Have you ever had Marshmallow Fluff? It's REALLY good when you toast some bread and make a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich.
It's NOT that good when you think you're going to read a light history of royal women existing outside of the marry-prince-have-baby stereotype only to find this weird marshmallow fluffy stuff.
Now I will admit...with a title of "Princesses Behaving Badly", I was not expecting an academic piece of historical writing. I was in the mood for some light vignettes about historical women that I could listen to in the car during the drive to/from work. What I got was a weird amalgamation of some "okay" history (and myth), frequent use of odd/crass slang, and a passive aggressive (and condescending?) feminist bias.
The slang cheapened the book. Talking about a princess having balls (or not) or being a badass or pissed as hell might work in an informal blog. In a book that's presenting historical information? Um...not so much.
The feminist bias was fine I guess...we have a book showcasing women that history often overlooks so I expect it to be championing women. I don't think it had to be condescending or passive aggressive in its approach. It came off as defensive in a "see, look what women can do too even if we don't have balls!!" rather than an objective "women were valuable pieces in the historical puzzle" approach. It was off-putting.
The history. There was some...there was also a lot of myth. Granted, some of that is because women were not recorded in history like they ought to have been so we are relegated to discussing myth over fact in some instances. What historical analysis there was, I did enjoy. I wish there was more of it -- once the author stopped using crass slang and wrote about history, it was actually pretty good. Ultimately, short vignettes are too small to get an adequate historical context so I would propose all the shorts be taken with a grain of salt. Chances are there is more in-depth history/research about that particular woman that can provide some context beyond "she was a woman in a man's world" for the reader.
Let me add one more point - I listened to this on audio. I do believe that a book can live or die by its narrator and the woman who read this book wove attitude into her interpretation. For me, the attitude just amplified the slang/condescending approach. If I read a hard copy I may not have latched on to those aspects quite as much? I wasn't a fan of the audiobook.
Maybe this became better as it went along? I DNF'd at about 50%... If you want some very light and fluffy vignettes give this a whirl. If you want some meatier works on women of history, there are some good ones out there as well. Women of antiquity may have been overlooked, but there are some historical works trying to do them justice...
I'm off for a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich...