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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: Royal Pains by Leslie Carroll

Royal Pains: A Rogues Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds by
Leslie Carroll
Paperback, 416 pages
NAL Trade
March 1, 2011
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Genre: Historical Non-Fiction

Source: Received from author for review
“The author of Notorious Royal Marriages presents some of history's boldest, baddest, and bawdiest royals.

The bad seeds on the family trees of the most powerful royal houses of Europe often became the most rotten of apples: über-violent autocrats Vlad the Impaler and Ivan the Terrible literally reigned in blood. Lettice Knollys strove to mimic the appearance of her cousin Elizabeth I and even stole her man. And Pauline Bonaparte scandalized her brother Napoleon by having a golden goblet fashioned in the shape of her breast.
Chock-full of shocking scenes, titillating tales, and wildly wicked nobles, Royal Pains is a rollicking compendium of the most infamous, capricious, and insatiable bluebloods of Europe.”

Leslie Carroll certainly knows how to pick them! The baddies in this book were certainly scandalous, grotesque, or sometimes quite crazy. There were several figures who were very familiar to me and there were a couple that I had never heard of before (see the guest post written by Leslie on Archduke Rudolf for one such example). Even during the chapters about those who were familiar to me, I still found something new and interesting. They also spanned many different countries – and several were from countries from the former Soviet Union which were very obscure to me.

This is a very readable non-fiction book – it essentially reads like a novel. Leslie infuses her writing with wit and commentary that makes the pages just fly by and makes you sometimes outright laugh. I totally enjoyed reading this book. One thing that can be seen as a positive or as slightly negative (depending on your viewpoint) is the frequent usage of what I will call “thesaurus words”. Sometimes I was so overwhelmed by words that I really didn’t know (and I like to think I have a decent vocabulary). So either prepare yourself with a dictionary on hand or be prepared to just skip over them (or maybe you have a better grip on these words than I do!).

One improvement of this book over her previous release, Notorious Royal Marriages, was that there were fewer figures (chapters) – this lead to longer chapters and more little details about each individual being examined. It gives the reader more of a chance to get to know the royal before moving on to the next.

One small complaint I do have was sometimes it felt like we strayed away from the subject of the chapter to other characters for a little too long. It was important to give historical setting and to create a well rounded feel of the scene. It was also necessary to get to know some of the other important players as well, but sometimes I would find myself asking “where is this going?” One such example is in the Lettice Knollys chapter we spent a lot of time learning about Robert Dudley and his various flings and wives – and although Lettice would eventually fall into one of those categories – I felt like it was more than we needed about Dudley when I would want more about Knollys. It was still great to get the information and I learned a lot none-the-less.

Out of all of the baddies in this book, my favorites to read about were: Archduke Rudolf, Prince Albert Victor and Princess Margaret. Looking at this list, these all are from the more recent of the royals in this book and my choices could have likely been influenced by not being familiar with these more contemporary royals.

A wonderful read!

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers: 

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Leslie Carroll

royal affairs
Royal Affairs

notorious royal marriages
Notorious Royal Marriages
[My Review]

the royals
The Royals
[My Review]

royal romances
Royal Romances

Inglorious Royal Marriages
[My Review]

Find Leslie Carroll: Website | Twitter

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Great review, sounds like a book I'd certainly enjoy. I'm adding to my "to read" list as we speak. I always thought that history is better taught from the "soap opera" aspect of it then memorizing dates.


  2. Great review! Royal scandals have this certain appeal for me as a reader. The book is definitely on my wishlist.

  3. Man of la Book - I agree, it is much more likely that you will retain at least some information!

    Irena - I think it is the little twisted side in all of us that want to read about everyones bad deeds!


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