Sex with the Queen
by Eleanor Herman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sex with the Queen / 978-0-061-75156-1
"Sex with the Queen" is an absolutely delightful romp through the sexual affairs and extramarital conduct of European queens and princesses. Author Eleanor Herman is clearly skilled and starts with a strong, clear look at life as a European princess and with the understanding that such a life was hardly a rose garden for most of the women involved. After carefully providing the reader with a close and deeply fascinating look at daily royal life throughout Europe, she then works her way through the centuries with each chapter, bringing us delightful tales of the women who dared to find comfort and sex outside of marriage.
What I love most about "Sex with the Queen" is how wonderfully well-written the book is. The material is scholarly and I greatly appreciate the fact that the author has tried to present as much fact and as little fiction as possible. Unlike other historical works that rely more heavily on titillation and lack of context (like the fun but very gossipy "A Treasury of Royal Scandals"), "Sex with the Queen" presents context and clarification for all the material presented herein. The result is a surprisingly scholarly work that is still written in a deeply conversational tone - easy to follow and a delight to read.
So much of the information presented here will almost certainly be new and interesting to the casual reader. The obvious heavy hitters are here, such as Catherine the Great and Marie Antoinette, but many of the stories here are of relatively obscure or otherwise unknown princesses and queens, and it's amazing to see their stories come to life on the page. The prose is clear and precise (as are the translated love letters!), and it's very easy to sink into these stories despite the rather complicated political machinations and family trees that necessarily have to be explained in order to fully tell the tale.
The only criticism I can level at "Sex with the Queen" is that very occasionally Herman succumbs to the temptation to write a touch of "purple prose" about how truly lovely it must have been between a queen and her lover. These pieces seem a little out of place among the scholarly tone and a bit embarrassingly gushy, but these passages are limited to no more than a few lines, and are quickly passed over back to the scholarly meat of the text.
I truly enjoyed this book, and I think that anyone with an interest in the history of royal families will be delighted with this book.
~ Ana Mardoll
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