Cover Image: The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

The Dangerous Kingdom of Love

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Member Reviews

Such an interesting take on characters that we all know and potentially love. Witty, hilarious, just an all round wonderful book to read.
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"Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly" - Francis Bacon. 

This books falls in the middle category! I devoured it in two days (it would have been one, would it not be for the whole concept of paid employment.) As with most historical fiction, one has to suspend belief with regard to historical inaccuracies (like omitting Bacon's wife as a character...) but the pacing and characterization was delightful. It really captured the *deadpans* ZENITH of political and social machinations around the amalgamation of nations under Stuart rule. It took a few pages for me to mentally readjust to the explicit tone, but I love that it didn't shy away from the physicality of LGBT relationships - chaste hand holding isn't realistic in any time period! 

From the tongue in cheek cast-list to the philosophical chapter titles, the sense of humour woven through this gem of a book really adds to the roller coaster that makes it hard to put down.
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Witty and delightfully vulgar! Blackmore clearly has a knack for keeping historical fiction interesting and entertaining. Despite being familiar with the Overbury affair I still found myself wanting to know what would happen
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Written in the acid tones I imagine Frances Bacon would have used to describe his role and the backbiting, tough times in the court of James - i found myself checking the history on Wikipedia - and it seems mostly true - without the incisive language. Helping the King to get his way never amounted to enough money for Bacon in his lifetime, for real, and in the novel. Characters are colourful and driven in a dangerous world … the difficulties of same-sex love hover over the entire story despite the King’s inclinations. Really intriguing and well done - dense at times, but Bacon has a lot to offer and it’s a good platform to mention his ideas. Highly recommend. Sophisticated entertainment …
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This book about the philosofer Francis Bacon it avery nice historical fiction based on facts. It shows the intrigue on the royal court from the gay point of view. It was a long time since I read a story like this. I enjoyed it very well. In the tradition of Mary Renault and Chris Hunt. A must read for an educated gay male.
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Was very excited by the synopsis, and the writing is great, but sadly the direction the story went in didn't do it for me, but I would still thoroughly recommend it to those who love historical and/or LGBTQ fiction and to those who loved the author's first novel.
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After reading this book, I’d just like to say that I think Francis Bacon is perhaps one of my favourite characters ever! He has (I should clarify: in this book) the right mix of intelligence, humour and cunning to survive at the court of James I, and to keep me reading! 

Francis realises that his place at court is in danger as long as Robert Carr is James I’s bedfellow (it hasn’t been explicitly told in history that James I was having sex with Carr and other young men, but he certainly liked having the young, attractive boys around). Carr is set to marry Frances Howard, and the Howards hate Bacon. Therefore, Bacon decides to find the King a new young man and oust Carr. This part where Bacon supports the rise of Villiers is, I believe, true, so this adds credence to the story. 

It’s a love story for Bacon from here. He’s a reluctant romantic where Villiers is concerned (we’ll gloss over the fact that his wife, Alice Barnham, isn’t even hinted at), and realises too late that he doesn’t want to be without him. However this coincides with Bacon’s dramatic fall from grace (which is true). 

I love historical fiction that takes the bones of a story and moulds it into something else VERY MUCH! Francis Bacon and all the other characters in this are fully formed people, given personalities, loves, dreams and quirks that you never see in the history books. Yes, it’s good to know what really happened (if that’s your thing), but this book was fun! Francis has a wicked side to him that I fell for. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t the real Francis Bacon, it was Neil Blackmore’s Francis Bacon. 

So yes, read this book. It’s bawdy and explicit in places, but oh my! The feels, people! This ticked all of my historical fiction boxes, and more besides!
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I enjoyed this, but it was nothing like as good as the intoxicating Mr Lavelle. It was worth a read, but it won't stick with me
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Oh this was very good and a complete surprise to me. Who knew the story of Francis Bacon could be told in such a beautiful but horrifying, gentle yet brutal way? I truly did not expect to be sitting here feeling torn apart after it but here we are. One thing I know is that this is going to stick with me. It sets up so many dichotomies – love and power, duty and reason, intelligence and hope. It really is a story where nobody ever quite wins. 

The prose is stunning, I really found myself steeped right into this world. And it doesn't shy away from what was happening at court by any means. The grooming of young men for sex and the sheer wielding of power. The rage and cruelty across the board, and what people will do for a better position. Whether that leaves any room for real affection or tenderness. 

I don't quite know how I feel about a lot of this yet but it will definitely be on my mind. In particular, the depiction of both Bacon and Villiers is just so fantastically complicated. In not trying to give us the easy answers, it's all the more harsh and supremely interesting. 

Thanks to Random House UK for letting me read the ARC.
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Thanks to the publishers for the free ARC via NetGalley in exchange for a voluntary, honest review. 

I really enjoyed this. I was very sceptical initially because the narrator, Francis Bacon, proclaims himself to be the smartest person in England and yet is blind-sided at every turn. I think I was expecting Thomas Cromwell from Hilarly Mantel's WolfHall, because I took Bacon at his word. It's really not until we see his interactions with Mrs Turner that I realised that I was - in fact - the one who had been blind-sided! Nice one, Mr. Blackmore!

As a person raised in the Irish education system, i.e. taught the history of the island of Britain only insofar as it pertained to Ireland, this period of history - and James I in particular - is really only mentioned as a prequel to Charles I and that *really* nasty Cromwell fellah and then James II vs William of Orange and all the trouble they meted out up the length and breadth of this Ireland. I appreciated that the author had in mind that most readers would have interpreted signifiers that went over my head. However, it was still a rollicking good read, even though there was a bit too much repetition of Bacon-in-love vs there being a developmental arc experienced by Bacon.

I have read a few books recently that were marketed (not sure it was the author's premise) as "feminist" and, invariably, these have missed the mark of actual feminism by a long-shot. Modern book publicists might be surprised to learn that Women+power/control does not automatically = feminist! However, in the last 5% of this book, a rant by one of the main characters at Bacon is, to my mind, one of the most feminist pieces of writing in fiction that I've come across. It turns a lot of the book on its head and I really appreciated how it was handled and dealt with. 
It certainly makes me want to read this book again and this might push my 3.5 stars up to 4!
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I have to say I adored the idea of this one (I love an early modern court politic!) but found the prose quite hard work -- just not quite as clever as it wanted to be, pushing the pastiche very hard but not really hitting the mark. I ended up dropping it halfway through, which I hardly ever do -- maybe I will pick it up again someday? It's possible I just started it in the wrong mood. I did recommend it to a friend who is the biggest James VI & I 'fan' I know, so will be interested to hear how he gets on with it...
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I love historical fiction and this time period - James VI of Scotland succeeding to the throne after Elizabeth I and becoming James I of England.  In my head, this is a time of Shakespeare, Macbeth, witch hunts and the Gunpowder Plot.  Genuinely fascinating, and a precarious time to be part of the court, especially if you were gay as this was definitely not a time of tolerance.

Cue Francis Bacon - writer, philosopher and newly promoted to Attorney General under James I.  And hiding his sexuality from all but the men he picks up for fleeting liaisons on the banks of the Thames.  

Bacon has a healthy contempt for his frankly grotesque ruler, a king who is cavorting openly with his favourite, a man called Robert Carr.  Indeed, Bacon feels that Carr - not his biggest fan - exerts too much influence over the king and he hatches a plot to replace Carr with someone under Bacon's own control.  Thus begins a plot thick with intrigue, manipulation and treachery - a plot in which the stakes are very high and fortunes and lives can be lost at the king's whim.

Well, doesn't that all sound fabulous?  Having read and enjoyed Blackmore's last book, 'The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle', I was looking forward to this one a lot and thought I knew what to expect.

Reader, I did not.  This book is much bawdier and raunchier than Blackmore's previous one - let's just say that it was an eye-opener for me in many ways and featured some very colourful language,  To the point that - when I switched to the audiobook - I had to listen to it covertly and a long way from my kids!

However, I'm not that easily shockable and soon got into the excellent storytelling and historical moment.  Blackmore's version of Francis Bacon proves to be a highly entertaining and lively storyteller - even if he can be a little tricky with the truth, somewhat into navel-gazing (well, he is a philosopher) and hilariously blind to his own failings.  

I say hilariously because this is a funny book - Bacon's outspoken views and brutal portrayal of those he dislikes (pretty much everyone) are humorous and I did laugh at several points.  I loved his skewering of the king's pretensions regarding his terrible books!  That said, this book also has depth of feeling and is also moving at times - it's a fine line and Blackmore treads it carefully to keep the narrative engaging and Francis Bacon a sympathetic enough figure for the reader.

I think it would be fair to say that the historical moment is vivid and immersive, even if it maybe isn't entirely accurate in places.  I did a lot of googling around various elements of the plot and am still unsure how much is total historical truth and how much is Blackmore's loose interpretation.  This is something that would usually bother me but I loved being carried along with the story and - as the court politics of the era isn't something I knew much about - I was happy to mostly remain blissfully ignorant about the fact and fiction balance.

Side note:  I was gutted that Blackmore's Shakespeare was mostly unpleasant - as an English teacher, that was a blow!  

Overall, this is a fascinating and highly entertaining book about a number of striking themes - male desire in a historical moment that doesn't accept it, the treacherous machinations of King James I's court and the intersection between love and sex to name just a few.  I absolutely loved it and recommend it to everyone with a taste for bawdy historical fiction with a surprisingly tender heart.

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  I should also mention that I  listened to the audiobook read by Philip Stevens and adored it - it brought the characters to life with a good range of voices and enhanced the humour of Blackmore's Francis Bacon with his sly, witty - and often downright bitchy - narrative.
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I chose The Dangerous Kingdom of Love as I have always been fascinated by how gay historical figures have been written out of the history books and stayed for the playful writing style. Neil Blackmore creates a playful character out of Sir Francis Bacon and a rich display of what life was like under the rule of James VI and I — yes, I am Scottish, go figure. I frequently find historical fiction unapproachable but Blackmore has written something luscious and easily read. In fact I plowed through the whole book in a matter of hours, hardly noticing where the time went. Without sanitisation, it turns out the past is a very interesting read.

We start the book with an ageing Bacon, to him, of course. He feels jilted by his peers, mostly because they jilt him. It seems times have never changed with the views of those born posh to those born not. He never fails to hold back his thoughts, though, not even the ones about his king. In fact, he is downright derisive and all the more loveable for it. I found myself grinning along to Bacon’s disparagement of the King’s works, calling them rightfully out on their nonsense.

Interestingly, though none of the characters could be described as likeable they certainly could not be described as unlikeable either. Each brings a certain edge to the story, never shying away from the truth of their actions but still somehow charmingly endearing. Bacon is the pinnacle of this, his most reprehensible actions contrasted against his plea and worthy narrations. When he finally finds himself a leg up we find ourselves cheering him on despite it being at the cost of someone else. After all, why should Bacon not succeed after being an outsider on account of both his birth and sexuality? Surely we should want him to have some wins after all these years.

The discussions on the notion of power are fascinating. The way Carr holds power over the King despite his less than noble beginnings, for one, or how, despite his years of service, Bacon has little respect put onto his name. Boys rule over the men that love them and those who plant the boys have rule over everyone. There are no friends in power, after all.

As the once unloveable Bacon falls in love we get a true taste of his self worth. It is painful to watch him reject what her wants for the greater plan, more so as he dresses his love up for a lamb to slaughter. So too does his view of his own sexuality ring true within the homosexual experience, even to this day. He has taught himself not to want, to force it down unless impossible, and I ask what gay person has not had the same thoughts.

Bacon's downfall being inevitable does not make it any less painful. Just as you think he has won you are hit with the realisation it was all for naught. The betrayal is so well written that, despite any reader being able to see it from a mile away it still takes you by surprise. 

All in all, this has to be the best historical fiction book I have ever read. Blackmore, by both focussing on that which has been written out of our history books and not sanitising the rest has created an evocative tale around the Royal courts. It's an easy four star review from me.
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I read the author's previous book and loved the originality of it. This book was also excellent. It's one of those books that you pretty much know how it's going to turn out because it deals with historical characters, but that really doesn't matter. What I loved about it was I felt I knew where the book was going but in the very last few pages it completely turned my expectations on their head and left me feeling a bit shocked at how much I'd been taken in by the narrator. I loved that it stayed with me for days afterwards and really made me think. I have no hesitation at all in recommending this book.
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I liked this book overall although this is not the usual genre that I read. 

Thank you netgalley for allowing me to read this book as an ARC, thank you to the author and the publisher for allowing me to read this beautiful book. 

I liked this book overall it was a surprisingly refreshing book that I liked the style of and will read more from this author and in this genre as this book was great perfect pacing and lovely.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to commend Neil Blackmore’s ability to write characters that are fairly awful, but impossible to hate. The unreliable narration especially is something that's deserving of 5 stars all on its own. For a book about manipulation, it sure as hell manipulates the reader.

This book is full of the usual courtly political intrigues that draw me to historical fiction, but the crude, sarcastic and cynical narration from Francis Bacon were the things that had me hooked. It's overflowing with British humour and I couldn't get enough. It's also brimming with foul language, so avert your eyes if this bothers you.

Plus, you know, IT'S QUEER! Yes! Fantastic!

It's not really overflowing with historical accuracy however; for those who need that, you've been warned. I only know the basics about King James I's court, and I don't imagine I learned a lot more actual facts here haha.

It also does not shy away from the reality of what was happening. People were definitely using and grooming and training young men to work their way into the King's favour, and if you don't want to read about that, you are not going to like this because it's a fairly honest portrayal of what that could have been like.

So, on that note, for all it's laugh-out-loud moments, this is not a happy book; it's harsh and, as you know if you know your history, no one is necessarily getting their Happy Ever After.

I do feel that the King was a bit too caricature Scottish at times. And also, the ending was rushed. At the last page I was like... wait. no. this cannot be it?

However, highly recommended!
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to commend Neil Blackmore’s ability to write characters that are fairly awful, but impossible to hate. The unreliable narration especially is something that's deserving of 5 stars all on its own. For a book about manipulation, it sure as hell manipulates the reader.

This book is full of the usual courtly political intrigues that draw me to historical fiction, but the crude, sarcastic and cynical narration from Francis Bacon were the things that had me hooked. It's overflowing with British humour and I couldn't get enough. It's also brimming with foul language, so avert your eyes if this bothers you.

Plus, you know, IT'S QUEER! Yes! Fantastic!

It's not really overflowing with historical accuracy however; for those who need that, you've been warned. I only know the basics about King James I's court, and I don't imagine I learned a lot more actual facts here haha.

It also does not shy away from the reality of what was happening. People were definitely using and grooming and training young men to work their way into the King's favour, and if you don't want to read about that, you are not going to like this because it's a fairly honest portrayal of what that could have been like.

So, on that note, for all it's laugh-out-loud moments, this is not a happy book; it's harsh and, as you know if you know your history, no one is necessarily getting their Happy Ever After. 

I do feel that the King was a bit <i>too</i> caricature Scottish at times. And also, the ending was rushed. At the last page I was like... wait. no. this cannot be it?

However, highly recommended!
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Francis Bacon is a sodomite. History knows him as the man who made the modern world, but he has his own story to tell, and that is exactly what he intends to do. A plot moved by political intrigue and royal favour, our protagonist will soon learn that there is more to life than his own posterity. 

The plot for this book is actually all based in history, which is what initially drew me to the story. Introducing and exploring the Overbury affair, the reader learns about the downfall of 'the cleverest man in England' as he gives in to his emotions, allowing himself to be exploited. There is a whole host of historical figures, such as James I & IV, Robert Carr, and George Overbury. I was excited to read about a true historical plot from a first person point of view, with the thought that I would not only get to learn more about the event, but also experience it in a more tactile way. What I got was sort of that, and sort of not. 

This is definitely a plot driven book, which I tend to not enjoy as much as character driven books. The whole point is that Bacon keeps pushing aside his feelings in order to pursue his own plots, thus limiting his character growth until late into the story. As a result of his scheming, many other characters are impacted, but their consequences were not really satisfying to me as the reader. I believe this is partially because Bacon fully accepts any casualties as a reality of scheming, rather than deriving any emotional gratification from the successes of his plan, 

As part of his general acceptance of anything being okay, serving as a means to an end, I felt the plot plateau in the middle of the book. Once I was out of the excitement of finding the initial beginnings of a scheme and watching it unfold, it became quite repetitive and not intriguing enough. The queer character relations are also obviously a driving factor of the book, creating some tension in line with historical views towards LGBTQ communities, so please be aware of homophobic violence as a trigger warning. I stuck with it to see how the character relations would play out in the end, but on the whole, the book itself lacked enough character and plot intrigue to be more than three stars for me. 

It's still an interesting read, knowing that it is all based in fact, but I don't think I would read it again,

Thank you to NetGalley and Hutchinson for a free copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review,
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NEIL BLACKMORE – THE DANGEROUS KINGDOM OF LOVE *****

I read this novel in advance of publication through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Historical novels are not my thing. So much so that when I first was offered this novel to review, I turned it down. How wrong was I? 

Written in the bawdy voice of Francis Bacon, ‘politician, philosopher, novelist and creator of the modern world’, this is the story of conniving at the court of King James, with rivalries and beheadings and couplings. Most of the major events are based on historical fact and the cast is real. 

Like diving into the sea, within a couple of paragraphs you are plunged into that world and become totally immersed. The story is complex, but page-turningly easy to follow, as Bacon seeks to replace the king’s whore Robert Carr with one of his own, George Villiers, for political ends, in league with the king’s wife Queen Anne. 

It is obvious the author has done mountains of research to craft this novel. Not only is it convincing but is also very well written. Nothing jars or grates. The prose flows, with a flavour of the 1600s that keeps you in that zone but does not intrude. Particularly interesting are the descriptions of London was it was then, compared what we know today, fields and villages and orchards on a meandering Thames. 

As someone who avoids historical novels, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Without doubt worth five royal stars.
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An interesting take on a side of history that many never see. Always good to bring awareness to the parts that are hidden from us!
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