The Poison Bed by E. C. Fremantle ~Goodreads~
Published by Penguin Random House UK 2018
Hardback edition 402 pages ~Book Depository~
Celebrated couple Robert and Frances Carr are imprisoned on suspicion of murder.
She as been rescued from an abusive marriage by Robert, and is determined to make a new life for herself. Whatever the price.
He has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top, you cannot help making enemies.
Now a man is dead. And someone must pay with their life.
Frances knows the truth can kill. Robert knows a lie can set you free. Neither understands their marriage is a poisoned bed.
Based in on true events at the beginning of the 17th century in the Jacobean court of King James I. The Poison Bed revolves around Frances Howard and Robert Carr, who are accused of the poisoning and death of Sir Thomas Overvurg and are held in the tower awaiting their trial.
Each alternate chapter is from the perspective of either Frances or Robert, who tell their individual side of the story of how they met and what happened in the lead up to their incarceration. The novel has all the musts of an historical fiction novel; the politics, love, secrets, lies, witchcraft, and murder plots. We’re also left with the burning question of whether the couple were both involved or for just one to be rightfully blamed.
Having each chapter from a different perspective was a great method for me to get to know Frances and Robert individually. Frances, who comes from one of the big political families in the 16th and 17th centuries, is a pawn in the political game of her family rising to greatness, however, Frances is certainly not to be underestimated. Well educated, beautiful, confident, and charming- she entices all of the men at court with her palm readings and womanly wiles to get what she wants.
Robert, an orphan who catches the eye of the King is regarded as becoming James I lover, as this is suspected to be true in history. It is a tangled up affair, of Frances married to a non-titled homosexual lover of the King but it creates a brilliant plot. Sir Thomas, who they allegedly murdered, was a friend of Robert who tried to prevent the marriage, and who also loved Robert. Like most historical novels and tales from history, this was a time where families were at war and changes in alliances meant that those striving to become the monarch’s favourite had just as many enemies. It would have been the survival of the fittest, or even the craftiest.
I don’t claim to know an awful lot about the reign of King James I, but from background research and the author’s note this is definitely an exciting interpretation of what happened to Frances and Robert. I always love to learn about different periods of history, and Fremantle has hit the nail-on-the-head with this one. I love that she focuses on the strong women of the period, amongst the scandals and secrets within the Jacobean court.
I was enticed from the very beginning to the gritty end. This is a must-read for every historical fiction fan out there!