did not work out well and even abductions and forced marriages. We also encounter stories of domestic violence, the rituals of birth and baptism, prostitution, adultery, illegitimacy, and sexuality. These tales also include their methods for healthy sex, how they dealt with abortions, and how same-sex relations were viewed at every level of society.

Warner examines literature, historical documents, and archeological clues to help her audience better understand the past. What Warner does brilliantly is the fact that she incorporates stories from every rank of society, from monarchs to peasants between 1250 and 1450, to tell a sweeping tale of sex and sexuality in medieval England. I found this book extremely enlightening and a fantastic resource for understanding the medieval period. It illuminates the shady areas of the past to dispel myths that have been circulating for a while now.

Warner has yet again combined her meticulous research with well-written prose to give her audience an informative read for medievalists and medieval history nerds alike. If you want to learn more about how medieval England viewed the more intimate moments in life, I recommend you read “Sex and Sexuality in Medieval England” by Kathryn Warner.

Book Review: “Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England” by Carol McGrath

91OzLPvsjQLThe study of the Tudor dynasty has led us on many different adventures throughout the centuries. We have analyzed this period from numerous angles, from the royals and nobles to the essential lives of those who lived in England during this time. We tend to leave the more intimate moments for historical fiction novels and dramas, but one must wonder what those moments might have been like for those who lived in Tudor England. What were the romantic and the more intimate moments like for the Tudors? In her book, “Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England,” Carol McGrath gives her readers an in-depth look at these private moments.

I want to thank Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. I have heard great things about the Sex and Sexuality series by Pen and Sword Books, so when they announced the book about Tudor England, I knew that I wanted to read it.

McGrath begins by informing her readers that to understand how Tudors viewed sex and sexuality, we must know how the Catholic Church and Protestantism viewed sex. We also see what kinds of aphrodisiacs the Tudors found the most effective, where prostitution reigned supreme for a time, how music and dancing influenced courtship. They viewed hygiene and their overall health through the Humours Theory and how the Tudors viewed witchcraft compared to other dynasties that would follow.

She also mentions how those accused of adultery and impotence were tested and tried and how a couple could prevent an unwanted pregnancy. McGrath makes sure that no stone is unturned in this journey to understand better these private moments from love and lust, sex inside and outside of marriage, clothing, and symbols in art.

One complaint with this title was that she spent a little too much time on Henry VIII and his wives. Still, I wanted to see more about other less known Tudor relationships to gain a more comprehensive understanding of different Tudor relationships.

This is a well-written and informative book on the more private moments in Tudor history. They played a dynamic role in our understanding of the Tudors. It is educational, and a fun read for any fan of the Tudor dynasty. If you want to learn more about the more intimate side of the Tudor dynasty, I highly recommend you read “Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England” by Carol McGrath.

Book Review: “The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty” by Sarah Gristwood

58218928._SY475_When we think about love, we have ideas about how people fall in love through dating and wooing one another. Sweet words and gestures. Flowers and chocolate. Dates at fun venues and romantic dinners. This is a more modern interpretation of romance and love, which was vastly different than the concept of courtly love that was common in royal circles in medieval Europe. What exactly was courtly love, and how did it play a role in the Tudor dynasty? Sarah Gristwood explores this topic in her latest nonfiction book, “The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty.”

Before we dive head deep into Tudor history, Gristwood gives us a history lesson into the origins of courtly love and how it evolved. We begin with the 12th century and the stories of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot that Chretien de Troyes wrote. Troyes’ romantic tales were known to Eleanor of Aquitaine and the troubadours that would spread them to every royal court in Europe. This game of romance between royals and the ideas of knights protecting their fair maidens from danger would change over time. Still, the basic idea that emotions and feelings were central to courtly love would remain prevalent. We see different authors, like Chaucer and Dante, approach the concept of courtly love from different directions and specific rules of this love game set in stone for future generations.

Gristwood traverses the complex family drama known as the Wars of the Roses to show how both Lancaster and York played the courtly game of love. The ways that the sides played the game were different with the various couples involved, but the ideas culminated with the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The imagery of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were passed down to their sons, Prince Arthur and King Henry VIII. Henry VIII would play the game of courtly love with each of his six wives, with varying degrees of success. He would find out that courtly love and politics would be a complex combination to maintain, and this lesson would pass onto his children as they tried to play the game.

Edward VI and Mary I tried to play the game, but they soon realized they were destined to be more involved with politics than love. It was their half-sister Elizabeth who brought back courtly love to its former glory with her numerous favorites. Although the actions of the Tudors can tell us a lot about their intentions, their letters and poetry gave a better understanding of how this courtly love game was played.

I found the new information that Gristwood provided in this book was fascinating. It gave a new dimension to the Tudor dynasty and the relationships between the monarchy and their courtiers or mistresses. An innovative nonfiction book about love, chivalric stories, and the desire for power that any Tudor fan will adore. If you love books by Sarah Gristwood and learning new aspects about Tudor court life, you must have “The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty” in your collection.

Book Review: “Sex, Love, and Marriage in the Elizabethan Age” by R.E. Pritchard

Action, adventure, drama, heartache, and love are what people crave when they read fictional stories. Yet, these elements are ever-present in the stories from the past. Each one of these topics could be explored in numerous ways when we are discussing history, but an area in history where romance and love were intermingled with politics was Elizabethan England. Queen Elizabeth I was obviously known as the “Virgin Queen” because she chose not to marry, but that did not mean that her subjects were banned from love and marriage. How did Elizabethans view the ideas of love, marriage, and sex? In this book, “Sex, Love, and Marriage in the Elizabethan Age”, R.E. Pritchard sets out to explore what love, marriage, and the intimate moments meant to Elizabethans of every class.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book. The Elizabethan era has been one of my favorites time periods to study so I am always interested in learning some new aspects about that period in history.

Pritchard begins his book by discussing what love and marriage meant for the commoners in Elizabethan England. These relationships were essential for how the average person identified themselves in society. He explores the scandalous relationships, rapes, adulterous affairs, and love of every kind through popular literature and journals that lesser-known figures kept during this time. I found this section particularly fascinating since I have never seen a book about Elizabethan England explore the literature of the time with such a narrow lens. I think it would have been cool if Pritchard would have done mini historiographical studies into why certain poets and authors wrote what they did to give more depth to the words that they wrote.

The second half of this book explores the romantic lives of Queen Elizabeth I and her Court. This is where I felt a disconnect with what Pritchard wanted to achieve with this particular book. It felt like a review of Elizabeth’s life and her numerous suitors vying for her hand in marriage. There are so many books out today about Elizabeth’s love life that explored this topic in so much depth and by comparison, it made this section of Pritchard’s book feel weaker than the first half.

I wish Pritchard would have focused on perfecting the first half of the book and exploring the amorous relationships of the average Elizabethan. There are sparks of brilliance, but they are marred by the second half of this book. If Pritchard wanted to include the section about the queen’s love life, I wish he had it at the beginning as a chapter or two to make it very brief and to set the mood, then jump into the lives of average Elizabethans as a comparison.

Overall, I felt like this book had the potential to be something special, but Pritchard tried to do too much in one book. He is passionate about the subject that he is writing about, which is obvious to those who read this book, but he was over-ambitious. I think his original research and ideas were fascinating and I want more of that new angle to romance in Elizabethan England that he was presenting. If you want a unique look at love and marriage in the late Tudor dynasty, you should give, “Sex, Love, and Marriage in the Elizabethan Age” by R.E. Pritchard a try.

Book Review: “Betrayal” by Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Elizabeth St. John, and Annie Whitehead

In life, one of the hardest decisions that we must decide is who to trust. Who can we truly depend on to be by our side when times get rough or when they are going our way. Most of the time, we can rely on those who we put our trust in, but there are extraordinary times when our trust in someone is utterly shattered. Betrayal of one’s trust is like a knife in the back, it can be devastating no matter who is being betrayed. It is not a new concept in human nature to betray others. Whether for money, for power, or lust, betrayal can destroy the lives of everyone involved. Can there be redemption after betrayal? In this anthology of historical fiction tales, twelve authors explore every aspect of betrayal throughout history. This is “Betrayal” by the Historical Fictioneers.

I would like to thank the Historical Fictioneers for sending me a copy of this anthology to read and review. The Historical Fictioneers is a group of twelve historical fiction authors whose works span from early Roman ruled Brittania to the modern-day. The members of this illustrious group are Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Elizabeth St. John, and Annie Whitehead. When I heard about this project, I knew that I wanted to read this book, since this would be my first historical fiction anthology. I had read some of the authors who have written about the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses, but many of the authors in this group I had not had the pleasure of reading their works yet, so I was very excited to go on brand new historical adventures.

This anthology was a time-traveling delight, exploring numerous centuries from every possible angle. From early British history under Roman rule to 21st-century Italian history and everything in between, these twelve authors bring their respective periods and characters to life. What is particularly lovely is that these tales cover different positions in life. From knights and peasants to kings and noblewomen, and a few pirates for good measure. Each of these entries is a short sample of novels that each author has written. They are right in the middle of intense moments, which are tantalizing to read. For the authors that I have read before, it was like visiting old friends and for the authors that I had never read before, it was discovering new favorite stories that I might want to read soon.

I did not know what to expect with this book, since it was an anthology and a few of the stories were out of my comfort zone when it came to their eras. I found myself falling in love with these new characters and the new perspectives that these authors took. Each author showed betrayal and why someone betrayed someone else in a different light. From lust for power to greed, broken alliances, and romance, to downright treacherous acts.

Every snippet of a story was a smash hit, but collectively as a whole, this anthology was a triumph. To take twelve different tales that don’t have much in common and to join them in a common theme, such as betrayal, is extraordinary. I want more anthologies like this one by the Historical Fictioneers. This was a historical delight that will appeal to all history nerds. If you want a fabulous escape into different eras of the past, I highly recommend you read, “Betrayal” by Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Elizabeth St. John, and Annie Whitehead
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