Cover Image: The Tudors in Love

The Tudors in Love

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Member Reviews

I love British history and the Tudors are surely the most fascinating of all the royalty. This book is not just an examination of the lives and loves of the Tudors, but of courtly love in general and includes other famous lovers such as Guinevere and Lancelot. I found the parts about Eleanor of Aquitaine to be especially fascinating. Well researched but written with an ease of narrative, I highly enjoyed this historical read. I think this is a book that would be great for people who think they don’t like nonfiction. It engages, informs and entertains without falling into that dreaded textbook like narrative that can often derail books about history.  This is one I will be frequently recommending. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martins press for this arc.
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3.5 stars

It was an intriguing study into the Tudor dynasty from its Lancastrian beginnings culminating to its golden end with Elizabeth I and how the culture and ideals of courtly love played a hand in shaping its rulers. Gristwood gives a solid overview into the history of the House of Tudor and the notable players that both built the fragile English dynasty and those from within and without the royal house who sought to overthrow it. 

While it did place an enviable emphasis on Henry VIII and his numerous consorts, there was also a solid analysis on the frameworks of each of the different rulers and the fairly diverging reigns within this fairly short dynastic reign. The focus on how the concept of courtly love influenced each of the Tudors was an interesting point of entry as I was relatively unfamiliar with the specifics of it but Gristwood made a convincing argument throughout the book of the literary device's influence within Tudor rule. Overall, I found the read to be thoroughly researched and well-executed, although it did lean heavy into the two Henrys (VII and VIII) reigns.
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This nonfiction history work examines how courtly love impacted and influenced the Tudor family. Gristwood analyzes where the ‘courtly love’ concept came from and explains how it shaped Henry VIII’s marriages and subsequent relationships.

A special thanks to @macmillanpress for my hardcover copy of this book! I found it had a slow start as it focuses a lot on Guinevere and Arthur which I’m not super interested in. I found it to be fragmented at the start with lots of connections kind of jumping around. However, once I got into the middle, the linear timeline became easier to follow. I loved reading about Anne Bolelyn and Elizabeth I. You definitely need to be a history buff to enjoy this one.
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I’ve always been into the history of the Tudors,  with Henry VIII obviously being one of the most fascinating figures in history due to his political reign and love affairs.  I found this book very thorough, with tons of info which was both a help and a hindrance. I felt like it took me a lot longer than anticipated to get through though I wouldn’t say it was dry or textbooky, just full of info. I can sometimes struggle with remembering tons of characters in a book and while this had that, it wasn’t so bad. Overall. If you’re keen on this time period, learning a little about how actual love played a part in everything was really a fun and different take. Thanks so much for the opportunity to read this one!
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This book was incredibly interesting. I feel like I learned a lot even though I feel like this space in the book world can be pretty saturated. I loved it.
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I really liked this, but I didn't love it. There were sections that I had trouble maintaining my concentration on. I felt this could have been shorter. But thete were so many things that I learned, that I recommend it to those interested in Tudor history. The Tudor lineage can get a bit confusing. This book did a good job of character development to help put a name to a person, for differentiating some of the Tudor.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing with a free ebook copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. 


Why did Henry VIII marry six times? Why did Anne Boleyn have to die? Why did Elizabeth I's courtiers hail her as a goddess come to earth?

The dramas of courtly love have captivated centuries of readers and dreamers. Yet too often they're dismissed as something existing only in books and song--those old legends of King Arthur and chivalric fantasy.

Not so. In this ground-breaking history, Sarah Gristwood reveals the way courtly love made and marred the Tudor dynasty. From Henry VIII declaring himself as the ‘loyal and most assured servant' of Anne Boleyn to the poems lavished on Elizabeth I by her suitors, the Tudors re-enacted the roles of the devoted lovers and capricious mistresses first laid out in the romances of medieval literature. The Tudors in Love dissects the codes of love, desire and power, unveiling romantic obsessions that have shaped the history of the world. 

My Thoughts:

Like many people, I am fascinated by the Tudors.   Part of it is the drama.  Even the most outlandish modern soap opera wouldn't have a husband order the beheading of two wives, and these were real people! But, some of the drama is lost when you know it's coming. I think, what keeps me coming back for more is that I am a very character-focused reader, and "characters" don't get much more complex than the Tudors. Since there are so many conflicting accounts and interpretations of events, one version's villian is the next's hero. 

 In the middle ages, the stories of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot were the lens through which love was viewed. Gristwood delves deeply into how these beliefs lead the Tudors to make irrational decisions, as well as using it as a tool to exercise their power. 

This was a thouroghly researched book.  Gristwood does a great job of guiding the reader to understand her conclusions, while still remaining an objective narrator.  She helps the reader to look beyond their 21st century ideaology to understand medievel viewpoints. Nonfiction can read rather clinical to me, but Gristwood has an engaging voice, that feels like she's having an intellectual conversation with the reader. 

The only thing I found confusing was the sheer volume of people discussed in the book. I always struggle with this in books spanning over a long period of time in history.  First of all, there tends to be a lot of similar names. Secondly, most titles are inherited, so as time progresses the same person is referred to by a different name or the same name could be different people. Obviously, Gristwood cannot control this, I just know that I personally get frustrated by this at times, and thought it was worth noting.  

In conclusion, I would recommend this to anyone interested in English History. This is the first book I've read by Sarah Gristwood, and I intend to read more. 

4 out of 5 stars.
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This book is not a quick read, but the history is well researched, well written, and thought provoking. Romance was risky business and, of course, most risky for women.
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Gristwood successfully completes what she states she set out to do with the thesis of this book. Having studied the Tudors and the time period for an extensive number of years, I actually found the way the information was approached, i.e. via Love, was refreshing and I even found myself looking at things new and different ways. 

The writing style is engaging and could be approached by novice or expert. The information doesn't become overwhelming, and I was actually entertained throughout my reading. 

I look forward to reading more by Gristwood. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the dARC of this work in exchange for my honest review.
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First book of 2023 has been finished!!

I'm so thankful to Sarah Gristwood and St. Martin's Press for this ARC. I love historical nonfiction reads and I love Sarah Gristwood's writing.

This book is so well-researched and Sarah is just on another level to me. She's thorough, she stresses the importance of women in history and while the subject matter can be dense, I think she decently summarizes the information.

I will say I didn't super love the beginning of this book, which was all setup for the Tudor dynasty. The first 20% is about King Arthur and his story, and the 12th century up until King Henry VII and honestly I think it could've been condensed a bit more??? Gristwood refers back to the importance of King Arthur's story to royals in the Tudor Dynasty, but I don't think we needed as much backstory as we got.

And while I appreciated the thesis of this book which is how courtly love and games were central to politicking in the Tudor dynasty, I didn't feel like it was driven home as clearly as Gristwood envisioned.

My favorite part of this book was UNDOUBTEDLY the King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn courtship because so much of it really is unknown but also it's so fun to try and fill in the blanks. Like Anne Boleyn what were you playing attttt and how is it working so well until it didn't work so well.

Legitimately the number one thing I learned from this book is that I would have thrived (briefly) and died playing courtly games in King Henry VIII's court liiiiiiiiiiiike I would've collected love letters like nobody's business and then King Henry would've beheaded me personally.

I also really enjoyed learning more about Henry's sisters Margaret and Mary and their offspring because whoa Nelly the DRAMA!!

Overall, I learned a lot and I'm happy I read it.
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Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy of The Tudors in Love in exchange for an honest review. This was an interesting and detailed account of the concept of courtly love. It centered heavily on the relationship of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn as well as on the reign of Elizabeth I. The author presented courtly love as a double edged sword that could be just as dangerous as it was enchanting. There were so many details and primary sources incorporated, that it provided a well rounded view of the period. It was a very educational read and would be great for British history and royal family lovers.
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Thank you, Netgalley, for this opportunity! I am no stranger to Henry VIII and his six wives. . Gristwood's book was a refreshing take. This novel you don't want to mess with. It doesn't just discuss the Tudor era; it goes back centuries and discusses famous romances of the past and how they were viewed by the generations that came after them, all the way up to the Tudors. But I would say this felt like more of a history book at times and was hard to get through at certain times.
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I am no stranger to Henry VIII and his six wives.  It is my most read subject matter to date —books about this ruthless yet misunderstood king and the ladies that stood by his side not only line my bookshelf., but continue to captivate me.  Gristwood's book was a refreshing take on love during what was, in truth, a tumultuous time. Politics, family, and even ego often cast a shadow over the possibility of true love, yet courtly love is where the fascination begins.  I was super familiar with the backstories of all the wives of Henry Tutor. Still, I was intrigued by how Gristwoood weaved in tales of Guinevere and King Author (something I am not as familiar with).  The Tutors in Love is perfect for anyone interested in learning about Henry VIII and the fate of his six wives.  Those who are well-read on this dynasty will enjoy the revitalized take on the love ad loss of this famous King.
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This behemoth was right up my alley and suited my particular tastes in history. Im fairly biased toward the Tudor era (the drama!!!) and this book’s approach to romance in the era was thoroughly researched and explained. It doesn’t just discuss the Tudor era, it goes back centuries and discusses famous romances of the past and how they were viewed by the generations that came after them, all the way up to the Tudors themselves. It explains how history was able to foster this era of lust and legend. I enjoyed when the author took the time to paint for us scenes of flirtation and seduction techniques. It really felt like a movie, like I could insert myself into the scene and live out the fantasy for myself. It’s a unique blend of academia and story telling. The author does well to present all different perspectives of the romances, not forcing the reader to believe one way or another. They simply told us how it was perceived then and how that affects how we perceive it now. Overall, I had a great time reading this and walk away with plenty of discourse to bring to future discussions on the topic.
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As a long time fan of Tudor lore, I found this fascinating - to look through the lens of courtly love was super interesting.
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I really liked how thorough this book was and how in-depth it went into the intricacies of the Tudor family dynamics throughout their reign. It definitely could have been organized differently to make things a bit more fluid and clear, but it had a really interesting focus on the courtly influences and impacts of marriages and love. I would need to read it again in order to absorb everything in it and have a stronger idea of the connections and points Gristwood was making, but for readers that have experience and interest in non-fiction history books it would be a good read.
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I liked the general organization of this book. However, I did find it distracting how the book hopped between various individuals within each chapter. It felt a little abrupt and difficult to digest. Further, the book addressed certain people who were not necessarily popular/recognizable, while skimming over key historical figures and relationships. I think major relationships could have received more attention and description. I think the book in general would have benefitted from slowing down the pace and focusing on less relationships in more detail.
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I marked this one as currently reading in mid December but it actually took the whole month to read it. I would read ten minutes before bed and I just couldn't get into it. I have read many books about the Tudors so I know the history. I feel like this book is so full of history that if you do not already know the basics it will be hard to get through. There are a lot of players involved with all of the Tudors and it is hard to keep everyone straight. Never mind the fact that multiple people share the same name. This book is about "courtly love" and how it changed and evolved over the years and with each monarch. It was an interesting way to look at the different courts for each ruler. I do not think I have delved so deep into Elizabeth I though, which is at the end of the book, of course. I also learned more about Sir Walter Ralegh.

"...but a powerful woman must be careful because you can be blamed even for something very slight."

"...that the man who marries his mistress creates a job vacancy."

"Courtly love had been a dream and a challenge; a joke and an opportunity. Now in Cromwell's hands it became a tool."

"...a great part of the labour of government could with difficulty be undertaken by a woman."

"I never saw England weaker in strength, money, men, and riches...Here was nothing but fining, beheading, hanging, quartering and burning, taxing, levying, and beggaring, and losing our strongholds abroad." -this was under Elizabeth I
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The Tudors. We all know the history. Court intrigue, political wrangling, violence, beheadings and burnings, insurrection, assassination attempts, war....   The history of the Tudors is a lot more than Henry marrying six times or Elizabeth being The Virgin Queen. There was a lot going on! A lot of change. A lot of heavy stuff!

But what of love?

What's love got to do with it? Author Sarah Gristwood brings forth a treasure trove of Tudor research and facts to show it might just have a lot to do with it. Love, even with hugely political aspirations, is still love, right?

I'm a sucker for all things Tudor era, so I enjoyed reading this book. I knew the history and a lot of the background facts already. But, Gristwood puts an interesting spin on things. This book is not about romantic love, but courtly love and relationships that wield great political power. It brings into focus how much obsession, lust, the rules of courtly love, marriages and relationships entered into for political gain left their mark on the Tudor era.

I enjoyed this book! Gristwood relates the facts in an interesting way. This isn't a dry history book, but an engaging presentation of the facts and a reflection on the effects of courtly love, marriages and relationships on the Tudor Era.

This is the first book by Sarah Gristwood that I've read. I can't wait to read more by her, especially her book on the women behind the War of the Roses!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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The entire time I read this book, I pictured the actors in the Tudors series on Showtime. Now I have to go rewatch it. For Tudor fans, this book is excellent, but if you're not already familiar with the family and all their drama, this book might drag. It is definitely very "readable," though, not just a textbook - easily digestible and very interesting. I never knew that much about Elizabeth I’s reign, so I enjoyed that part. And the general info about life/love at court always fascinates me. I'd definitely recommend, but be warned that it's heavy on the historical facts.
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