Cover Image: The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to commend Neil Blackmore’s ability to write characters that are fairly awful, but impossible to hate. The unreliable narration especially is something that's deserving of 5 stars all on its own. For a book about manipulation, it sure as hell manipulates the reader.

This book is full of the usual courtly political intrigues that draw me to historical fiction, but the crude, sarcastic and cynical narration from Francis Bacon were the things that had me hooked. It's overflowing with British humour and I couldn't get enough. It's also brimming with foul language, so avert your eyes if this bothers you.

Plus, you know, IT'S QUEER! Yes! Fantastic!

It's not really overflowing with historical accuracy however; for those who need that, you've been warned. I only know the basics about King James I's court, and I don't imagine I learned a lot more actual facts here haha.

It also does not shy away from the reality of what was happening. People were definitely using and grooming and training young men to work their way into the King's favour, and if you don't want to read about that, you are not going to like this because it's a fairly honest portrayal of what that could have been like.

So, on that note, for all it's laugh-out-loud moments, this is not a happy book; it's harsh and, as you know if you know your history, no one is necessarily getting their Happy Ever After.

I do feel that the King was a bit too caricature Scottish at times. And also, the ending was rushed. At the last page I was like... wait. no. this cannot be it?

However, highly recommended!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to commend Neil Blackmore’s ability to write characters that are fairly awful, but impossible to hate. The unreliable narration especially is something that's deserving of 5 stars all on its own. For a book about manipulation, it sure as hell manipulates the reader.

This book is full of the usual courtly political intrigues that draw me to historical fiction, but the crude, sarcastic and cynical narration from Francis Bacon were the things that had me hooked. It's overflowing with British humour and I couldn't get enough. It's also brimming with foul language, so avert your eyes if this bothers you.

Plus, you know, IT'S QUEER! Yes! Fantastic!

It's not really overflowing with historical accuracy however; for those who need that, you've been warned. I only know the basics about King James I's court, and I don't imagine I learned a lot more actual facts here haha.

It also does not shy away from the reality of what was happening. People were definitely using and grooming and training young men to work their way into the King's favour, and if you don't want to read about that, you are not going to like this because it's a fairly honest portrayal of what that could have been like.

So, on that note, for all it's laugh-out-loud moments, this is not a happy book; it's harsh and, as you know if you know your history, no one is necessarily getting their Happy Ever After. 

I do feel that the King was a bit <i>too</i> caricature Scottish at times. And also, the ending was rushed. At the last page I was like... wait. no. this cannot be it?

However, highly recommended!
Was this review helpful?
Francis Bacon is a sodomite. History knows him as the man who made the modern world, but he has his own story to tell, and that is exactly what he intends to do. A plot moved by political intrigue and royal favour, our protagonist will soon learn that there is more to life than his own posterity. 

The plot for this book is actually all based in history, which is what initially drew me to the story. Introducing and exploring the Overbury affair, the reader learns about the downfall of 'the cleverest man in England' as he gives in to his emotions, allowing himself to be exploited. There is a whole host of historical figures, such as James I & IV, Robert Carr, and George Overbury. I was excited to read about a true historical plot from a first person point of view, with the thought that I would not only get to learn more about the event, but also experience it in a more tactile way. What I got was sort of that, and sort of not. 

This is definitely a plot driven book, which I tend to not enjoy as much as character driven books. The whole point is that Bacon keeps pushing aside his feelings in order to pursue his own plots, thus limiting his character growth until late into the story. As a result of his scheming, many other characters are impacted, but their consequences were not really satisfying to me as the reader. I believe this is partially because Bacon fully accepts any casualties as a reality of scheming, rather than deriving any emotional gratification from the successes of his plan, 

As part of his general acceptance of anything being okay, serving as a means to an end, I felt the plot plateau in the middle of the book. Once I was out of the excitement of finding the initial beginnings of a scheme and watching it unfold, it became quite repetitive and not intriguing enough. The queer character relations are also obviously a driving factor of the book, creating some tension in line with historical views towards LGBTQ communities, so please be aware of homophobic violence as a trigger warning. I stuck with it to see how the character relations would play out in the end, but on the whole, the book itself lacked enough character and plot intrigue to be more than three stars for me. 

It's still an interesting read, knowing that it is all based in fact, but I don't think I would read it again,

Thank you to NetGalley and Hutchinson for a free copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review,
Was this review helpful?
NEIL BLACKMORE – THE DANGEROUS KINGDOM OF LOVE *****

I read this novel in advance of publication through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Historical novels are not my thing. So much so that when I first was offered this novel to review, I turned it down. How wrong was I? 

Written in the bawdy voice of Francis Bacon, ‘politician, philosopher, novelist and creator of the modern world’, this is the story of conniving at the court of King James, with rivalries and beheadings and couplings. Most of the major events are based on historical fact and the cast is real. 

Like diving into the sea, within a couple of paragraphs you are plunged into that world and become totally immersed. The story is complex, but page-turningly easy to follow, as Bacon seeks to replace the king’s whore Robert Carr with one of his own, George Villiers, for political ends, in league with the king’s wife Queen Anne. 

It is obvious the author has done mountains of research to craft this novel. Not only is it convincing but is also very well written. Nothing jars or grates. The prose flows, with a flavour of the 1600s that keeps you in that zone but does not intrude. Particularly interesting are the descriptions of London was it was then, compared what we know today, fields and villages and orchards on a meandering Thames. 

As someone who avoids historical novels, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Without doubt worth five royal stars.
Was this review helpful?
An interesting take on a side of history that many never see. Always good to bring awareness to the parts that are hidden from us!
Was this review helpful?
As our narrator, Bacon speaks directly to the the reader in language that is far from courtly; it is full of wit and satire, self-deprecating humor, crude observations and commentary, gossip and inuendo. It is a bawdy, sexually explicit tale that some will find refreshingly comical with a dash of Pythonesque tongue-in-cheek whilst others may find themselves tut-tutting and being personally offended whilst yet reading ever onward.

The author has taken some liberties with history when crafting this tale - Bacon's wife is conveniently forgotten while the court resembles something more akin to the set of a Carry On film (and strangely, I kept picturing King James as "Fat Bastard" from the Austin Powers franchise). Finally, like many other readers, I felt that the ending was a little rushed - but then again, the aim of the tale was documenting Bacon's role as royal pimp not documenting Bacon's life as a whole.


Warning: contains swearing, sex scenes, homosexuality - so if you are easily offended, turn away now.
Was this review helpful?
In The Dangerous Kingdom of Love, lawyer, parliamentarian and philosopher Francis Bacon struggles to advance his place at the court of James I.

Bacon, in his own telling, is world-weary, cynical, but also fired by conviction. This is a court and a nation where he believes intellect is despised, and nothing is valued but noble birth or beauty. The king, meanwhile, only has eyes for his lover, Robert Carr, who is happily plotting against anyone he sees as a threat, including Bacon.

Bacon thinks he has an ingenious solution – to find another beautiful young man who can supplant Carr, who will be clever enough to blend in at court and manipulate the king, and yet remain steadfastly loyal to Bacon’s interests. What could possibly go wrong?

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love is such fun. Bacon’s voice is defiantly irreverent and (post)-modern. From railing against the excesses and absurdities of the court, to bitching about Shakespeare, to anticipating how the world will change (not least because of his own writings) it is witty, arch and satirical. There are lots of sly allusions to our present predicament (I won’t spoil them for you) and a vivid sense of the oddity of the court (a historical note from the author confirms that the most unlikely anecdotes are true).

Despite that, it doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the age and the jeopardy of becoming too close to the court. It also, poignantly, highlights the sadness in Bacon’s life, not just in his fluctuating fortunes but the loneliness of the outsider, the way he is so clever in seeing into the souls of others but has a blind spot when it comes to his own.

In this portrayal, Bacon is deeply conflicted. He believes in the law and justice, but engages in underhand schemes. He rails against the vapidity and vanity of the court, yet he can’t resist the lure of power and patronage. He can procure a male lover for the king, but his own attraction to men could mean a death sentence.

Bacon discusses his own ideas and writings as he tells the story, almost in passing, with a light, playful touch. And as with all the best historical fiction, reading The Dangerous Kingdom of Love has made me want to learn more about the real Francis Bacon.
*
I received a copy of The Dangerous Kingdom of Love from the publisher via Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
i could not follow anything in this book while reading it. it felt like we were going from scene to scene so fast. it was all just very confusing, thus making the book quite unreadable to me
Was this review helpful?
While not for those looking for a feel-good book with a happy ending, "The Dangerous Kingdom of Love" is a nuanced and insightful look into the political and personal life of Francis Bacon in London's early 17th-century. With a bright and engaging voice, Neil Blackmore draws the reader in, bringing to life a cast of characters you love to hate (and love and hate and love again) and a plot that keeps you wondering when the next trap will snap shut.
Was this review helpful?
A really juicy historical read - full of politics, intrigue and sex.

Francis Bacon is the narrator, confidant to the king yet therefore ever at risk from his political enemies who also seek to prosecute his homosexuality.

Packed full of exciting feisty characters., this is a real fun spin on this historical period.
Was this review helpful?
As an absolute nut for historical fiction, I just knew I had to read this one. And I absolutely was not disappointed. Palace intrigues? Check! Queer machinations? Check! Historical figures engaged in shoddy business? Check! Check and check! 

A definite recommendations for fans of Hilary Mantel!
Was this review helpful?
Before I begin, thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

So this was a slow start but it built up to a point where I, dare I say it, really enjoyed it? It is a retelling of the lives of James I (of England, VI of Scotland - and that is important) and Francis Bacon, told from Bacon's perspective. It is a romp through court affairs and looks at the intricacies of how you get power and, fundamentally, keep it. What makes James I/VI so interesting, however, is his dalliances with homosexuality (however controversial at the time) and how this could be manipulated.

It is a really interesting story and once I understood where it was going, I actually really enjoyed it. I can find historical retellings hard work, but this one was just fascinating and if it was half this mad, it would have been a riot to be a fly on the wall in London at the start of the Stuart era. 

I was stung though by the end which felt especially depressing - but then again, it is real life (to a degree) and therefore, it cannot be too outlandish as an end, to remain in keeping with reality. Does not mean I cannot be hurt though!
Was this review helpful?
I did infact, judge this book by the cover. I don't know why, I thought it was shouting murder mystery, history thriller...Turns out to be a little bit murdery, hugely deceptive and quite a sad love(kind of) story. 

You see, Francis Bacon,. (cleverest man in England back in the day,if you didn't know)had never experienced love, and that suited him just fine.
Until he met George Villiers. 

They come together through ways of trickery,  Bacon needs to get Robert Carr out of the way. George is being trained by Bacon to take his place, woo the king, and all well that ends well, right? 

Of course not!!
This highly interesting book, based on some true events and characters, with an amazing story inbetween. Francis Bacon is our narrator throughout, explaining the ways of court, politics and law. I was most starting to imagine a very posh voice for him in my head, the monologues were that great!! 

It's not all romancey, scheme making monologues. There's lots of humour all through out the book, quite abit of sass actually too. 

I should genuinely start just choosing books without reading the blurb more often, because I really enjoyed this. I really enjoyed popping in and out of reading the book, and searching up the characters names to learn more about them. 

Safe to say, I'll be looking for books similar!
Was this review helpful?
After really enjoying The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle, I was keen to read something else by Neil Blackmore and was excited to read another historical fiction book with love and desire at its heart.

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love reimagines the story of Francis Bacon who presents a beautiful young man to King James I as a potential new lover, in order to replace Carr, the King's current lover, who is a sworn enemy of Bacon's. Drama ensues when Bacon struggles to control his own feelings for the young man and a plot full of power plays, manipulation and betrayal follows.

I found this to be a highly entertaining and enjoyable romp through an interesting and dramatic period of history. Blackmore's writing is easy to read and the pacing is perfect for the action-filled story being told. I liked his version of Francis Bacon and the exploration of his drive and fears and how that influences his actions. While I did not find the story as compelling as The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle, in both books Blackmore depicts unrequited love brilliantly and I found the romantic relationships in both books to be moving and well developed. 

I would have liked to have seen more depth or detail to some of the other side characters to feel more invested in their stories but overall I really enjoyed this book and would like to read more from Neil Blackmore in the future. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
I had the joy of listening to the audiobook version of this and I enjoyed it so much that I requested the written copy, too. 

The audiobook is a joy and my review makes this clear.  The book itself is just as good.  This is what I want when people write about historical fiction...the normal, every day filthy side of life and not the stuffy, boring and drawn out political machinations that certain historical fiction authors write.

The story would be at home in any time, Jacobean, Elizabethan, the 60's, the 80's, the 90's and even now.  

This is a saga, by turn hilarious, heartbreaking and very very filthy.  It made me laugh with how clever some of the jokes were and how crude the others were. 

I am going to search out more material written by Neil Blackmore and read it immediately.
Was this review helpful?
Thoroughly enjoyed this one! Funny, camp, clever, and sexy. 

I quickly got absorbed by the drama of the Machiavellian court of King James, the numerous steamy sex scenes, and the celebrity cameos. However, as well as all that, novel explores some really interesting themes, including the way that growing up in a homophobic society can rot your insides and warp your personality and self esteem, and the imbalance of power in interpersonal relationships. As someone who grew up in the shadow of S28, it made me quite emotional. 

The only thing that pulled me out of the story were the times when Bacon made an aside to give his opinion/prediction, and it was something that in modern times we know to be true or to have happened. Although it was a neat way of demonstrating his incredible intelligence and influence on the modern world, sometimes it was a bit on the nose.
Was this review helpful?
Where to even start with this book?! It was absolutely wild from start to finish, made even better by the fact it’s based on real people and events, and I couldn’t put it down.

In the Jacobean court, power is a slippery thing to hold on to. Keeping the king on your side is an immensely difficult task, especially when the only person he listens to is his ‘favourite’ – that is, his lover. So the solution? Plant your own favourite. 

The King is a fool, a child, and he is in love – the worst possible combination.

The rein of James I (VI in Scotland) is discussed far less than his charismatic Tudor predecessors, but his court was one just as filled with spies, corruption, and power plays. Francis Bacon, the main character and (often unreliable) narrator of this book, is a name we all know but his political manoeuvrings are less well known.

You can’t help but warm to Bacon as a narrator. He’s witty, droll, and self-deprecating enough to hint at his real vulnerabilities. What’s remarkable though, is how not only is Bacon convinced he is always in the right but he convinces us too. It’s not until the last few chapters (I won’t spoil the details but what an ending!) that we witness not only his fall from his position, but the carefully constructed lies he believes about himself collapse around him. George Villiers, famously a long-time favourite and believed lover of James I, had dealings with Bacon and, in this telling of events, was groomed for the position by Bacon. The steady reveal of his true feelings kept both us and Bacon guessing and doubting what we knew. Neil Blackmore is clearly an expert in creating an unreliable narrator.

I do not love because I cannot be loved. It is not allowed.

The open secret of Bacon’s sexuality added an extra layer of danger to his dealings at court. As the story unfolded we got to see quite how much he had come to believe himself unworthy of love, having lived in that environment his entire life. His own inner conflict runs alongside the court dealings, and made this an unputdownable read.

Blackmore has vividly recreated a violent, bawdy and outrageous court life which it is impossible not to get drawn into. This book accomplished a lot of things: it made me want to learn more about Francis Bacon, and it made me want to read more of Blackmore’s books. But most importantly, it completely absorbed me from the start to the end.

I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I loved The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle, a queer romance set amidst the bygone glories of the Grand Tour so Neil Blackmore’s latest novel The Dangerous Kingdom of Love had a lot to live up to. I am pleased to report that it did. I can’t put my finger on it, but Blackmore’s books epitomise the word ‘unputdownable’ – they are beautifully written, bawdy, intelligent, passionate, saucy, and ultimately heart wrenching.

I wasn’t aware of Francis Bacon, the narrator of The Dangerous Kingdom of Love, famed philosopher, and novelist in 1600 England. The story is set amidst the court of James I and charts Bacon’s epic rise and fall at court. Bacon is a schemer, and you won’t always be cheering him on from the side-lines, but as his life unravels and hurtles towards a heart-rending conclusion you will understand his motivations and feel his pain.

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love is about the power of love and the love of power and the battlefield of life that they exist upon. It dissects the often ruthless and impossible choices people will take to achieve both and the heart-breaking points they intersect.

A bold and contemporary historical novel 5 stars out of 5
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
I found this book fun!
I don't often read Historical Fiction books but this book definitely made me want to read more.
Was this review helpful?
At times hilarious and heartbreaking but always clever, Neil Blackmore loose interpretation of Francis Bacon's life is a fabulous romp that is definitely worth picking up, even for those who don't normally venture into historical fiction. Bacon's narrative voice is incredibly strong and memorable, even modern at times, and (combined with the court intrigue) is one of the biggest draws of the book and helped make it unputdownable.
Was this review helpful?