Earthly Joys

Earthly Joys - Philippa Gregory I thoroughly enjoyed this story - the second novel featuring the Duke of Buckingham that I've read within a month! I found Gregory's prose easy to read, her assuredness in her historical detail very gratifying, and her protagonists - all of them - highly sympathetic (but most particularly John Tradescant the elder, the gardener and a man's man in every sense of the word). The battle scenes were sufficiently repulsive without being actually sickening. I've yet to find many novels about gay men (by women) that don't fall into the worst of the hoary old happy-ever-after romance patterns, and this was a refreshing change. I particularly loved the slow, careful development of John's character, as we begin to see how his apparently over-the-top sense of feudal loyalty is underpinned by unacknowledged sexual yearnings that lead inevitably to Buckingham's bed. Nothing really comes of John's passionate attachment to Buckingham (and passionate it is, even though he is profoundly disillusioned by Buckingham's character, and even wishes him dead by the end), except for three nights and a fair deal of heartache. But Gregory does not leave us depressed, giving us instead a second generation for hope and a fair death for our good friend John. Add to that some really interesting detail about botany (and botanical financial speculation!) that was just enough but not too much for this non-botanist. I have found here both a novel and a novelist I think I will return to.