The Tudor period was a tumultuous time in England. Executions, conflict over religion, a king with numerous wives, and conflict over the throne surrounded the Tudor court. Yet, even during those dangerous times, some women stood out for their intelligence, strength, and determination. Elizabeth “Bess” of Hardwick came of age during the Tudor period and saw five different Tudors rule England. Bess managed to survive and even thrive due to her personality and strength. In “Venus in Winter” by Gillian Bagwell, the life of Bess of Hardwick, one of those admirable women of the Tudor period is explored.
“Venus in Winter” follows Bess during her days at the Tudor court. At a young age, Bess is sent to the household of Lady Zouche to become a young gentlewoman. It is in Lady Zouche’s care that Bess is introduced to the dangerous Tudor court. Bess grows up during the reign of King Henry VIII and watches as he goes through three more different wives, divorcing one, executing one, and terrifying one. Through this, Bess learns to be strong, intelligent, of good moral character, and never be foolish when it comes to a man. Bess survives the reign of King Henry VIII, grows into a woman during the reign of King Edward VI, is heartbroken by the loss of her dear friend Jane Grey during her brief reign, is sickened by the reign of Queen Mary I, and grows into a powerful and formidable woman during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Throughout the novel, Bess marries four times for four very different reasons, makes numerous influential friends, and never loses who she is. “Venus in Winter” is a look at a strong and proud woman who maneuvered her way through the Tudor court and found success and power.
“Venus in Winter” is Bagwell’s first venture into the Tudor period and it is a great success. Bagwell takes readers through five different Tudor reigns and displays how different each reign was to Bess and to England. Bagwell’s portrait of Henry VIII’s dangerous reign, Edward VI’s hopeful reign, Jane Grey’s heartbreaking reign, Mary I’s disastrous reign, and Elizabeth I’s glorious reign, as well as the role of Bess during each reign is so well-written and portrayed.
Bagwell’s portrayal of Bess of Hardwick is also fantastic. Readers may have previously seen Bess appear in novels on Mary, Queen of Scots, but they never get to truly know her. Bagwell brings the intelligent woman to life through exploring her childhood, her days at court, and her four very different marriages. What stands out the most in Bagwell’s portrayal of Bess is how strong of mind and character she is. She’s a formidable, proud, and great female character.
Bagwell does an excellent job portraying the various figures of the Tudor court ranging from the various monarchs, the members of the court, and the four different husbands of Bess. Readers will feel like they really know all the characters.
Bagwell has offered historical fiction fans another wonderful novel that explores not only the history of the time period, but is a fascinating character exploration. “Venus in Winter” is yet another hit for Bagwell!
To purchase “Venus in Winter”: http://www.amazon.com/Venus-Winter-Novel-Bess-Hardwick/dp/0425258025
For more information on Gillian Bagwell: http://www.gillianbagwell.com/