A while ago I went to my Amazon account and saw the algorithm had recommended A Rose for the Crown. I have read this novel already, and a flood of memories returned, mostly centered on the book’s groan-worthy prose. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I have decided to share a few choice phrases with you all.
First, though, some background. A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith is a historical fiction/historical romance novel about Richard III. I love me some Richard III with the power of a thousand fiery suns in splendor (the sun in splendor being a badge of Richard’s elder brother, Edward IV). Anyway, I thought this book would fall more at the historical-fiction end of the spectrum, and I was wrong. Basically, it’s about Richard III and his super-awesome fictional* mistress named Kate, who has miraculously risen from her peasant roots by marrying an elderly burgess, then a lower-level noble, and then gets to shag a duke. Such a social climb is not impossible for medieval England, but it’s pretty damn unlikely. Like the heroines of all romance novels (or so I’ve heard) Kate is loyal to a fault and a spunky, borderline feminist. Only borderline feminist, of course, because she isn’t having sex for her own pleasure, but because she loves her man so much. And she objects when guys say mildly misogynist things about women, but she’s totally content to stay at home and raise her children and be all earth-mothery. I’m not saying women in the middle ages didn’t object to men telling them they were worthless and weak, but they tended to prove their value by doing more than being a good lay. But I digress; back to the book. Kate is married to her second husband when she first meets Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Richard III before he was king), but she can commit adultery because...wait for it.... her husband is gay and refuses to ever have sex with her. Can someone say cliché? There were definitely gay guys during the middle ages, but many of them still managed to throw their wives a bone(r) and have sex with them sometimes. Men wanted heirs and heirs meant sex with women. Kate and Richard have a lovely, sexy relationship until Richard marries and the adultery has to stop. Adultery is okay for a woman, but a man needs to cut that shit out. Whatever. On the plus side, though, Richard III comes across as pretty awesome (not a homicidal maniac) in this book. So it has that going for it, which is nice.
*Richard III had two illegitimate children, but historians have no idea who the mother/mothers was/were.
If the general outline isn’t enough to convince you of the hilarity of this book, perhaps the following quotes will. I swear I am not making this crap up.
p. 260 “He felt his erection straining in his codpiece. What to do now? he thought in a panic. His hands were reluctant to relinquish their delicious fondling.”
-Points to the author for making a fifteen year old (did I mention Richard is a teenage through all of his years with his mistress?) reaching second base sound so sophisticated. And ridiculous.
p. 266 Richard: ... “‘I imagined that Margaret would take one look and run away. After all, she was just a woman. Ouch!
Kate had pinched him hard on the rump, and he grinned at her.
‘My apologies. I forgot who I was bedding!’”
-Ahhh, romance novel feminism at its finest. And, Richard, dude, you didn’t forget who you were bedding. About the only thing you know about this girl is that she’s hot and has a vagina she will let you stick Dick Jr. into. She objects to you saying woman are cowards? Well, now you know two things about her.
p. 308 “They lay entwined on the bed in their chemises, kissing and fondling until Richard’s need became too great. He gently mounted her, and they moved together in a loving union that rocked the bed and brought Kate tears of joy.”
-I can’t even read this passage without laughing and/or throwing up a little bit in my mouth. Mounted her? Is she a bloody horse? And who cries tears of joy after sex? Seriously, woman, get a hobby.
p. 350 Richard and Kate are having sex in a river, their horse runs off, and some creepy old guy brings it back. And creepy old guy says, “‘And, if I may be bold, ‘tis no wonder you forgot the horse when you have a filly like that to ride.’”
-*Sigh.* Again with the horses.
p. 417 Kate says, “‘Our lovemaking was so beautiful, it made me cry, ‘tis all.’”
-I think I really am going to vomit this time.
This crappy book also sticks in my mind, though, for a terrible realization I had while reading it. So this book is basically a medieval romance novel – the main characters were having lots of sex. Okay, whatever, I can handle that. At the same time that I was reading this rubbish for fun, I was reading the chronicle of Matthew Paris for my school work. In this chronicle, Matthew details a “horrible” scene in which a random Christian boy is kidnapped by Jews, circumcised, and sent home (almost certainly a made-up story). The boy’s family and the whole town of Christians were aghast. My first reaction was, “Please, they did that kid a favor. Plus, it’s not like they cut off something he needs.” Later, though, my reaction was, “All the dudes I study were uncircumcised.” Glance at this book: “Richard III wasn’t circumcised. Ewww.” I had to take a little break from historical fiction.
Recalling this realization, however, makes me remember another one, which happened a little earlier in my life. I believe I had recently been to an art museum and seen a medieval stained-glass window depicting the Circumcision of Christ, which is technically a feast day and is celebrated on 1 January. “We decided to start our calendar year on the day Jesus got snipped,” I realized with amazement. Crazy (and totally phallo-centric. Did Freud ever speculate on why we have made this day such a big deal?)! Anyway, I was later relating this to my neighborhood friends, and one of them (who had actually been to Catholic school through age 13), gave me a rather horrified look and half-asked, half-stated “Jesus had junk?!” Never having put this fact in quite those terms, all I could muster was, “Ummm, yeah. He was a guy, so yeah. He had junk.” This exchange took place before The Da Vinci Code was hot, which I guess is why we hadn’t contemplated Our Lord and Savior’s junk before.
So there you have it, Richard III connected to Jesus in fewer than six degrees (Richard would probably be so proud; Jesus arguably less so). I, however, am going to troll the internet now for pictures of kittens and butterflies and such to clear those junk-y images from my mind.