Lucy Worsley is an historian who I greatly admire, for her BBC documentaries and her work as Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces.  She has recently released two novels for young readers, and although they may be marketed as Young Adult I found them to be light, engrossing reads for adults.  The first novel is Eliza Rose.

Eliza Rose

This novel is set during Henry VIII’s reign, and explores the life of his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, through the eyes of our fictional narrator, Eliza Rose.  When her betrothal falls through, Eliza is sent to school with Katherine.  It becomes immediately clear that Katherine is the prettiest and most popular girl, but also the most spiteful and outspoken.  When both girls are sent to court and Katherine becomes queen, will Eliza survive the treachery surrounding her?

Lucy Worsley is well-known for believing Katherine to be more than the ‘good time girl’ stereotype which history has proclaimed her to be.  So I was very surprised that she’d written this novel which does nothing to dispel that stereotype!  Worsley does attempt to explain Katherine right at the very end of the book, but it is too little, too late after 300 pages of a snarky, self-centred flirt.

If you know little about Katherine already, I wouldn’t recommend this book, because there is little attention to detail on the big events in her life.  Eliza is not close enough to events and more often than not is told what has happened, rather than seeing it for herself.  You may find yourself wondering how things came to happen, with no explanation to satisfy you.

This book is a frothy, enjoyable read if you know the history of Katherine Howard and are not looking for a taxing historical account.  I give it three out of five stars.

My Name is Victoria

The second novel is set during Princess Victoria’s childhood, during the lead-up to her becoming the famous Queen Victoria who we all know.  A girl called Miss V is sent to be the princess’ companion, but her real duty is to spy on Victoria.  As Miss V grows closer to Victoria, her loyalty to her father is called into question as she sees the rigid rules which the princess lives by.  How far will she go to protect her new friend?

I read this a few months ago, at a time when I wasn’t feeling great in myself, and I gobbled it up.  It was the right book at the right time.  I even wrote to Lucy Worsley to tell her and I received a note back!  For that reason, I gave it five stars.

Are you a Lucy Worsley fan, or have you never heard of her?

  • Wow! She replied to you, that’s amazing. I love her too, her documentaries on BBC are funny. I got a book of poems from Aphra Behn this month, after hearing about her in a documentary about the women in the 17th century.

    I’m surprised about the first book, Eliza Rose. In her documentary about Henry VIII’s wives, she said that Katherine was a child and today we would think of child abuse and not a “merry girl” (paraphrase, I can’t remember exactly).

  • I hadn’t heard of Lucy Worsley before I read this blog post. I think it’s great that someone is writing historical YA, though it’s a bit of a shame Eliza Rose didn’t live up to your expectations in terms of telling the reader more about Katherine.

  • Yes historical YA can be lacking and I hope she writes more books in this vein. But I did need more Katherine!

  • Yes it was fab to get a reply, especially as I wasn’t sure if my letter would get to her. YES I completely agree, that was the attitude I was expecting all through the book, that Katherine would have been shown as a victim of manipulation by others rather than as a bully herself.

  • Food & Baker

    Never heard of Lucy before but these sound like great books and that’s so lovely that you wrote a letter to her and she replied back! That’s amazing!

    Jessica & James | http://www.foodandbaker.co.uk / http://www.foodandbakertravels.co.uk

  • I have watched a few of Lucy’s documentaries before and thoroughly enjoyed them! It’s a bit of a shame that she stuck to the stereotype for Katherine Howard in her first book, but the second really does sound fantastic! I like how they’re told not from the perspective of the main historical figure but from that of someone close to them! How sweet of Lucy to send you a note as well!

    Abbey 📚 http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

  • I couldn’t believe it when I got a reply, especially because I didn’t know if I had the right address!

  • YES I liked that the main character was not the famous historical figure in both. I can’t get my head around the depiction of Katherine Howard though!

  • Kate

    Awww how lovely that she wrote you back! I’ve read so many great blogs with book recommendations on, and yours is no exception! I’m sorry to hear you had a tough time but I’m glad the book provided you with some escapism. I would love the book about Queen Victoria; I’ve become hugely fascinated by her and her history – mainly in part to ITV’s series “Victoria” – but I’d like to do some more background reading, and this sounds like the perfect place to start!
    Kate x
    http://www.findingkate.co

  • I don’t think that it’s a coincedence that the Victoria book came out around the time of the first series of the ITV series! It’s definitely a good way to ease yourself into reading about Victoria.
    Thanks Kate, yes the book was escapism at a tough time and it was so brilliant to get a note from Lucy which I will keep always.

  • Lifethrough Tsg

    That’s so nice that she wrote you back, really shows she cares about opinions on her works! The second book sounds much better than the first! Plus I am so intrigued by Queen Victoria, so I’ll have to add this to my book Wishlist!
    Hayley X
    Lifethroughtsg.com

  • I will never get rid of her letter 🙂 If you’re interested in Victoria, it is the perfect book for you.