Wideacre - Philipa Gregory

Rating: seriously harshed my mellow

Wideacre by Philippa Gregory (2003, Touchstone) is the first book in the Wideacre trilogy and I got to page 170 out of 648 pages before I grew weary of the whole sordid story. I feel like I need to wash my eyes out with soap mixed with the christ-like, but sterilized, tears of a born again christian virgin.

I realize that I can't really write a review when I haven't actually completed the book and that's not going to stop me, but trust me when I say that I have read a lot of drivel in my time, but this is right up there with the lewd and salacious Judith Krantz novels I bought in my teens and which I read while hidden behind other, less titillating books. You know, back when I had time for shit like that.
Beatrice Lacey, strong-minded and amoral, refuses to conform to the limited life of a lady of the eighteenth century. Destined to lose her family name and beloved Wideacre estate on marriage, she decides to take her destiny into her own hands. Seduction, betrayal even murder - Beatrice's passion is without apology or conscience...
I hate the name Beatrice. I haven't met one who had a shred of decency in their entire body.

So what does "refuses to conform to the limited life of a lady in the eighteenth century" mean? We aren't talking about how she disagreed with the fact that women were not allowed to inherit wealth or holdings. She did disagree with that, but we aren't talking about it. We also aren't talking about the fact that women had no say in who they married. Or even that they were considered nothing more than chattel to be traded for the best financial advancement of a family. 

Her idea of refusing to conform was not to crusade for women's rights but to ensure her own success by doing nothing remotely good or remotely ethical. To secure her place on the estate, she was complicit in her father's murder and seduced the squire who inherited the land AKA her brother. Full blooded, raised together in childhood so they totally knew each other very well sibling. Blech!! Aren't there enough actual real life stories of incest to fulfill Ms. Gregory's need for this kind of thrill? Did she have to invent one?

I am not a prude. I even understand that in non-fictional historical narratives, sibling marriages existed and telling of those details are necessary. Think Cleopatra. Then think: unconsummated! Wideacre is fictional - a completely made up story from the mind of a contemporary author. She had the power to make this story go any way at all. Instead we got a story that was hyper-spiced with a completely unsympathetic heroine who has regular consensual, overly detailed sex with her brother for years and years (I read spoilers). I don't know what really happens after page 170 but the 169 pages that lead up to it were enough pig fodder for me to happily abandon it.

In addition, I have a problem with a story told in first person where the person in question describes herself with the kind of ascending superlatives that no person in their right mind would ever admit to believing. And the author wants us to relate? No, Philippa, no you don't. What do you want? Shut up, I don't care.

For you dear readers I will return to the morass of kink and find a quote for you:
In the morning sunshine my skin had the bloom of a ripe peach, read for picking. From my feet, so white with such high-arched insteps, to the copper curls which framed my face...I was made for loving.

Ahahaha!!!!! Add one of these: xoxo ;-) and you have a Courtney Stodden tweet!

The last Philippa Gregory novel I read was Wisewoman. Like Wideacre, Wisewoman had a protagonist you couldn't love if she were a tiny, flop-eared bunny wearing a yellow straw hat decorated with daisies and delicately burping clouds of magical sparkles. Do not read it. One word: Wax figurines and discharges. Discharges of wax! And I'm sugar coating it!

If you have the patience or are able to become engaged with Wideacre, or indeed the trilogy itself, please tell me where I went wrong but, seriously, leave out the sex details.


Angie said...

I'm going to be honest, you are the very last person on this earth that I can see reading a romance novel. I've read a few and quite honestly, they kind of embarrass me. Your tolerance for silly is so low, I can imagine you might feel the same. I love the "Outlander" series, as you well know, and even that was a bit much at times. So when you said you had started and subsequently rejected "Wideacre", I thought I would read a synopsis. Holy. Shit. Kill me now. I admire your tenacity and willingness to give someone a chance, but man, Philipa needs a smack upside the head.

Frimmy said...

Even as a kid I never understood the appeal of fake romance stories because they were so damn silly, so you're right about me on that. I also found them embarrassing. Had I known Wideacre was a 'romance' story I would given it a big miss.

I liked the "Outlander" series up until they headed over to North America and got involved with the civil war and homesteading etc. It passed believability even for a story involving time travel. I am not a prude (that's the second time I've said that...) but I can tell you that there would be no oral sexing going on in my relationship after three weeks of riding around on horses and not one bath in that entire time.

Philipa Gregory hides bad writing behind broken taboos. Even her well received books mostly rely on actual historical events, the details of which she simply embellished with colour. In the case of George Boleyn, she chose to present a set of suspicions about his homosexuality as fact. This was rejected twenty years ago as being impossible. He had enemies who wanted him dead and invented reasons to kill him. Had he truly been hovering around the borders of homosexuality they wouldn't have needed to invent reasons that would have been enough.

Tonya said...

I adore historical romances, and I'm unapologetic about it. UNAPOLOGETIC, I SAY!

However, who would want to read about the heroine porking her brother? I'd actually give this book a try if it had been a non-family member. I like smut.

Noelle said...

Not for me either don't Like the incest hate the first person narrative.

Tonya said...


Any more smut recommendations?

Frimmy said...

This book has put me off reading so badly that I'm switching sides and going for non-fiction. I just ordered a Tesla bio.

It may be some time before I feel unsoiled enough to try fiction again.


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