The Dangerous Kingdom of Love
by Neil Blackmore
Narrated by Philip Stevens
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 15 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 16 Jul 2021
Penguin Random House UK Audio, Cornerstone Digital
Brought to you by Penguin.
England, 1613. At the dazzling but brutal court of King James I, politician and philosopher Francis Bacon, the cleverest person in England, the inventor of the modern world, has a fight to survive. A life-threatening alliance of his enemies has formed around the King's exquisite but noxious lover, Carr. Bacon, always the outsider and the plotter, goes to his friend, James's neglected Queen, and together they come up with a plan. They will find their own beautiful young man, to supplant Carr in the King's bed and so defeat their enemies. Bacon then meets the thrillingly beautiful, mysteriously unreadable Villiers, whom he trains to entrance the King, but against all good sense, the two start a secret love affair. But when a shocking murder scandal rocks the English court, new battle lines are drawn at court, and the question asked: what if the beautiful boy is the cleverest person of all?
A twisting tale of court intrigue and forbidden love in the palaces, taverns and theatres of Jacobean London, with a cast of kings and queens, philosophers and playwrights, high-born aristocrats and low-born poisoners, and an astonishing suite of historical characters like Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare, James I and Anne of Denmark, the murderess Frances Carr and even Pocahontas, all told through the funny, ironic, self-aware voice of the world-changing Francis Bacon himself, THE DANGEROUS KINGDOM OF LOVE is both a darkly funny satire on liberalism and a tragic love story about the corrosive effect of power.
© Neil Blackmore 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
|EDITION||Other Format, Unabridged|
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 14 members
Francis Bacon, the cleverest man in England (in his own words) believes that power trumps love. When Bacon suspects the King’s ‘favourite’ Robert Carr is plotting to turn the King against him, he goes to great lengths to find another suitable young man to supplant Carr in the King's bed and take power for himself.
It is a dangerous game of which Bacon believes he has the upper hand. But does he?
I listened to the audio version and it was superbly narrated. The voices and accents were brilliant, particularly King James was laugh out loud funny.
Although there is romance, there is nothing fluffy about this book. It’s sex first and feelings later. Feelings that Bacon says aren’t meant for men like him. But even he is not immune, and when he catches feelings for George Villiers (the young man he has moulded for the King) there is only so long he can deny that it is the very thing that terrifies him - love.
I found myself listening to an explicit scene in a coffee shop at 9am and had to double check my headphones were definitely connected and I wasn’t broadcasting it to everyone first thing in the morning! This book may not be to everyone’s taste but I appreciated Blackmore’s take on things for being bold, blunt and unashamedly queer.
Francis Bacon is just the right amount of unlikeable to make things interesting. I was rooting for him by the end and although not a tear jerker, I did find the story heart breaking. To think just how long people have had to deny their truths for fear of punishment and death and the lengths at which they might go to to protect themselves. And how many centuries it took for anything to change.
Blackmore's vivid portrayal of these historical figures really brings them to life and riveting story had me hooked until the end.
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.
I loved how it was based on historical fact and actually quite informative on the history of these times. It was an interesting perspective of court, the politics, shenanigans and all that goes on within the highest of circles.
Following Francis Bacon and his endeavours in the courts, Francis must hold his own in this dangerous world, avoiding an ungainly end by his enemies within the court and turning it to his favour.
What I wasn’t expecting was the language! Wow there was a lot of swearing in this and hugely crude and foul mouthed characters, throwing F bombs and C words left right and centre. If this bothers you then maybe this isn’t your book, but if you don’t mind it and can see past it into the story, you’ll be grand. This also isn’t a book where you warm and grow to love the characters involved I found, at least I didn’t anyway but the story was interesting.
It was well written and effortlessly narrated. The narrator was brilliant and really brought it to life, with his range of accents, acting and easy way of reading the story, it made it enjoyable to listen to. I’m still unravelling from this book but if you want a book that doesn’t hold back on the swearing and court play, this is the one for you!
Audio Arc provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Audio review: Perfect choice of narrator. He added layers of nuances to the characters especially Francis Bacon. He managed pitch perfect humour and horror and cynicism by turns. Amazing performance.
Book review: I’m not sure what I was expecting when I was invited to read this but it wasn’t a fast paced intrigue set in the court of King James I featuring Francis Bacon as he tries to put his own 'favourite' in the king's bed. Embracing the scheming of Machiavelli, Bacon is feeling slighted and deposed in influence and sets up a nefarious scheme to claw back power. What follows is a House of Cards style narrative where Bacon occasionally mutters snarky asides to the reader who is fully in his confidence.
Bacon tells us right from the start that he does not love. Love is a dangerous past time for a man like him. In fact he's faintly disgusted at the way the King carries on. The most important thing is power because power is all that is real, all that will make a man happy. The astute reader can already see where this is going and the historian will have some idea of Bacon's life and how it drew to a close. This version of it is glorious, both in Bacon's self deceiving cleverness, his wit and the sheer lushness of the world and time brought to life. As well as being a bald and uncompromising queer romp, this is also a clever meditation on power: what's really valuable? What should you really persue? Can you abuse power without realising it? In the end, power is as difficult to hold onto as love. But no spoilers.
This was scandalous, amusing, wickedly good fun and salaciously queer. I can see it won’t be for everyone but if you don’t mind what is now considered offensive language (but wasn’t especially in 16th C) you’ll enjoy this pre-enlightenment era romp. A cracking read. Highly recommend.
Although the stories at the heart of the book (Robert Carr and Frances Howard: see the recent 'A Net for Small Fishes', and that of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (the Buckingham from 'The Three Musketeers' who is in love with Anne of Austria) have been told before and, I would guess, are fairly well known, what this book brings to the party is linking them through the rambunctious voice of Francis Bacon.
For me, it's Bacon's narration that makes the book: he's crude and coarse, he's clever and vain, he's aware that he's surrounded by enemies, and he's on a mission to plot his way to the top while taking down his detractors, especially the Howard family. Along the way, he has more than an eye on our present with sneaking asides about how lying and deceit are no longer flaws in public servants and Westminster rulers, on how greed and ambition rule and the wealthy continue to prop up their ascendency; an especially funny diatribe on how a nascent system of 'medicines everywhere, in every town, in every village, ready to be used at any moment, a national service' is bound to be stymied by questions of 'where was the money for such a scheme?' King James might have just spent a fortune from the public purse on jewels for his favourites but 'not a single Member of Parliament (save perhaps me) was going to pay to stop injured peasants dying of blood poisoning'.
So this is very much historical fiction with a postmodern outlook: deliberate anachronisms in diction, and social commentary combine with a slanted retelling of history (in reality, the puritanical James was never this shameless and there are still scholarly debates on whether he actually slept with any of his male favourites). I especially like that this reclaims the Stuart courtly romp from all the ultra-feminised tellings that make it a place where women's subjectivity rules with stories of female friendship, forced marriages, lush love affairs and lots and lots of glossy clothing descriptions. This is entertaining, fun and necessarily bawdy, but also has a more heartfelt element that emerges, particularly near the end.
Excellently read, this works brilliantly on audio.
#TheDangerousKingdomofLove by #NeilBlackmore I quite like a good swear however I was taken by surprise by the amount of gratituous swearwords used in this book. In spite of this, I will be looking into more of Neil Blackmore’s work. I am not sure what I had expected when I picked a historical fiction set during the reign of King James about a man loving another man. From the beginning we see Francis Bacon, the cleverest man in the country, start plotting in order to secure his place at court and out of the Tower. Francis’ world is full of lies and schemes and he is good at pulling whoever he needs to into his world to fulfill his plan. This fictionalised retelling of history is original, sharp and edgy. Bacon is likeable despite being arrogant. The lingering question was he a bad man, or was he just a man playing the game?
Thank you to #Netgalley for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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! Brief note about the narration - on the whole it worked for me but I have to say I don't think the Scottish accent was good at all - I found it really quite grating and irritating because it just didn't quite sound right.