Publishers Weekly Reviews
Luthman (Love, Lust, and License in Early Modern England), associate professor of history at the University of North Georgia, successfully rescues Frances Coke Villiers (1601–1645) from being a mere historical footnote in this empathetic examination of one of the early Stuart monarchy's most-notable scandal-tainted women. Kidnapped as a teenager and fought over by her feuding parents, Frances's life appeared doomed from the start. Married off to a mentally unstable husband and then prevented from living with him, Frances shocked the court with her long-term affair with Robert Howard and refusal to end it. Convicted of adultery, Frances escaped from prison and continued her relationship with Howard, steadfastly declining to perform a court-ordered public act of penance. This slender but well-researched account suffers, as the author admits, from the lack of inclusion of documentation on Frances's own perspective, but Luthman offers extensive contemporary sources and modern research on gender and class roles of the period. Frances stands out as a real, flawed, but sympathetic figure who managed to maintain her relationships with Howard and their son—she found a cunning way to grant him access to society and secure his future. Luthman offers insight into the expectations of countless noblewomen of the age and reveals how remarkable Frances was in living on her own terms. Illus. (Aug.)
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