Linda Carlino has rapidly matured as a brilliant writer of historical fiction - writing novels that are wonderful stories and historically accurate. Wives & Other Women (Philip II of Spain - notorious for the Spanish Armada and as husband of Mary Tudor) continues the family saga of the descendants of Ferdinand & Isabel. Earlier she produced the excellent That Other Juana and A Matter of Pride. This story - and what a story it is - is about Philip's personal life, his wives and mistresses, and his overwhelming need to father a healthy legitimate male heir. Linda begins her novel with several chapters devoted to his ill-fated marriage to Mary Tudor and his time in England. His attitude to Mary and his scheming to acquire the English Crown are revealing and absolutely fascinating. The scenes are beautifully written: that involving the interview between Mary and Elizabeth; another of Philip and his aides' schemes and efforts in seducing, and seriously courting, the English Court Ladies. The description of poor Mary's lying-in in her unfortunate phantom pregnancy is told with particular sympathy and insight - it is difficult to hold back the tears for this much maligned and misunderstood English queen. Prior to Mary, Philip was married briefly and did have a male heir - the mad Prince Don Carlos - who was seriously disabled mentally and physically, a totally unacceptable heir. His ongoing madcap antics, at times hilarious at others heartrending, occur throughout the book. How will Philip insure that Carlos will not succeed him? A fantastic read! I highly recommend Wives & Other Women.
Having previously read That Other Juana by Linda Carlino, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I thought I'd have a go at another of her books. I was not to be disappointed. She writes well and her characters are well developed. I really felt for Mary Tudor and I really liked Elisabeth of Valois too. Phillip isn't a likable man but I wouldn't imagine that he was in reality anyway. He's devout and of course his whole purpose is advancing Spain. The relationship with his oldest son, Carlos was a sad and strained one. It is recorded in history that Carlos was sickly and perhaps suffered from the inbreeding that the Hapsburgs would become notorious for. My one gripe with this book is that it completely misses out the marriage with Maria Manuela of Portugal and Phillip's final marriage with Anne of Austria. Surely Anne was the most important wife as she provided him with the long desired male heir for Spain. The other thing that I did like about this was that Elisabeth and her mother, Catherine De Medici, are actually involved in a very close and loving relationship. As Catherine is usually portrayed as having a bad relationship with her children, I found this aspect to be rather refreshing.