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Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan
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Ladies in Waiting

by Laura L. Sullivan

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Ladies in Waiting is about three girls named Elizabeth, who are in King Charles II Royal Court. They are to be the friends of Queen Catherine. Zabby just got shipped to England by her father, from Barbados. Eliza wants to be a playwright. Her father is one of the richest men in England, but a commoner and a Puritian. Beth is a noble, but her father financially ruined them and they rely on handouts from other nobles. From different circumstances, they end up as the Queen’s Ladies in Waiting. They all have different interests, which are woven into the plot. They are also all waiting for love, but in different ways.

I’m still not completely sure how I feel about this book. It seems to be historically accurate. It is marketed towards teens, but the language is a mixture of old terminology (a glossary should have been provided) with some modern language. There is pretty mature subject matter in terms of physical and verbal abuse, sex, prostitution, rape, marriage infidelity, a public hanging and language. I would say it is historically accurate and this is what court life was like, along with women being treated like property. Marriage was a business transaction and mistresses were kept for sex/love. It does not get too descriptive, but the reader will clearly know what is going on.

There has been criticism about the abrupt ending on goodreads.com and mentions of it in professional reviews. But it has keep me thinking about the ending, so maybe that is what the author intended. It was not meant to be a happy ending as life does not always have a happy ending. There are different kinds of love, which can be a pretty powerful realization. I also appreciate the theme of friendship and loyalty. The flippant attitude of royals towards other people in their pursuit of power seems to be historically accurate. Overall, I learned more about Charles and Catherine than I did from history books. It is a period of history that we do not really study in our high school/IB curriculum. I think students would benefit from that. I think it will appeal to girls who regularly read historical fiction. It is a pretty mature book, so I would recommend it for grades 11-12 (maybe 10?). Public libraries can easily add it to the collection. It’s possible there are some curricular connections in an elective history class. In a school, I would have to worry about certain students and parents, so I would not make it a school book club selection. Overall, it’s been kind of a tough review to write. I think I liked it. I would recommend it to mature students. The cover art is very attractive. I’ve been thinking about it for a few days before writing the review…so it was definitely thought provoking. ( )
  kmjanek | Aug 29, 2013 |
Ladies in Waiting is set during the reign of Charles II. What the book has taught me about history is this: Charles II was a manwhore. Not all that surprising, I'll admit, since he was an English King. Oddly enough, there was a reference to this same fact in another book I'm reading currently, The Origins of Sex by Faramerz Dabhoiwala. I love coincidences like that in my reading.

Of course, there is a downside to reading historical fiction that involves real historical figures. At least, I feel there is. Others might feel differently. Since Charles II and Catherine, his wife/her queenliness, were real people, I can look up pictures of them. This means that I can read about what a hottie Charles II was and how all of the ladies wanted to go to there, and then I can Google him and find this:


Source: Wikipedia

Just take a moment to enjoy that hotness. Yeah. I literally laughed for like five minutes when I found out what he actually looks like. Now, I'm sure he could get all the ladies he wants, because it's good to be the king, but I'm not buying him as Mr. Sexypants/robe. Sorry.


Source: Wikipedia

Sadly, Catherine was not quite so amusing. In fact, viewing her pictures was rather enlightening. The book mentions her change in style from Portuguese gowns to English. Her Portuguese gowns were dark and somber, very much not popular with the English, who liked ladies to put their business on display. Now I know what those gowns look like. I can also see why they would not have been popular. Catherine as a character is rather hard to relate to and unsympathetic. She wants love and she wants power, but she doesn't really do anything.

The story focuses, though, on three of Catherine's ladies in waiting, all named Elizabeth. They become friends and negotiate the scandals of the court together. And, OH MY but there are a LOT of scandals. Women don't come off especially well in this novel; the one comfort is that men come off way worse. None of them are especially likable, but they are pretty entertaining.

Elizabeth #1, Eliza, would have been my favorite; indeed, I liked her immediately upon her introduction in the first page of the book. Unfortunately, she was a bit too into her theater. Her lack of interest in men and marriage I applaud, but she is so cavalier with her friends. Despite the fact that her father is trying to sell her off in marriage to someone she doesn't like, she constantly encourages Beth to accept her awful mother's marriage plans for her. Hypocrisy looks good on no one.

Elizabeth #2, Beth, is the nicest of the three. She truly loves others, and is the only one who wants a family. Unfortunately, she has a completely disgusting mother (she has super serious syphilis, which is way nastier than I knew) who wants to sell her off to someone who is not her love (who is not so great either). The guy her mom (and Eliza) want her to marry is totally creepy as all get out. I sort of feel like there may have been more scenes with him in an earlier version, because at just one point, we get some insight into his thoughts, which is weird. Beth I didn't much care for because she's too gullible and too crazy.


Pictured Above: Beth's mother
Image source: http://spiritedaway.wikia.com/wiki/Yubaba

Elizabeth #3, Zabby, also initially seemed like she was going to be a great character. When you first meet her, she doesn't know how to wear a corset, is mistaken for a prostitute, and totally still maintains her attitude. Then she saves the King from the plague. Awesome. Then she falls in love with the King and spends the whole book mooning over him, alternately fantasizing about Catherine's death and trying to help Catherine out of guilt. That whole thing makes me so mad, especially since the King is as I described him above. Not only that, but she totally ruined the happiness of one of her friends out of her desire to make the King like her more. By the end of the book, I was ready to give Zabby the oar to her douchecanoe, so that she can head off to her home at asshole island.

All of that said, Ladies in Waiting is an entertaining read. If you like scandals, crossdressing (even if some of the things that happen in this plot line are not believable) and drama, sit back and enjoy. This is very much like an episode of The Tudors, only the sex happens offstage (mostly), the main characters are actually young, and instead of Henry VIII you have Charles II. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
I feel so sad that I didn't really like this book. I'd been pining for it for months before I was finally able to find a copy, and once I got it, I was determined to sit down and read through this book. I guess it's partially my fault, because I had such high expectations for this book, that there was no way it could possibly meet them, but even so, the book just wasn't.. Great. I mean, it wasn't BAD, but it wasn't GOOD either. It was just kind of Meh. The characters are just so annoying. Beth is too.. Feeble? She constantly wants to please everyone up until the end when she does something completely out of character. Zabby is okay, she got a little irritating with the whole insta-love thing though. Eliza was the absolute worst. Her character alone made me want to throw the book under my bed never to be seen again (or at least until I clean up my room.) Eliza was so unbelievably condescending, it was almost funny. Almost. Meaning it wasn't funny, just incredibly aggravating. It was made even worse by the fact that she HAD no experience in what she was lecturing about. She was talking to Zabby and Beth about love, and how pointless it was, when she'd never experienced love. Basically, this book was just a meh. I really wouldn't recommend it unless you have a high tolerance for annoying characters. ( )
  superducky | Mar 31, 2013 |
I feel so sad that I didn't really like this book. I'd been pining for it for months before I was finally able to find a copy, and once I got it, I was determined to sit down and read through this book. I guess it's partially my fault, because I had such high expectations for this book, that there was no way it could possibly meet them, but even so, the book just wasn't.. Great. I mean, it wasn't BAD, but it wasn't GOOD either. It was just kind of Meh. The characters are just so annoying. Beth is too.. Feeble? She constantly wants to please everyone up until the end when she does something completely out of character. Zabby is okay, she got a little irritating with the whole insta-love thing though. Eliza was the absolute worst. Her character alone made me want to throw the book under my bed never to be seen again (or at least until I clean up my room.) Eliza was so unbelievably condescending, it was almost funny. Almost. Meaning it wasn't funny, just incredibly aggravating. It was made even worse by the fact that she HAD no experience in what she was lecturing about. She was talking to Zabby and Beth about love, and how pointless it was, when she'd never experienced love. Basically, this book was just a meh. I really wouldn't recommend it unless you have a high tolerance for annoying characters. ( )
  superducky | Mar 31, 2013 |
I feel so sad that I didn't really like this book. I'd been pining for it for months before I was finally able to find a copy, and once I got it, I was determined to sit down and read through this book. I guess it's partially my fault, because I had such high expectations for this book, that there was no way it could possibly meet them, but even so, the book just wasn't.. Great. I mean, it wasn't BAD, but it wasn't GOOD either. It was just kind of Meh. The characters are just so annoying. Beth is too.. Feeble? She constantly wants to please everyone up until the end when she does something completely out of character. Zabby is okay, she got a little irritating with the whole insta-love thing though. Eliza was the absolute worst. Her character alone made me want to throw the book under my bed never to be seen again (or at least until I clean up my room.) Eliza was so unbelievably condescending, it was almost funny. Almost. Meaning it wasn't funny, just incredibly aggravating. It was made even worse by the fact that she HAD no experience in what she was lecturing about. She was talking to Zabby and Beth about love, and how pointless it was, when she'd never experienced love. Basically, this book was just a meh. I really wouldn't recommend it unless you have a high tolerance for annoying characters. ( )
  superducky | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547581297, Hardcover)

Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the king’s theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her father’s wealth.

Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart.

Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting.

And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:19 -0400)

In the seventeenth-century court of England's King Charles II, three young ladies-in-waiting discover a palace teeming with love, intrigue, and treachery.

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