His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvich is a 200-word novel in miniature form that is reminiscent of those little 17th Century pocketbooks (you know, the little books small enough to fit into a pocket, not a purse….) and really fit this story so well. The book profiles Charles II’s (King of England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1660-1685) illegitimate eldest son, James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth. He’s most known for his flamboyant dress, his carousing with the ladies, and his revolt that ended in one of the most horrific executions in history, but Zuvich shows that he was also a poet (though his actual writing and reading skills were not very good), with prose he scrawled into his own little pocket-book
The book was the perfect size to read in an extended evening and was written in the voice and style of something that might have been written in the 17th Century. Zuvich, an author who now lives in the U.K. and provides tours at Kensington Palace, sticks with the British verbiage, prose, and vocabulary, making the reader feel as a story has been ripped from the late 1600s and plopped into their lap. She certainly has a handle on how they would relate and speak to each other in the 17th Century. Some people don’t like reading novels this way, and some do, so it’s a personal preference, but I think she stayed true to the characters and let them lead the readers through the story. It was never heavy or hard to decipher. She tells the story of the Duke of Monmouth and his last mistress, Lady Henrietta Wentworth, with such passion and emotion that it made me want to continue to flip the pages to complete their story.
A historian on the Stuarts, she has done her research and all of it seems plausible. Monmouth is probably remembered in history most for several things: being one of the most handsome of the Stuart blood, well-liked by the ladies, and his botched death. However, Zuvich shows how Monmouth’s personality was impulsive, led by emotion and whim, and desire and ambition, but not always in a manipulative or egotistical fashion.
He did, however, have a stubborn streak like most Stuarts when something really mattered to him. Zuvich shows well how in both his claim that his mother and Charles II were legitimately married (which would make him in line to the throne) and in his declared love for Lady Wentworth, he fought for what he felt was rightly his and what he needed to be his with every ounce of him.
The emotions that Zuvich brings out in Monmouth was so heart-wrenching to me. His desire to be needed, to be accepted, to be liked, and to be easily swayed by those who didn’t truly care about him personally was all underlying the main love story. I also appreciated how the author showcased his many military accomplishments and how much the people of England loved him, long before he began a relationship with Lady Wentworth. Their romance blossoming was beautiful, but Monmouth’s ending was so horribly sad that I was physically shaken after I read the ending. To think this actually happened is abhorrent to me. No matter if Monmouth tried to take the throne from his Catholic uncle King James II (who became King after Monmouth’s father Charles II died), he didn’t deserve his death. I would prepare yourself to read the ending, as it is that bone chilling.
It’s a love story wrapped in tragedy and set during religious turmoil, but the book is a must read for any historical lover of the 17th Century, the Stuarts, or anyone interested in what happened just prior to the reign of William and Mary. It was a delightful romantic tale, with some lovely imagery and poetry, but like many times in history and in life, didn’t have a happy ending. However, she was true to the story and the characters and have given them a proper legacy and remembrance. It was written so authentically and with such emotion that the story carries the reader along at ample speed until the bitter end.
HIS LAST MISTRESS, Synopsis~
Set in the tumultuous late 17th Century, His Last Mistress tells the true story of the final years of James Scott, the handsome Duke of Monmouth, and his lover Lady Henrietta Wentworth.
As the illegitimate eldest son of King Charles II, the Duke is a spoiled, lecherous man with both a wife and a mistress. However, this rakish libertine is soon captivated by the innocence of young Lady Henrietta Wentworth, who has been raised to covet her virtue. She is determined to spurn his advances, yet she cannot deny the chemistry between them. Will she succumb? At the same time, the Duke begins to harbour risky political ambitions that may threaten not only his life but also that of those around him.
His Last Mistress is a passionate, sometimes explicit, carefully researched and ultimately moving story of love and loss, set against a backdrop of dangerous political unrest, brutal religious tensions, and the looming question of who will be the next King.
Author Andrea Zuvich Biography~
Born in Philadelphia in 1985 to Chilean-Croatian parents, Andrea Zuvich is a historian specialising in the Late Stuarts of the Seventeenth Century and is the creator and writer of the history website, The Seventeenth Century Lady.
Andrea studied History and Anthropology at both the University of Central Florida and Oxford University, and has been independently researching the 1600s since 2008. Andrea is a leader on and one of the original developers of The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, Historic Royal Palaces, and lives with her English husband in Lancashire, England.
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/hislastmistresstour/
Twitter Hashtag: #HisLastMistressTour