2 Mini Book Reviews: Joanna, The Notorious Queen of Naples, and The Poison Bed

Last year, I read 100 books. It was a LOT. I am a fast reader, and I try and read as much as I can, but it was hard work getting to 100. I needed to average around 8-9 books a month, which I struggled to maintain at points.

This year, I’m just letting myself read at a much more relaxed pace, but so far I have read a few really good historical books which I wanted to share with you all today.

Joanna: The Notorious Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily – Nancy Goldstone

This is a biography of Joanna, who, yes, you guessed it was queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily in the 1200’s. This was actually the first book I completed in 2019 (yes, it’s taken me a while to write this review, tiny as it is) and I loved it.

Goldstone starts with introducing Joanna on one of the most important days of her life – the day that she went on trial to save her throne and defend herself against the charges that she had murdered her husband.

Goldstone then goes back and follows Joanna’s life up until that point, and then what follows after. Joanna’s life is fascinating anyway, but Goldstone’s writing is what makes it really. It isn’t overlong; she is fair about all the people involved in Joanna’s life, and she manages to explain some really confusing backstories, political and religious contexts and tangled family trees in a really clear and interesting way.

The Poison Bed – E.C.Fremantle

This was a Christmas present, and a couple of Sundays ago I spent the entire (and I mean, entire) day in bed, reading. It was glorious, and this is the perfect book to sit and engulf in one go.

Honestly, I was hooked from the start. We begin with the arrest of Lady Frances Carr – a man is dead and she has confessed to the crime. The story then alternates between Frances’ point of view and her husband, Robert’s, and follows their story. Both are rich and favoured young courtiers in the court of James I of England, a celebrated, golden couple… so what could have brought them to this point?

I thought it was great: the plot was paced so well; building up quite slowly to the tension, but without being slow or boring. Frances, I thought, was a fascinating character, especially as we got to see her from her husband’s point of view, her own point of view of her actions as she’s doing them, and her looking back on her past. This is a fun, gripping read, and, as a side note, the cover is gorgeous.

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What else are you reading at the minute? Let me know in the comments below!

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

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