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The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

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Member Reviews

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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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This book started out very strong. My favorite element was definitely Francis Bacon's voice as it was both very snarky, and clearly spoke of a man with a lot of intelligence, and knowledge of court intruige, which was interesting. 
However, not only was this book extremely slow to read, I was also uncomfortable with the way a lot of these relationships progressed. 

Thank you to netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book
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The Dangerous Kingdom of Love focuses on the latter years of Francis Bacon, the revered early modern philosopher. 

Under Neil Blackmore’s pen, Bacon becomes a complex figure, an ambitious outsider on the fringes of a great but dangerous court. Bacon is acerbic, brittle and a schemer.  He is determined to find a place of power that he cannot secure through marriage as a ”sodomite.” His nature leads the “normal man” to mark him as a foe — mainly Southampton and Robert Carr — and Bacon rages. 

The novel centres around Bacon’s plan to oust his foes by supplanting the king’s favourite, Robert Carr, with a new favourite in George Villiers.  The project is a success, but Bacon soon finds a complication: he falls in love with Villiers.  It is no surprise that Bacon falls, but Blackmore’s take is incredibly tragic.

It is hard to classify this novel — it’s part historical novel, part black comedy, as well containing elements of tragedy and farce.  Despite its historical setting, it’s thoroughly contemporary and hurtles towards a bittersweet conclusion. I devoured it in two days.

It is thoroughly recommended, and I look forward to reading more from this author.  Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for the  eARC.
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I fell in love with the style of writing since the first page and couldn't put it down.
A gripping story, a mix of different genres (historical fiction, mystery) and a great portrait of Frances Bacon as human being living in a complex age.
The book is well researched and the historical background is vivid.
It's the first book I read by this author and won't surely be the last.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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A funny, moving, heartbreaking look at the life of Francis Bacon. Neil Blackmore plays fast and loose with ‘historical accuracy’, but this brilliant satirical book is definitely worth a read.
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First of all, I would just like to say I loved this book. The rule of James I isn't one of my favourite historical periods, but this book still managed to make me do outside research on Francis Bacon and George Villiers. The book is obviously well researched (which is always good for a historical fiction novel) and also manages to be witty in parts.
I would definitely recommend this book to anybody wanting a queer historical fiction.
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“Everything is about sex. Except sex, which is about power” - the quote, apocryphally attributed to Oscar Wilde, sums up much of the machinations at the heart of Neil Blackmore’s brilliant The Dangerous Kingdom of Love - a thrilling retelling of the later years of Francis Bacon’s life told with the seductive frisson of Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses (or maybe Christopher Hampton’s theatrical adaptation, as Blackmore even opens the novel with a list of Dramatis Personae).

Weaving together true events and people with a dramatic flair, Blackmore brings us into a Britain of courtly politics, betrayals, sodomy and philosophy with a humourists wit - and just when you think the betrayals are over, the novel has one last sting in its tale.

Bacon narrates his own story here, on the outs in King James’s court, trying to maneuver his way around his enemies - the King’s lover Robert Carr and the Earls of Southampton and Suffolk. Together with Queen Anne, he decides to replace Carr with a new lover, one they can control. 

This is not the revered Francis Bacon whose work in philosophy would shape much of modern thought, this is a struggling intellectual and philosopher, a man who is determined to take an elevated place in society - one which, as a homosexual, he can not secure through marriage or family. As he says, men like him can not have love so instead he will have power.

Blackmore’s Bacon has a sharp mind, and a sharper wit with a constant awareness that even his victories may be fleeting. But, like the furtive, anonymous sex he has with strangers in the woods, he takes his joys where he can get them. He is insightful into the inner-lives of gay men and the “Normal Men” around them. There is rage beneath the wit, even as there is a resignation to the way of the world. Bacon knows that as a “sodomite” he lives on a knife’s edge - he could be thrown in gaol or worse, beaten and killed in an instant. All it would take is a stray word or look. His practice at moving through the heterosexual world unseen makes him adept at manuveuring through court. 

Bacon’s plan centers on a young man, George Villiers, whom he proceeds to turn into a weapon to remove Carr by winning the affections of the King. The Queen worries that the innocent, but not too innocent, Villiers may become a greater monster than the one they’re trying to get rid off.

Don’t worry if you don’t know the real history, it’s a neat backbone to the story but hardly where the real flavour lies. Blackmore’s real success comes from placing us straight into Bacon’s mind, with all its turning wheels and fears and predictions. Is Villiers using him or is he using Villiers? How much is he willing to lose to smite Carr? Is he falling in love with Villiers? Even when he’s winning, we know how easily it can all be taken away from him - we’ve watched him take it away from others. Blackmore’s prose, like Bacon’s mind, mixes both elevated and crude thoughts with scathing wit.

There is a seductively modern streak to the book as well. Bacon’s observations of others and himself give a knowing wink to the futures of psychology and medicine, and the book’s finale speaks to the modern moment in a surprisingly honest way.

I devoured this book over the course of two days, I could have easily read it in one had I started earlier. The prose flitters off the page with a mix of drama and humour that kept me entranced, and eagerly rushing to my computer to find more from Neil Blackmore.
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I loved this from beginning to end as it showed all the layers of Francis Bacon's personality. There was equal part mystery, plotting, romance and intrigue with a helping dollop of queerness on top. I liked how it presented the historical figures in this way and it showed them as 3d and not as passive players in courtly struggles but rather the mastermind behind them. This book made me want to read Neil Blackmore's first  fiction book even more.
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I got this book from NetGalley to review.

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love is a rarity: one of those books that pulls you over the line from reading into experiencing.

Sir Francis Bacon, our narrator, has an acerbic, clever, humorous voice and he targets everyone. Well possibly not the Queen whom he seems to esteem, but everyone else, himself most of all. He is, after all, the cleverest man in England, but as Bacon says "...only two things matter: the nobility of one's lineage and the exquisiteness of a boy's face". From the first sentence to the last I was absolutely glued to the page, which is rare for me.

This story contains so much: Bacon's constant plotting, his face-offs against his many enemies, handling King James, keeping a thousand plates spinning in the air, doing a full-time job as the Attorney General. And yet all of it is portrayed in the kind of detail that makes you feel like you're in the thick of everything. The good and the bad.

And then of course, there's the chance to learn more about a period of history I'd previously not explored in much detail. James 1 and his Queen Anne of Denmark, Robert Carr and his eventual wife Frances, the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, George Villiers, Edward Coke and of course the great man himself, Sir Francis Bacon.

I was a little surprised that Bacon's wife wasn't mentioned at all but then I guess his marriage doesn't really play out in the context of a queer (love?) story.

I have to admit a certain smugness at the end, reading Bacon and Villers' last chapter and knowing that Villiers too would come to a indecorous end being stabbed at the age of 35.

Overall, I just loved this story. Neil Blackmore has done a brilliant job with this book. And I'll be looking for more of his works in the future.
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*Many thanks to Neil Blackmore, Random House UK, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
I have read several books on The Overbury Affair so I was intrigued by yet another novel which includes it. Sir Francis Bacon knows his value and knows how to navigate at the court of James I. Power is the highest reward of all. Bacon looks for new ways to influence the king after Rober Carr's downfall and he finds an eager student who is supposed to play the role Bacon has prepared for him.
I think this was my first LGBTQ historical fiction. Being the fan of HF and having some knowledge of the historic events, I did not concentrate much on the gay theme but was more invested in Bacon's philosphy of survival and his perspective regarding this particular period. The Author makes Bacon a likeable character, at least I could not resist standing right behind him, and his meandering through court intrigues is more than admirable. Also, Bacon's irony and sarcasm or even cynicism got my seal of approval. Mr Blackmore's vision of the court and the king is not favourable and to be honest, I do not have a soft spot for James VI either. 
Overall, a decent read that held my attention.
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“Love can kill men like me. Love gets you dragged from your home in the middle of the night, puts a noose around your neck. Love is something to murder – before it murders you.” 

My thanks to Random House U.K. Cornerstone/Hutchinson for the invitation to read an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Dangerous Kingdom of Love’ by Neil Blackmore in exchange for an honest review.

Like his 2020 ‘The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle’ this is a work of literary historical fiction that explores aspects of love that at the time were not only considered socially unacceptable but could lead to imprisonment and death. 

Blackmore opens with an Author’s Note stating that its significant characters were real people and that its major events were inspired by historical fact. He goes on to note that some “sequences of time have been altered for narrative effect, and some linguistic choices are intentionally modern.” He then presents a witty Dramatis Personae.

The novel’s narrator is Francis Bacon, politician, philosopher, novelist and scientist. He describes himself ironically as a know-it-all. He then recounts events from the spring of 1613, ten years into the reign of James I, and concludes with his political downfall in 1621. 

This is a bawdy novel in terms of language and activities. Some of the novel’s events and its characters also appeared in Lucy Jago’s ‘A Net for Small Fishes’. Interestingly, Bacon didn’t appear in Jago’s novel even though he played an important role in the prosecution of the Earl and Countess of Somerset for their part in the Overbury Affair.

In terms of historical figures I will note that Bacon’s wife, Alice Barnham, was dropped from Blackmore’s tale. Presumably this was in order to focus exclusively on Bacon’s attraction to men and his subsequent sense of isolation. I would also note that both Bacon’s and James I’s sexual preferences are an area of debate among historians. 

I found this a superb historical novel with Bacon proving an intelligent and witty narrator of his own story. I felt that overall Blackmore’s portrayal of the intrigues and excesses of the Royal Court and the atmosphere of Jacobean London were excellent and I was totally engaged.

It brings me great pleasure to read historical fiction of this quality. In addition, I have always had great admiration for Bacon and acknowledged his place in history in terms of his writing, so even via a fictional portrayal it was fascinating to spend some time with the man behind the quill. 

Highly recommended.
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This is a nice story to anyone who is interested in history, namely England history, but also to anyone who is interested in getting to know a bit more the life of well-known Francis Bacon.
While the book felt a bit drawn-out at times and the action wasn't particularly fast-paced or super interesting, the 1st person POV really made this reading a joyful one. Francis Bacon as a character in The Dangerous Kingdom of Love made me laugh and smile throughout most of the book, but also think deeply about morals and ethics. At the same time, it is not really an happy book, since the life of our main character was not particularly happy - from homophobia to murderous enemies and a broken heart. 
The story made me feel all types of things and the cover of the book is amazing - I definitely recommend this!
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**Book miraculously received from NetGalley on the basis of I have no idea in return for a review**

Oh my stars, this was everything I was hoping for, and more besides.  I have an ongoing fascination with this period in history: it’s obviously as fucked-up as hell, like most history and now I think about it, the actual present, but I just find all the courtly intriguing, power-vying and fucking even more engaging when, y'know, It Queer?

And obviously what is “queer” is really complicated in a historical context. But, whatever he did with them in practice, James I was all about his boyfriends and there were several high level conspiracies during his reign to manoeuvre specially selected hot guys into his bed and favour. I know from one perspective that's really icky. But from another it's ... kind of really fun to read about?

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love concerns one such conspiracy: specifically it’s about the ousting of Robert Carr, James I’s, established favourite, and his replacement George Villiers, a plot the book proposes was orchestrated by Francis Bacon, with the support of the Queen. Entirely plausible, given the way Bacon supported Villiers’ rise to power, and it is in this realm of historical plausibilities that book deliberately dwells. 

If anything, in its approach to the material, TDKOL put me in mind of Hulu’s The Great (a show I love, by the way): it has the same exuberance, the same bawdiness, and the same confidence in navigating its own ahistoricism. And, for that matter, the same unexpected capacity to just whack you hard in the feels.

Narrated by the (profoundly unreliable) Francis Bacon, apparently the cleverest (and, in some regards, the stupidest man) in England, TDKOL was, to me, an absolute delight.  Of course, knowing the historical context, gives it an edge of dark inevitability too: we know already that Francis Bacon suffers a catastrophic fall from grace and that George Villiers—for all he commanded the love of two kings—will die at the age of 35 in a random stabbing. Francis Bacon sees himself as modern man and this is very much a modern book: it uses the historical setting to tell a story of power, love, corruption, and self-deceit. It is not, for all its wit and energy, a happy or straightforward story, and Bacon is a narrator it is both impossible to like and impossible to dislike, but my God. Much as I imagine George Villiers would be himself, TDKOL a wild, fascinating, and bittersweet ride. 

And, I assume this goes without saying, it’s queer AF.   

(I mean, so queer we’re all pretending Francis Bacon’s wife didn’t exist, but *eh*).

Looking at this book with non-dazzled eyes, I can see there might be some people for whom it wouldn’t work for. If you don’t like your history played fast-and-loose with, prefer your language clean, and your sodomites largely invisible: it is definitely not the adventure for you.

However, if you take this book on its own terms, it’s absolutely fucking brilliant. And I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book! 

This book was definitely out of my comfort zone reading wise as someone who reads historical romances but not much historical fiction, so I wasn't sure if this would be for me, but it sounded so good that I wanted to give it a go. I ended up really enjoying it! 

I found the story, while slow paced, super engaging and the characters intriguing. The writing style was so good and I can't wait to read more by this author in the future! And while I don't know much about this point in history, I didn’t find myself confused or lost.

Overall, I highly recommend this one to fans of historical fiction, court intrigue and engaging storyline.
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England 1613, and Francis Bacon travels to the royal palace at Theobalds, to be told by King James that he is to be elevated to the post of Attorney General. Bacon, the writer and intellectual narrates in the first person the slippery, treacherous life of the Jacobin courtier and politician. King James is bewitched by his lover Robert Carr, who demands payment from Bacon to stop him from poisoning Bacon to the King’s ear. Bacon comes up with a strategy to displace the favourite and replace it with another beautiful and irresistible youth – and finds George Villiers in a country house in Leicestershire. But Bacon on this occasion bites off a little more than he can chew, and Villiers, the future Duke of Buckingham, affects Bacon more than he thought possible. 
This is a violent profanity-filled narrative of the despicable nature of human ambition and jealousy – where you either use others or are used and abused yourself. A cruel theatre of hatred, convenient and temporary alliances, and treachery. While the king is obsessed with his favourite boys, Bacon who is also homosexual, attempts to navigate the duplicitous and dangerous waters of court life, where a wrong word or a well-placed enemy can see you thrown into the Tower. Notwithstanding his intelligence, Bacon is by no means a wholly reliable narrator. The language is a strange amalgam of contemporary and archaic diction, which does seem to work, King James speaks in a kind of comedy current day Glaswegian more like something from Irving Welsh than seventeenth century diction It is a romping read, a little over-dramatic at times and plays fast and loose with historical authenticity, but nonetheless a most enjoyable read.
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I cannot say I cared about the historical events behind The Dangerous Kingdom of Love. Therefore at first I was not sure what to make of it. Luckily it did grow on me as I advanced to the point I've done some searches trying to understand the main characters better. Turns out that I even knew about Robert Carr and Frances as I've read another historical novel from Frances' perspective. Despite warming somewhat to the subject, overall I was not impressed in any way. I could have read the story from Carr's or Villiers' perspective and it wouldn't have made any difference to me!
But what I absolutely loved, and the reason why I've rated this book 4* is Neil Blackmore's writing. I adore his sarcasm and overall humour. I loved how he manages to make even historical character seem quirky - I loved the crassness of the kind, for example, and even Beicon's, err I mean Bacon's hahahaha. I also loved how he subtlety explored societal issues like the abuse of power, corruption, sexual abuse and even assault - and yes, arguably issues that one can consider post-modern, but it's nevertheless important and thought-provoking to see historical events through modern lenses.

Many thanks for the opportunity to read it!
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***Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review***

This was definitely a quirky read. The story follows the life of Lord Francis Bacon. While Bacon accepts his homosexuality, he knows that he cannot fully live openly and doesn't have hopes for a romantic future. Through wit and humor, Blackmore is able to bring the reader into the mind of Bacon.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it!
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