Book Review: “Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother” by Gareth Russell

63140301The House of Windsor has been attracting worldwide attention in recent decades with scandals, deaths, weddings, and the birth of royal children. As living symbols of England, the Windsors are seen as an above-average family with numerous jobs and responsibilities. We know their names; King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Prince (now King) Charles, Princess Diana, and Prince William. We know their stories from the numerous books, tabloids, and documentaries about their lives, but what about their lives when they go home to relax? Gareth Russell peels back the gilded curtain to explore the life of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, lovingly known as the Queen Mother, in his latest biography, “Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.”

This is not my usual area of interest, especially for my blog, but I have always wanted to learn more about the House of Windsor. A few years ago, I read “The King’s Speech” about King George VI, and I wanted to learn more about his wife, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. When Gareth Russell announced that he was writing this biography about the Queen Mother, it sounded enchanting, and I wanted to read it.

This biography is not like your typical biography. It goes in chronological order, but unlike others that include copious details of the person’s life, Russell decided to give his readers a different experience by telling the Queen Mother’s story in 101 vignettes, one for each year of her life. It is a unique and fun way to tell the tale of a member of the royal family, especially Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who lived through both World Wars and saw her husband and daughter become King and Queen of England, respectively.

The short stories of her life as a young Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were heartfelt and full of personality. I learned some fun facts about her early life, such as George VI had to propose to Elizabeth three separate times until she said yes, to the relief of George’s mother, Queen Mary. Elizabeth had a colorful way of looking at life and was not afraid to speak her mind, especially after a few cocktails or what she would call “drinky-poos.” Her life drastically changed when her brother-in-law Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, leaving the throne to his brother George VI and Elizabeth, the new King and Queen of England.

As Queen of England and later the Queen Mother, we see her tenacity and humorous side emerge as Elizabeth could be herself. She was a lover of life, and even though she had feuds with members of her family, such as Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana, she truly loved and fought for her family until the very end of her long life.

Russell does a magnificent job telling the story of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother thoughtfully and engagingly. The stories included in this book range from utterly hysterical to gut-wrenching, with every other emotion in between. Another masterpiece by Gareth Russell, “Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother,” is the perfect gift for fans of the English Royal Family.

Book Review: “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli

63226327._SY475_What if you found information about a mysterious portrait that would radically change how we view history forever? Who would you tell? When Zara Rossi entered the Ancient Manuscripts Room at the Papal Archives in Rome, she never imagined how a single letter would change her life and the Tudor community. Each piece of the puzzle unlocks a new story from the past and allows Zara to explore the remarkable tale of this masterpiece. Follow the clues with Zara Rossi to solve this mystery from the past in Sandra Vasoli’s latest book, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel.”

Thank you, Sandra Vasoli and GreyLondon Press, for sending me a copy of this novel. I am always looking for a new way to incorporate Tudor history into a story, so when I heard the description of this particular book, I was captivated.

Zara Rossi begins her adventure into the past by going to the Ancient Manuscripts Room and the Papal Archives, which is an immense honor as you have to be invited even to have a chance to go into the Archives. She is looking for personal letters of Pope Clement VII to find his reaction to Henry VIII’s split from Rome. Instead, she found a letter from the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Villiers de L’lsle-Adam, about a double portrait of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

As Zara uncovers the tale with each clue in the modern age, Vasoli introduces her audience to a colorful cast of characters that span centuries. Starting in the 16th century, we are introduced to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, his advisors, Hans Holbein the Younger, and the Court Astronomer Nikolaus Kratzer. We also become acquainted with the Order of St. John and rebellious Catholics horrified by this painting. But, we do not stay in the 16th century for long as Vasoli transports her readers to the middle of an 18th-century swashbuckling pirate adventure in the Caribbean that ends up in France with a murder, a trip on the Titanic with a fashion designer for the rich and famous, and an encounter with scoundrels from World War II at Hever Castle.

Vasoli created a complex yet spectacular story of pursuing the truth that will rock the academic world with vibrant characters and compelling cases. Zara is a main character that I could personally relate to, and while I was reading, I was hoping she would find her way to not only the truth about the painting but for her to be happy with her family and friends. Her desire to uncover the truth, no matter the cost, is genuinely admirable. I wanted to know if Zara would ever find the truth, but at the same time, I did not want the story to end.

Vasoli created a masterpiece by not only creating a thought-provoking fictitious double portrait of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn but a novel that is unlike anything I have read. It’s a love letter to the past and those who pursue the truth behind even the smallest fragment left by our ancestors. If you want a thrilling Tudor-based historical fiction novel, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli is a must-read.