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Publisher's Summary

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History is a history of heartbreak - replete with beheadings, uprisings, creepy sex dolls, and celebrity gossip - and its disastrously bad consequences throughout time. Spanning eras and cultures from ancient Rome to medieval England to 1950s Hollywood, Jennifer Wright's It Ended Badly guides you through the worst of the worst in historically bad breakups. In the throes of heartbreak, Emperor Nero had just about everyone he ever loved - from his old tutor to most of his friends - put to death. Oscar Wilde's lover, whom he went to jail for, abandoned him when faced with being cut off financially from his wealthy family and wrote several self-serving books denying the entire affair. And poor volatile Caroline Lamb sent Lord Byron one hell of a torch letter and enclosed a bloody lock of her own pubic hair. Your obsessive social media stalking of your ex isn't looking so bad now, is it?

With a wry wit and considerable empathy, Wright digs deep into the archives to bring these 13 terrible breakups to life. She educates, entertains, and really puts your own bad breakup conduct into perspective. It Ended Badly is for anyone who's ever loved and lost and maybe sent one too many ill-considered late-night emails to their ex, reminding us that no matter how badly we've behaved, no one is as bad as Henry VIII.

©2015 Jennifer Wright (P)2015 Macmillan Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Depends on what you're looking for

I think the divergence in reader reviews reflects the readers' expectations going in. This is a fun, lightly recounted set of stories about disastrous romantic liaisons. Most people I know don't even fully understand their own breakups, nor do the people closest to them agree about what went down. Accordingly, it's silly to expect a real history lesson here, or for book like this to dig deep into the facts. Not all of the jokes land, but it's amusing on the whole. And I appreciate the author's frequent admissions that no one really knows what happened. Enjoy the stories for what they are and learn a little history along the way. And be reminded that love makes us all a tad crazy sometimes.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Margaret
  • San Francisco, CA USA
  • 04-24-17

Terrific Fun

From the eunuch forced up to cross dress as the Roman empress (who'd just been executed) through Henry II jailing Eleanor of Aquitaine to the knife in the back that broke Oscar Wilde's heart--whether he ever admitted it or not--this book was great listening. Kind of "themed history" where it was easy to see, regardless of how our hearts are broken, we are certainly not alone and definitely not the worst case ever. (Porus, the eunuch gets my vote--geez!) Easy listen; ideal for a stopping and starting listen like for long commutes. Will definitely look for more by Jennifer Wright. Recommend.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Shallow, poorly researched, forced humor

What could Jennifer Wright have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

She should have done better research and worried less about forcing jokes into each paragraph than letting the humor come where it would naturally.

Any additional comments?

Jennifer Wright has taken an interesting premise and mostly squandered it. In every respect, this book misses wonderful opportunities and the result is a painfully superficial read. Wright has identified thirteen relationships in history that have ended (calling them all breakups is kind of misleading) and discussed what happened. Where each of these stories through history (reaching back into ancient Rome and coming all the way up into 1960s Hollywood) could have offered an interesting vantage point into the times and the concept of love, Wright only does a superficial amount of research and explanation. In fact, she often seems to have opted to put forth the most salacious version of events, or whatever version fits into the moral or lesson she has decided to highlight. She glosses over facts and nuance, and her historical perspective is uncritical and shallow.

The entire book is bogged down in her effort to be funny. Perhaps she was shooting for a Mary Roach tone, where the factual synthesis is buoyed by levity. But unlike a Mary Roach (who typically interjects humor where it fits and doesn't belabor the jokes if they don't flow with the narrative), Wright's humor is forced and her asides (which seem to be delivered with a wink) invite a grimace from readers. I love a funny story or a humorous point, but Wright seems to mistake her popular history book for a stand-up venue. Moreover, where Roach's books are characterized by thorough research and cogent explanations, Wright's lack of historical basis makes the humor appear to be the point of the book.

Finally, Wright has decided to end each chapter with decidedly unoriginal relationship advice (all of which is par for the course in self-help books or online articles). In more than one instance, her quips about modern day life are tone deaf or patently false (in one chapter, she suggests that no one in modern times needs to hide their sexual orientation, in another she states than anyone who enjoys the company of animals over people must have suffered some horrid abuse). Moreover, some of the "advice" she appends to the end of a chapter feels untethered to what came before, merely shoe-horned in.

I finished the book hugely disappointed with the quality of the research, the delivery, and the writing. Wright feels like an author who is more appropriate for shorter mediums (articles, blogs) and not ready for the heft of a book length treatment.

28 of 34 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

My Absolutely Favorite Book in Every Way!

I heartily disagree with this book's bad reviews.
The narrator's voice was quirky but "totally" right for the tone of the book. History served up for fun and consolation with a delicious mix of ancient fact and current idiom to drive home the fact that love hasn't changed much over the years and the rich and famous have always made good copy.

It just goes to show--bad reviews may be robbing you of something uniquely wonderful to your particular sensibilities. Ever loaned a a book you just loved to a friend and they couldn't get through the first chapter? Okay then.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Made it through four chapters

I wanted to like this book, but the never ending stream of historical tangents and sassy quips drained each story's momentum. Lighthearted jokes about truly dark human behavior didn't work for me. The narrator was good except the microphone made her "S" sounds annoyingly sharp. Had to turn down treble EQ on car stereo.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ellen
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 07-21-16

Just the chapter on Anne Boleyn alone is worth it

What did you love best about It Ended Badly?

The part about how Anne Boleyn reacted to a "breakup." Never thought about it this way before until the author laid it out. Anne Boleyn gets the Nobel Prize in accepting a breakup with grace. She should be remembered in history better than she is for that alone.

What other book might you compare It Ended Badly to and why?

I Don't Care About Your Band. Another delightful collection of breakup stories.

What about Hillary Huber’s performance did you like?

The snark comes across in delightful manner. There was enough snark in the author's original wording to come across in a robot voice, but the narrator really made it come alive.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

"Don't cry, Sugar--no man is worth it."--Some Like it Hot

Any additional comments?

Love history AND snarky dating/relationship advice books. What a perfect combination!

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Informal history, ugh!

i struggled through most of this book. the history was charming but it was too silly to derive any pleasure from the story. I finally gave up without completion.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Amusing, But Wildly Historically Inaccurate

It's amusingly told, but had I known how wildly historically inaccurate it was, I most likely would not have purchased it. If you are unconcerned with historical accuracy, and enjoy salacious stories, you'll probably enjoy it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fantastically smart and funny

I absolutely love Jennifer Wright's writing style--it's a great blend of witty, smart, and conversational. The narrator captured the tone perfectly. The only downside for me (and I would deduct half a star if I could) is that at the end of each chapter there is a brief synopsis of why/how if you are going through a breakup you are doing much better off than the people in the story. In the printed book, this might be great--especially if the book appears in a self help section. When narrated, those brief segments interrupted the flow of the stories for me.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Fun and Light-ish

Historical breakups and all the dirt.
Told with a lot of snark, which I love.
Some of the details can be a bit macabre, and I wouldn't listen to it if you are feeling down on love- this might not make you feel better... or maybe it will