The Poison Bed

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

The Poison Bed is a historical fictional account of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, the most infamous scandal of the Stuart era in English history. Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset, and his Countess wife, born Lady Frances Howard, along with four others, were charged with poisoning Overbury, who had been Carr's friend. It was a salacious and shocking event bourne of bitter dislike between Carr and Frances Howard, a deathbed confession of murder on the part of the man who supplied the poison, and multiple attempts to kill Overbury with everything from arsenic to mercury. It's a gruesome tale; however, Fremantle's goal is to make Frances, the confessed murderer/lead planner relatable and sympathetic. Along the way, we see James I's purported bi- or homosexuality as a factor in his relationship with Carr, Carr's purported pansexuality (Fremantle postulates he was involved with not just James but also Overbury, but drawn to Frances Howard), and Frances's being a mere pawn, albeit occasionally a scheming one, in her uncle's grand plan for position at Court. I wasn't convinced of the accuracy or the character voicing (Frances and Carr alternate chapters), and the occasional gross anachronism (whether language or fact) bounced me out of the story entirely.

I received a Digital Review Copy from NetGalley and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


This review was late-posted due to its rating.
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The Poison Bed is a historical fictional account of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, the most infamous scandal of the Stuart era in English history. Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset, and his Countess wife, born Lady Frances Howard, along with four others, were charged with poisoning Overbury, who had been Carr's friend. It was a salacious and shocking event bourne of bitter dislike between Carr and Frances Howard, a deathbed confession of murder on the part of the man who supplied the poison, and multiple attempts to kill Overbury with everything from arsenic to mercury. It's a gruesome tale; however, Fremantle's goal is to make Frances, the confessed murderer/lead planner relatable and sympathetic. Along the way, we see James I's purported bi- or homosexuality as a factor in his relationship with Carr, Carr's purported pansexuality (Fremantle postulates he was involved with not just James but also Overbury, but drawn to Frances Howard), and Frances's being a mere pawn, albeit occasionally a scheming one, in her uncle's grand plan for position at Court. I wasn't convinced of the accuracy or the character voicing (Frances and Carr alternate chapters), and the occasional gross anachronism (whether language or fact) bounced me out of the story entirely.

I received a Digital Review Copy from NetGalley and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


This review was late-posted due to its rating.
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Frances Howard and Robert Carr....what a fascinating snippet of history to base a novel on! I have enjoyed Fremantle's books and this one was no exception. The author demonstrates exceptional skill in creating realistic personas for historical figures, and with this historical mystery she takes that a step further, creating deep psychological motivations for murder.

In the beginning, one gets the impression that this book is romantic. No, that isn't the right word. Even when Robert and Frances are intrigued by and then captivated by each other, their relationship is not exactly romantic. It is sensual and obsessive. Admittedly, I considered whether or not I wanted to set this novel aside, because that is not the type of story I tend to enjoy. (A couple bedroom scenes take things a little further than I like to read, but nothing too graphic.) I am so glad that I stuck with it, because nothing in this book is as it first appears.

I found my emotions as ever-changing as Carr's as different sides of people and new bits of the story were revealed. The reader feels as manipulated as the other players in this drama by the end, but, thankfully, our life isn't dependent on us seeing the truth. Many others close to Howard and Carr are not so lucky.

There is some complicated storytelling that goes on here, with alternating chapters told from different points-of-view and swapping 1st person and 3rd person narration. There is also the difficulty of navigating 17th century family trees and noble titles, but stick with it. It pays off in the end. While the changes in perspective can be jarring, it adds to the psychological thriller aspect of this novel.

It is difficult to say too much without giving away part of what makes this novel so wonderful, so I will only say that if you love an emotional story, as I certainly do, you will love this one. It is also a fascinating mystery. Even when you think you have it figured out, another revelation takes the reader by surprise.
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"A spellbinding thriller set in the Jacobean Court of 1615 surrounding a famed couple imprisoned on suspicion of murder - but was it Lord Robert or Lady Frances who committed the crime? A marriage. A murder. One of them did it. Which of them will die for it?

In the autumn of 1615, scandal rocks the Jacobean court, when a celebrated couple, Robert and Frances Carr, are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. Frances is young, captivating, and from a notorious family. She has been rescued from an abusive marriage by Robert, and is determined to make a new life for herself. Whatever the price.

Robert is one of the richest and most famous men in the kingdom. He has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top, you cannot help making enemies.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake. Now a man is dead. And someone must pay with their life.

Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?"

The lush detail of the cover draws you into the lush detail of the Jacobean Court!
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I read a lot of historical romance and paranormal books.
I have to honestly say, that when it comes to historical romance, mostly we find a cheesy romance, and hardly any suspense.. This book was an exception.
It was a historical romance with a LOT of suspense including murder and mystery and of course a little twist.
I would not read this book second time as I know the ending and answer to the question... who murder who... but I would honestly say that this book was well received by me  on a lot of aspects.
I would recommend it to all people who like romantic suspense with a little twist. 
4/5 rating from me on this one!
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A well-constructed novel about the real-life trials of Robert Carr and Frances Howard, figures in the court of James I. Their stories are told here in alternating viewpoints, allowing author Fremantle to create not just one but two unreliable narrators. Details about the trials and the lives of those involved are rich and interesting, but the pace drags a bit. For readers not familiar with the court, Jacobean naming conventions, and other historical matters, the novel may be a bit confusing.
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Full of unlikeable characters and scheming! This was not the book for me. The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle was definitely a read that I requested on NetGalley because the cover was just so darn beautiful. The synopsis sounded pretty good, too, as I love a good historical mystery. However, this book just was not the one for me! 
The chapters are narrated by “Her” (Frances Howard) and “Him” (Robert Carr), with the “Her” chapters told in a combination of both first person and third person, as Frances narrates her story to a midwife, and the “Him” chapters are told in third person. I didn’t care for this narration style. First off, the chapter titles of “Her” and “Him” bugged me. There is zero mystery as to who “Her” and “Him” refer to, so why couldn’t their names have been used instead? Also, with the shifting third person to first person in the “Her” chapters, I found it confusing and jarring, and when the shift happened I’d be thrown for a few paragraphs before getting back into it. 
Frances and Robert are both interesting, but unlikeable characters. Frances is a scheming, power hungry woman, and Robert shares the king’s bed, but has his own goals and plans. Frances and Robert fall in love, and The Poison Bed tells of their romance and the mystery of the murder of Thomas Overbury, who was very close friends with Robert. The Poison Bed is based on a true story. Frances Howard and Robert Carr did get married, Thomas Overbury was murdered, and Frances and Robert were both imprisoned for his murder. I think that even if you already know the history of the scandal, you’d still find the plot of this story interesting. I read up on it a bit before starting this book, and the plot still intrigued me. And you know I can’t reveal if it ends the same way history does! 
While I was interested in the story, the lack of decency by any of the characters was tough for me to read. I couldn’t root for anyone to succeed or survive, as they were all just so awful to each other. Everyone seemed to have a secret lover, and they were all so devious, scheming, and lacking in basic humanity that I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. I didn’t react when a bad character met a bad end, I didn’t react when a bad character got a good end. I just flat out did not care what happened, and that was my main problem with the book. There were moments of surprise for me, the Jacobean setting was interesting, and I did read this fairly quickly, so I know that there are readers out there who will really enjoy this, it just wasn’t a read for me! I need me some likable characters in my books! 

Bottom Line: Too many unlikable characters and scheming for me!
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I am a huge fan of historical fiction novels. This one didn't disappoint. It was a great mystery, writing is fantastic, and it follow actually historical facts. This story is told in alternating point of views, and the two voices are distinct enough that it doesn't knock you out of the story. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and mystery!
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This novel is based on a true story. However, this was a very hard book to get through because there are some disturbing scenes that made me uncomfortable. I also did not appeal to the characters. Still, I recommend this for fans of true crime and books set in a Stuart court.
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The Poisoned by Elizabeth Fremantle
BLURB~
“A spellbinding thriller set in the Jacobean Court of 1615 surrounding a famed couple imprisoned on suspicion of murder—but was it Lord Robert or Lady Frances who committed the crime?
A marriage. A murder. One of them did it. Which of them will die for it?
In the autumn of 1615, scandal rocks the Jacobean court, when a celebrated couple, Robert and Frances Carr, are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. Frances is young, captivating, and from a notorious family. She has been rescued from an abusive marriage by Robert, and is determined to make a new life for herself. Whatever the price.
Robert is one of the richest and most famous men in the kingdom. He has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top, you cannot help making enemies.
Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake. Now a man is dead. And someone must pay with their life.
Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?”
 
REVIEW~
I love historical fiction. I mean LOVE it. (Phillipa Gregory is one of my favorite authors.) So now I believe Elizabeth Fremantle will be as well. This is a scintillating work of speculative fiction based on true events that occurred during the Jacobean period in King James I court. It has bits of everything: intrigue, murder, sexuality, mystery… shall I go on?  
Fremantle is a proficient writer and she has authored this tale in a most delicious and inveigling manner. The reader is instantly captivated and you can’t stop reading from the first page to the last. This is one I wish I could’ve read in one sitting because it is truly that consuming. This is a stay up all night, dread going into work the next day, but thrilled to have been able to escape into the story kind of book. Literally- no pun intended. If it had not been for children and husband and other interruptions, I would have done just that. Stayed up all night reading I mean.
The plot is authored so adeptly that you get a real sense of what life was like in King James’ court. The scheming and plotting. Deceiving and conspiracies. This book transports you back in time. I found myself engulfed in this period. Just brilliant!
The characters. Oh, my word, the characters! Told in alternating POVs, “him” and “her”, I felt as if I knew them personally. Fremantle did such an excellent job in her portrayal. I love the way she wrote their story, from the beginning when they met, up until the time they were imprisoned. I felt that the flow was impeccable because of this style of storytelling.
Obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and found it to be an easy read. I also had to go and read about the true events afterward. I was delighted and impressed at the accuracy with which the tale was written- though some artistic license was taken, to be sure. Actually, I’d say this is a historical fiction thriller.
Fremantle has outdone herself and I look forward to collecting all her works. 5/5
I was given this book by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This review, or portions thereof, will be posted (when able) on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Kobo, IG, FB, Pinterest, Litsy, and my own blog.
Unfortunately, I am unable to provide links to all sites as I am using my phone.
On various sites I am:
Pinterest~ Pinterest.com/katskraps
Barnes & Noble~ Karyl-Ahn-white_7
Litsy~ Karylahn or Karyl White
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The Poison Bed is a throughly enjoyable and beautifully written book that manages to be historical fiction, a mystery/thriller. and a fascinating look into human nature. Very impressive! It's hard to pull of just one of those things well, but Ms. Fremantle's skill and writing are smart and smooth and polished enough to make it seem effortless. Highly recommended
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The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle is a mystery based in actual history. I've read other books by this author, and I always find them intriguing. This one was great. It's a good mystery, well written and based on historical facts. Lady Frances or Lord Robert? Who is responsible? Court intrigues and manipulations for power keep you guessing. I enjoyed the mystery and the time period. The characters are not always likeable, but they are interesting. If you love historical fiction based on facts, give this one a go! Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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The Poison Bed is the perfect blend of historical fiction and suspense! The book is told in alternating chapters by Frances Howard, resident badgirl, and Robert Carr, King James' favorite courtier with benefits. When the story begins, both characters are imprisoned in the Tower for the murder of poet Thomas Overbury. I had a hard time putting the book down because I had to know who was responsible for the murder--it was hard to remember that this craziness actually happened! I enjoyed the author's portrayals of two complicated and conflicted characters, as well as the dizzying details of a scandalous Jacobean Court. Highly recommended if you enjoy character-based suspense! Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the preview.
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I believe my favorite part about this book was the writing actually. Unfortunately the story just didn’t keep me as interested as I would have liked to be and I wasn’t too keene on the characters, but it was still a good read! I love the fact that this was inspired by true events! I believe the writing itself is enough for me to want to seek out other books by Elizabeth Fremantle. 

Overall, I would recommend this to any historical fiction/true crime fans.

Thank you to Netgalley and publishers for allowing me to review an advance copy of this book!
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The Poison Bed gets an okay from me.

The historical accuracy is…fleeting at best.  I found myself confused time and again when it came to the ‘history’ of this historical piece.  Finally, I allowed myself to simply forget history and enjoy the drama.

And I largely did enjoy the drama.  The dual narratives didn’t quite work for me, and I liked one of our main characters far more than the other, but I still found myself enmeshed in palace intrigue, foul murders, and genuinely bad behavior.

The book is lush and fun – just shut down any knowledge of history whatsoever.

*ARC Provided via Net Galley
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing style, the characters, the plot, the way the author set the scene...all of it was an absolute treat. I review so many books, that sometimes I forget to read a book just for "fun," solely for me and my quiet time. This novel made me forget that I was doing a review at all, and immersed me instead into an entirely different world. An absolute recommend!
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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC copy of The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle in exchange for an honest review.

The Poison Bed is a wonderful read.  I could not put it down. Steeped in richly developed characters, based on real people and real events.   Readers are transported to the Jacobean court filled with vivid and rich detail  of  inner workings, relationships, alliances, love, and political maneuvering.    I guess the question really is did Frances Howard really kill her husband?  I strongly suggest you read to find out. #ThePoisonBed  #NetGalley
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During the reign of King James I, the Jacobean court was marked by a scandalous murder in 1613.

The book sets the story in 1615. Frances Howard, is an English noblewoman, and Robert Carr, is a favorite of the King. But there is someone else who stands in the way. 

Both, Frances and Robert, get accused of murder. In alternating voices they reveal their own stories, which build up to the murder. Their voices weave through the court of intrigue, where allegiances fluctuate constantly, in this case between Howards and Essex crowd.

Frances and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, get married at a young age. “The union was designed to mend an old rift between” both families.

The marriage is loveless, at least she tries to be pleasant, but he continues to be rough.

Robert Carr climbs the court's ladder from the bottom to the very top by becoming the King’s favorite. 

After a year at Chartley castle, Frances and her husband return to the court, where she renews her spark with Prince Henry. A love spark that her Uncle (great-uncle) encouraged. “A prince in our pocket might one day serve our needs.”

Since the Essex crowd is falling out of favor with the King, now her Uncle wants her marriage annulled and have her marry Robert Carr, King’s favorite. 

At the court, Frances also reunites with Anne Turner, her childhood nurse. Anne takes Frances to Dr. Forman to get a protection to avoid now unwanted pregnancy. But Frances also notices poisonous potions.

The portrayal of the court dealings and all the characters involved is very vivid. The engrossing writing captures skillfully “a living example of the wicked women so prevalent in the drama of the day.” Some facts are disputable by historians, but the author’s imagination captures intense court and its people.
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I acutally listened to this novel on Audible before I requested it on NetGalley. Once I finished the novel I knew I had to review.

Absorbing! Elizabeth Fremantle delivers a Jacobean Murder Mystery Masterpiece! Based on true events and a real cast of characters, Fremantle has created an engrossing story that readers will not be able to put down. Was the beautiful Frances Howard guilty of murder? Conspiracy to commit murder? Or just an innocent pawn in her uncle's game for power? Just when you think you've got it all figured out there is a plot twist so shocking you'll have to re-read it to believe it!
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The Poison Bed was a fascinating thriller I could not put down. Elizabeth Fremantle knows how to write suspense and murder. I loved this book.
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