Cover Image: The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

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Member Reviews

This book was such a joy to read - I haven't been this hooked by a historical novel for so long. It was a lot more full on that I expected - the novel doesn't shy away from explicit language or scenes - but, in my opinion, they are entirely justified and actually add to the story. It is accurate, shocking, scandalous, witty, convincing... it's brilliant!
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Upon reading the blurb for ‘The Dangerous Kingdom of Love’, it sounded like the type of historical fiction I typically enjoy most. I am always drawn to fictionalised tales of significant figures of the past, and Blackmore’s newest release certainly fits the bill. ‘The Dangerous Kingdom of Love’ was so much more than that. 

Blackmore has managed to weave a colourful, and intriguing fictionalised tale of the court of King James I through Francis Bacon’s eyes, and all the drama and sordid details that come a long with such a privileged position. Blackmore has written an immensely readable novel here, with characters, court intrigue and romance to boot. I found it funny, shocking, and sad. I must preface if you are not so keen on foul language and open door romance, perhaps steer clear of this one.

What’s preventing this from being a 5 star read for me were a few details that felt a little out of place. One character, who is particularly renowned in history, didn’t really seem to serve any purpose to the story whatsoever, and I found their inclusion confusing and unnecessary to the text. I also wish the final chapters had been a little more fleshed out, I felt it were owed to Bacon’s character for there to be more.

All in all, a great read! I powered through it as I just couldn’t put it down.
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Holy moly! The first line and we’re off…

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love recounts the downfall of Francis Bacon, Robert Carr et al, which is fascinating in itself, but with Blackmore’s added, imaginings and behind closed doors frolics and filling in of blanks,  this is superb. 

It is narrated by Bacon in the first person and addressed to the reader, to whom he frequently speaks. There are wicked asides, confidences, stage whispers all for our ears (or is that eyes?) only, which create great intimacy and a feeling of being right at the centre of the machinations. Blackmore uses a mix of sixteenth century and contemporary language, which holds the flavour of the age but allows a modern flow; it also works extremely well for the asides.

A word of warning though…this is not for everyone; and I know some people will find the subject distasteful and the language unacceptable. There is much use of both the F and C words but remember, these were not considered offensive in the sixteenth century. There’s a fair amount of sex and sexual references, which whilst crude, are never graphic.

This book is shocking, scandalous, witty, sad, tender. The history is accurate, the portrayals convincing. 

Neil Blackmore is a very skilled writer.

Neil Blackmore writes like Hilary Mantel on acid.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House/Cornerstone for the Advanced Reader Copy ofd the book which I have voluntarily reviewed.
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Well, this is a bizarre book. I never thought the day would come when I'd stay awake late at night, fervently reading a novel about Francis Bacon, but there you go. Stranger things have happened.

I've been craving a novel about James I and his male favourites for years and years, and although this isn't quite the novel I would have expected, it's a bit of a riot, and I honestly have no idea where to start reviewing it. It really is the sort of book that begs for a full literary analysis. Blackmore's version of Francis Bacon is such a compelling yet unreliable narrator that the first half of the book really threw me off kilter in the best way; it's obvious that Bacon isn't who he says - or thinks - he is, and the journey of discovering that alongside him was sort of exhilarating, if frustrating because he's supposed to be so clever and yet sees so little of his own behaviour and character. He's a great narrative voice, deliberately anachronistic and sympathetic despite his very obvious flaws. The rest of the characters were all interesting and well-drawn, especially Mrs Turner, who, even through Bacon's very limited perspective, clearly has her own machinations and motives. Villiers, as he appears here, is a fascinating sort; I never knew what to make of him, even at the end. It's the sort of book that builds and builds up to a climax which I've really not stopped thinking about for days, and will probably ruminate over for months to come. Few books manage to linger in that way.

Really, the one thing that makes this a 4 star rather than a 5 star rating is just the fact that Blackmore has chosen a series of real historical events (i.e. the relationships of James I, Robert Carr and George Villiers) but completely changed absolutely everything about them, to the extent that I wonder if it needed to be based on those real events at all. I do fully understand that historical fiction is just that, fiction, and that it doesn't need to follow the events as they happened, but Blackmore's version of it all bears quite literally no resemblance to any of the sources (as an example, Bacon and Coke's rivalry, in historical terms, was very much centred around Coke marrying Bacon's own betrothed, whereas here there's no mention of Bacon ever being engaged or married, even though their rivalry is a huge plot point) and I do wonder if inventing a new set of characters would have been less jarring in some instances. There were times that the grotesque (and, honestly, slightly offensive to the Scots, I should imagine) caricature of King James was just a bit weird. Still, I do know that the use of real characters gives relevancy and context to the themes, as well as making it just a more interesting read in general, so this may entirely be personal taste.

As a novel, it has so much to say about the nature of love, and posterity, and power, and also saffron coloured ruffs, and although I'm still hoping that a more sympathetic novel about King James and Villiers might be written one day, I'm inordinately glad that this wasn't it.
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This book was a joy to read. Based on a true situation in the court of James I, the book is written from the point of view of Francis Bacon, Attorney General, who jostles for power and influence with the rest of the court. 

The book wears its history lightly as it unveils a story of love, desire and power, all three of which could get you hanged or worse in a Jacobean court built on the whims of an unsympathetically portrayed King and Queen.

The descriptions of the world and the characters are very real, the path we follow with Bacon is fraught with danger and disgrace, and it is a thrilling journey to take that feels very personal.

Although the book lacks the breathless giddiness of Blackmore's previous book about Mr Lavelle, it does create a raucous and believable account of events that may or may not have happened, and it has a steadiness and a sadness behind growing old and power waning that is very touching.
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