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The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

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The Dangerous Kingdom of Love by Neil Blackmore is a superbly entertaining account of the rise of the 17th century philosopher who become former Lord Chancellor of England, Francis Bacon.  As a philosopher, he set out to challenge Aristotle's thinking whilst becoming a trusted friend of King James I. Bacon used his connections and deviousness to further his social standing but not without making a few enemies along the way. As a contemporary of Shakespeare and Ben Johnson, Bacon's interactions with them in this dramatisation are nothing short of hilarious. The central theme of the story is based on the relationships between Bacon, the Scottish King James I and the boy who the King favours, Robert Carr. Bacon seeks an ally in the Danish Queen as he plots to upset the status quo and further his own career.

A fantastic book to rival the Hilary Mantel trilogy.
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The royal court can be a hostile place, full of fake smiles, secrets, espionage, and treason. Secure your position and power is everything, and Francis Bacon knows it. He may be the smartest man in England, but he has no title or fortune and surrounded by enemies (one of those is the King's lover: Robert Carr). If he can't ensure his place in the palace, that's all for him. So, he starts plotting a strategy to solve that problem: to find a new lover for the king.

I have to admit it. It was cool being inside Bacon's head. The book it's written entirely from his POV, and despite having a lot of monologues, it didn't feel boring at all. He's so sharp, ambitious, and is always anticipating his next move. He accepts his sexuality, but he also knows that there's no future for him in the romantic field (at that time, society wouldn't allow it), which is one of the main reasons why he thinks that love is absurd; until he falls in love.

The queen was one of my favorite characters. Regardless of had suffered many things, like the loss of children or the lack of love in her marriage. She holds her head up and doesn't let anything or anyone destroys her. She's one of Bacon's friends and partner in crime (yup, she's also one of the masterminds behind the search of the king's new favorite).

I won't say much about Robert and George. It's important to have in mind that we know them through Bacon's eyes. Once you finish the book, you have a different perspective of these guys. But remember, both were boys without titles that did everything to survive in the court.

The only issue that I have is that an important detail about Bacon was missing in the book: His wife. I mean, I get it. It's fiction, but still, almost all of the characters existed, so I found a bit weird the unexistence of Anne.

In general, this is a hilarious and heartbreaking historical fiction, with LGBT representation, that can be easily finished in one seat. And if you all about royalty, court gossips and games of power (like I am), this book it's perfect for you.
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This was a weird book. But I (mostly) liked reading it! 

It took me some time to get into it but after reading the first twenty percent I started to enjoy it. At first I thought that I might dnf it since the writing style has some characteristics I usually don't like - like for example being addressed as a reader by the narrator but after having read it I think the style fit really well to the story and the main character. I didn't go into this expecting a historically accurate story and I probably wouldn't recommend it to someone who looks for historically accurate books about real people. But I still (or maybe it was because of, maybe deliberate, anachronisms) had a lot of fun reading and was fascinated by the main character and his development throughout the story. 

3.5 stars
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I really enjoyed this novel about the gay British philosopher Sir Francis Bacon. I kept jumping out of the book to Google to check the history, which was always spot on.

Bacon comes through as a complex, fascinating character, accepting of his sexuality but still conflicted about acting on it. I loved learning about the intricacies of British history at the time, and a bit about Bacon's own work, but the relationship between him and the man he comes to love, despite his best intentions, forms the heart of this very affecting novel.
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I didn't expect to be so enthralled by a book about Francis Bacon, and yet the way his perspective was written really worked for me. The book was written almost like diary entries, and with Bacon being a 'modern man', it allowed the novel to have a more modern tone even if it was set in the 1600s. Seeing characters like King James, the Carrs, and Villiers from his point of view was fascinating and really portrayed the tensions of the court. Villiers in particular was such an interesting character which made it easy to see how Bacon was so enamoured by him. By the end of the novel, I was surprised by how much sadness I felt for Bacon, and I think this shows that the one-sided perspective really worked for me. While it didn't bother me, the novel was at times crude and used a lot of slurs, which may be an important factor for some readers. It may not be the most historically accurate novel, but overall it was an exciting - and at times hilarious - read.
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Unfortunately this book just wasn’t for me, I could appreciate the writing style and did enjoy some of the characters, but the overall experience reading just didn’t do it for me. I would still read more by this author as I do like their style.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This was a fascinating book. The Stuarts get ignored for their Tudor cousins all of the time, so I was happy to see James I's court in the spotlight I knew little about Francis Bacon, aside from reading a few parts of tracts, making him a great protagonist- it felt like I was seeing the court from a new angle. As an historian who has studied the period in decent depth, I appreciated "getting to know" George Villiers. In a lot of books, he is reduced to "James' favourite, Charles' friend", and Blackmore allows him to be his own person. 
While it isn't historically accurate, I think that this book will be a great hook for more people "finding" the Stuart period in England. Blackmore has a fantastic way with storytelling, and he covers many different episodes while still weaving them together seamlessly into the larger plot. He is certainly a talented writer! 
The one aspect that I found difficult about this book was how crude it could be, and how frequently sex was brought up. I tend not to read incredibly graphic sex scenes, so that aspect was not for me.
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This book tells the story of Francis Bacon, a gay man living in Jacobean England (and obviously a real-life historical figure) as he plots and schemes his way through the court of King James I. On his journey, he crosses paths with other notable historical figures, the biggest name of which is William Shakespeare.

The story starts when Francis’ enemy, who also happens to be the lover of the King begins plotting. Francis, in his need to secure his position at court, devises an opposing plan. He will team up with the Queen and find a young love interest for the King to take his enemy’s place. (For anyone wondering about the problematic nature of this relationship, I can’t tell you it’s not in anyway problematic, but the person chosen is above the modern age of consent.)

In the course of Francis scheming, he fails to account for one thing: human nature. It becomes very clear that our main character is a natural plotter, but he fails to recognize the human element in the people he plots against. This leads to his ultimate downfall.

One thing I really liked about this book was that Francis Bacon is portrayed as an unreliable narrator. I wish it had been made more clear earlier on in the book. In my opinion, the reveal at the end was a bit too late. However, it does add to the book positively. This book gave me similar vibes to As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. That is also a book with a gay unreliable narrator who plots and schemes, and is also set in a similar time period (though that one is during the English Civil War).

Overall, I’d recommend this book if you like retellings. I thought this was a great way to make the personalities and situations from history stand out and be more palatable to a modern audience. While I cannot confirm the accuracy of the portrayals, they do make for a compelling read. I found myself not wanting to put the book down.

This book was given to me as an Advance Reading Copy by Netgalley.
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This was a really entertaining and fun read! I loved Francis Bacon's voice, which is essentially his unfiltered thoughts - it was very engaging. The whole set of characters was fun - the 'evil' Carrs, the somewhat clueless king etc. I would say that this is not particularly accurate in its historical detail, but for me that didn't matter as this is trying to be an entertaining read, and not a serious or educational one. I will definitely be checking out more Neil Blackmore!
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4.5 stars

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love is a humorous and heartbreaking journey through the mind of Francis Bacon as he navigates life as a gay man in 17th century England.

Neil Blackmore does an absolutely incredible job of creating the central character of Bacon and his voice is one of the strongest I have seen from a narrator in quite some time. The tensions of court and country really help to propel the story and give Blackmore as Bacon a myriad of opportunities to comment on the banality  and hypocrisy of human existence. While we as readers know that Bacon's surrender to the temptation of love could prove to be his undoing, watching it happen is just so satisfying. 

Honestly, the only thing that made me knock off the half star was some slow pacing around the middle of the book. All in all, it is an engrossing exploration of how a dangerous love can transform even the most intelligent men into fools. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Hutchinson for an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review!
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Although this is very easy to read, for me it was not a particularly enjoyable or enlightening experience.

I had often thought that the reign of King James VI&I was a fertile area for historical novel, most especially one which explored the ramifications of the King's sexuality, and not just the political aspects of the period.

I found the depiction of James hard to take and to believe. A man who survived the machinations of his time as King of Scots to reach the throne of England and survive there, could not possibly have been as weak in intelligence as shown here. On the other hand his Queen, Anne is strongly and sympathetically portrayed.

As for Francis Bacon, there are two observations to be made. Firstly he had a wife who does not appear in this novel., a rather odd omission. Secondly his need for sex with other men seems to rule him to an extent which does not ring true.

Overall, I was disappointed and unconvinced. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital review copy.

3.5 stars.
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Me downloading the book: it seems quite interesting, but is Francis Bacon a captivating character enough to carry a whole book?

Me after 48 hours, having finished the book because I couldn’t put it down: well

The dangerous kingdom of love starts exactly like that: like a book interesting enough to be read, but as someone who studied Francis Bacon and New Atlantis in college I was quite skeptical about him being able to carry a whole book on his back, as main character and narrator.
Boy, I was wrong.
Neil Blackmore starts immediately giving us a very interesting protagonist and narrator, he depicts Francis Bacon as an intellectual, sarcastic, and relatable (at least to me) person, as soon as page 3 I found myself already captivated by Bacon as a narrator and his story.
Cue to 48 hours later: I put that book down only to feed and sleep (and because two or three times I identified so strongly in Bacon I had to stop reading to compose myself).

Recommended if: you love history - especially about english monarchy - but do not despise a more fictional retelling of it, queer characters and complicated love stories, books very well written. And I emphasize the last part because as I said Mr Blackmore had my undivided attention since page 3 and I loved every minute of this novel.
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I am sorry to say that I have given up on this book at 18%.. I had been looking forward to it as I loved The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle. But it just isn't working for me; I am ok with swearing and sex but I find the book boring.. Maybe too much swearing and focus on sexual behaviour. Maybe me and Bacon just don't get on. With thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read and review an e-ARC of this book.
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The Dangerous Kingdom of Love is a very weird but entertaining book. I really enjoy historical novels about famous figures, especially when they're queer so this book hit all my buttons for me.

Neil Blackmore created a fantastic representation of King James I's court, with all the privilege and colour you'd expect. But the reader experiences this from Francis Bacon's perspective -- an arrogant and rude philosopher who has vowed to stay away from queer romance, as it is illegal, despite King James being in a queer relationship himself.  Bacon was a great main character and I enjoyed reading from his eyes, especially because he's not one to shy away from swearing at the top of his lungs. 

Blackmore also develops the plot, based on real life, to his original intent which I found intriguing. I definitely recommend this strange queer book if you're looking for a fun, quick read. So long as you're not offended by a shitton of swearing.
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Neil Blackmore delivers an intriguing and colorful tale of King James I through the eyes of Francis Bacon. 
Bacon is under the impression that the Kings lover, Robert Carr is plotting to turn King James against him. The highly unpredictable King James appears to be heavily influenced by his lover. Bacon in turn, is busy plotting  a way that can return him to the King’s good graces and begins by grooming an innocent, young George Villiers to be the King’s new lover. 
The language at times can appear crude and cutting but it is the right amount of spice that adds to the ‘behind closed doors’ frolic, danger, longing, love and the desire to survive. This is an entertaining, scandalous and amusing read that makes this a wonderful work of historical fiction.
Thank you NetGalley, Neil Blackmore and Cornerstone for an ARCi in exchange for an honest book review.
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I ate this book! It's full of delicious drama, gossip, scandal, political plots to destroy your enemies. The title is really fitting, the book gives us a lot of love, romance, sex, and all of it is highly dangerous. 
The main character is Francis Bacon. I know little of him, but it's a familiar name. There are more characters that we all know from history. The book is inspired by history but is modernized for our reading pleasure. It brings up serious subjects of homophobia, double standards, performative religiousness. Those are not however the main topics of the story, at the heart of this is love, longing for love, the terrible things we may do for love. And it is about how one perceives their actions as just and reasonable, when the hurt others and are not in fact better than the actions of people we despise. The ending really brings this point home, it is really powerful.
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What a refreshing piece of historical fiction! 

I will admit that I know little about this period, but Blackmore's success here is the authenticity he creates around his protagonist. Francis' voice may not be to everyone's taste, but isn't this just a fact of life? His flaws are what make him such a believable and therefore evocative character, and I would recommend this volume to anyone interested in original, punchy narratives. I feel I have learnt more about Francis Bacon than I ever expected, and it was a delight!

Thank you very much to Random House UK, Cornerstone and Net Galley for the honour!
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From before the first page when I read the Dramatis Personae and saw King James I & IV described as 'a sodomite and a failed intellectual' followed further on by William Shakespeare as simply 'another playwright' I knew this book was going to be one for me. Blackmore uses language that is honest and crass but felt completely appropriate to the story. An historical tale told in a modern way. 

Narrated by Sir Francis Bacon who speaks to us directly and paints himself repeatedly as an outsider in the court of King James. He is 'the cleverest man in Britain' and has many enemies plotting his downfall while Bacon himself plots to elevate his own position. He presents himself as morally superior to his aristocratic 'superiors' while simultaneously working with the queen to replace King James lover Robert Carr with one of their own - George Villiers - in order to have the king's inner ear. However trouble begins when Bacon and Villiers begin a relationship themselves and Bacon despite his better judgment falls for the boy. 

The story is one of power and love. Both the power of love and the love of power and how either can elevate and corrupt.
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Set in the 1600's this book tells the story of Francis Bacon and although it wasn't anything like I was expecting I did enjoy it to a degree. There seemed to be a lot of characters, some familiar names like Shakespeare. There was a lot of crudeness and swearing but if you can get past all that it is quite a fun read. The exploits he gets up to are really quite funny and a bit silly. If I can liken it to something similar it would be the TV show Blackadder.
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Sir Francis Bacon is a lawyer at the court of James I, having served under Elizabeth I and he does so, if not willingly, at least, his position is what he wants, even if his king falls short. But he accrues enemies as people with power who won't do as they are told do, and Bacon attracts powerful enemies at court, a legacy from a report he wrote that lead to the demise of the Earl of Essex. Now he is being persecuted by Robert Carr, the king's lover, and he joins forces with the queen to find a way to bring Carr down, and, in so doing, allow Bacon to attract more power at court. 

And the great plan? To replace Carr with a creature of their own choosing in the king's bed. Bacon uses his network of spies to find a suitable candidate but stumbles across George Villiers, a twenty year old lad fro Leicestershire who is perfect - in every way. Bacon himself prefers a more rugged man to pleasure himself with, so when he realises he is attracted to the pretty strawberry blond boy, it can only lead to trouble.

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love is written as a memoir, with Sir Francis Bacon addressing his readers directly, the fourth wall being breached in literature. He is open about himself, his thoughts, how he views the world, and his opinions and feelings about everything. He tells us his story and we are, naturally, entirely sympathetic to him. And so, when his own eyes are opened to his own behaviour, when we learn at the same time as he does that his world can be viewed very differently, we feel the shock with him and we look back over the rest of the novel and wonder at everything he has said and judge him afresh.

This is the second of Neil Blackmore's novels I've read and so I'm expecting the profanities, the use of the F word as a verb and not a noun, the open homosexuality described. Some readers won't be, and I suggest that, if you are sensitive, don't read it. If you are OK with the material, you will read a love story that holds true for all relationships, regardless of those involved. 

If there were a criticism, it is that the ending is rushed. We go almost day by day through Bacon's life through the main body of the novel, then, close to the end, we hurtle through several years in the space of a couple of pages where Bacon narrates the story. If feels as if he's heading to the conclusion, but he isn't, and that is a bit annoying as it grates against the detail of the rest of the novel.

At worst, this is a romp through the reign of James I; at best it is a multi-layered study of love which highlights, as the title promises, the dangers of falling in love.
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