by Brandy Purdy, historical (2007)
iUniverse, $13.95, ISBN 978-0-595-45523-2
Piers Gaveston is the first Earl of Cornwall. He is a prominent fellow in fourteenth century English history since he is the companion and some say lover of King Edward II. He comes before Hugh le Despenser whose infamy would eventually eclipse Piers', heh, although Piers can at least claim some comfort in having a big role in Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II.
Brandy Purdy tries to bring Piers to life in The Confession Of Piers Gaveston. I understand that she decided to self-publish this book after being told for years by New York publishers that historical fiction can only sell if it's written in first person from a female point of view. After having read this book, I can only wonder what the big deal about the male point of view is.
The concept of this book is that this is Piers' memoirs, set down in a book before he surrenders to the Earl of Pembroke in Scarborough. He believes (rightfully, as history would show) that his life is nearing its end and he'd like to tell his side of the story even if there is a chance that "Nedikins", his best buddy, may not like what Piers has to say here.
Ms Purdy's treatment of Piers, however, sees Piers coming dangerously close to being a romanticized bad boy of the year figure. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that , but even if it is historically accurate, it is unfortunately rather stereotypical to have Piers as this fellow with a bad past who therefore grows up being who he is. As a kid, Piers witnesses his mother being burned as a witch. He then endures all kinds of abuse, sexual or physical, at the hands of wicked people until he finally finds himself in the company of the then Prince Edward. Somewhat ironically given the fact that Piers by that time doesn't hesitate to sleep with men or women in order to gain any advantage for himself, King Edward I decides that Piers is the role model that the Prince needs in order to become what the King imagines to be a perfect balance of a robust king and talented diplomat. Or in other words, the King is worried that his son is going to grow up gay and hopes that Piers will show the Prince all about Masculinity 101.
For Edward, it is pretty much love at first sight as he does the unthinkable and embraces Piers, a mere commoner, on the spot right after declaring that he's going to gift Piers with a puppy just because Piers says that he loves dogs. Ms Purdy has Piers saying that he too loves Edward and it isn't because of the jewels, the titles, and the favors. No, really, he likes Edward because he believes that they are both very alike in terms of being isolated from everyone else, et cetera, and naturally everyone else who says otherwise is a hater or is being jealous. Edward is the one who seduces Piers, not the other way around, and when they make love, it's wonderful because they are in love. Take that, haters!
Piers is, alas, misunderstood.
Of the many titles and endowments Edward had given me throughout the years I only requested two - the first being to be appointed Regent when he crossed the Channel to wed the French Princess Isabelle. I asked not out of a desire to lord it over all and sundry, but in the hope that if my enemies saw that I would do nothing to take advantage of the power such a position entails then, perhaps, in their eyes I would be redeemed. And if I performed my duties and displayed good and sound judgment, maybe Edward would realize that there is more to me than what his eyes see.
Piers is, also, either ridiculously naive or he is trying to rather ineptly put a spin on his actions.
Piers also has a relationship with the Earl of Richmond as well as some other men but he says that he can't help himself. Old habits die hard, that kind of thing. Ms Purdy has Piers acting like a lost man looking for love and his self-esteem back through a series of sometimes self-destructive actions. Ultimately, while Edward is a thoughtless fool whose actions endanger Piers and eventually dooms him, I have to say that Piers often enables the stupid Edward in this story.
Ms Purdy tries to breathe some life into the character of Piers Gaveston here and in a way, she succeeds. However, the Piers Gaveston here is unfortunately a rather stereotypical emo fellow who is just looking for someone who loves him for who he is. The Confession Of Piers Gaveston is a love story between Piers and Edward, with Piers holding on to his love for the silly fool to the very end. The whole thing would be quite amusingly melodramatic were not for the fact that it led to unfortunate consequences for all parties involved in the mess.
I find Ms Purdy's prose to be most readable and engaging. However, at the end of the day I can't really say that I find the story of Piers Gaveston exceptional. It's a pretty good read, all things considered, but I wish that I could have seen a little bit more of the man's famed flamboyance and wit and a little less of this silly sap whining about love.
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