My friend read this and told me she loved it, I read it and really struggled with it. I often find with Gregory that some of her books are great and some of the earlier ones less so, such as The Queens Fool. This novel is based upon the life of John Tradescant, the famous gardener to Robert Cecil, George Villiers the Duke of Buckingham and Charles I.
The general story is Tradescant is devoted to his masters at the expense of his wife and child, he goes on various trips to discover new plants or to fight the French, he plants gardens and that’s pretty much it. The descriptions of the gardens and flowers are lovely but the book is simply too long. I also became frustrated with Tradescant’s unquestioning submission to his masters, I recognise that was the way of the world then, but this simply became boring. I also found the gay relationship in the novel unconvincing and based on no historical facts whatsoever. Tradescant’s adoration of the so-called beautiful Buckingham (possibly both James I’s and Charles I’s lover) was simply annoying. The portrayal of Charles I makes you wonder why nobody cut his head off sooner, so maybe Gregory did this part well.
There seem to be lots of prudes (or bigots, I cant work out which) on goodreads who didn’t like it because of the gay sex scenes, whereas I just didn’t like it because it was unconvincing and boring. Oh dear, this is quite harsh isn’t it?