Category Archives: Bloody Mary

The King’s Damsel (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) by Kate Emerson

The King's Damsel
Another fabulous Tudor novel to stay up late with!

The King’s Damsel (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) by Kate Emerson
Simon and Schuster, August 2012
Paperback 384 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:AWESOME, and Highly Recommended

In 1533 and again in 1534, Henry the Eighth reportedly kept a mistress while he was married to Anne Boleyn. Now, that mistress comes to vivid life in Kate Emerson’s The King’s Damsel.
A real-life letter from Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, written on September 27, 1534, reported that the king had “renewed and increased the love he formerly bore to another very handsome young lady of the Court” and that the queen had tried “to dismiss the damsel from her service.” Other letters from Eustace reveal that the mystery woman was a “true friend” of the Princess (later Queen) Mary, Henry’s daughter by Catherine of Aragon. Though no one knows who “the king’s damsel” really was, here Kate Emerson presents her as young gentlewoman Thomasine Lodge, a lady-in-waiting to King Henry’s daughter, Princess Mary. Thomasine becomes the Princess’s confidante, especially as Henry’s marriage to Catherine dissolves and tensions run high. When the king procures a divorce in order to marry Anne Boleyn, who is suspicious and distrustful of Mary, Mary has Thomasine placed in Anne’s service to be her eyes and ears. And that’s when she gets the attention of the king…

Rich in historical detail and featuring a w
ealth of bonus material, The King’s Damsel is sure to keep readers coming back for more in the exciting series!

Read my reviews of the previous books in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series:
The Pleasure Palace (Book 1)
Between Two Queens (Book 2)
By Royal Decree (Book 3)
At The King’s Pleasure (Book 4)

I love love love love love Kate Emerson! That’s five loves for each of her books in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series that I’ve read. This fifth one is much like the others with lesser known Tudor characters, and these are all stand alone novels which makes it easy to pick this one up if you haven’t read the others.

The King’s Damsel alludes to the possible dalliance between King Henry and another mistress, but do not get discouraged if you think you’ve heard this story before. Since this time our main protagonist is the entirely fictional Thomasine Lodge the author is able to spin a new story for us that is set against the backdrop of the always scandalized Tudor courts. Thomasine is sent to King Henry’s daughter’s household, to be a maid of honor to the Princess Mary. We get to learn a lot of the details and the important figures of the period and the setting of Princess Mary’s household which has not really been delved into before. Princess Mary is aged nine when Thomasine enters her household, and Anne Boleyn is just becoming the apple of King Henry’s eye. Where we would normally think of the moniker Bloody Mary, we instead are privy to the younger mind of the Princess, and can feel sympathy for her as her world is torn apart when King Henry divorces her mother and chooses Anne Boleyn.

With all this going on, we also are treated to Thomasine’s story. She is an orphan and not at an age where she can legally inherit what will be hers, and Lionel Daggett is appointed her guardian over her vast estate. He is an ominous character who only seeks wealth and status, and he is in complete control of Thomasine’s inheritance. We eagerly await the time when Thomasine can kick out the odious man, but that proves difficult. Thomasine is an enjoyable character who was easily likable, and the characterizations of the main Tudor historical figures are portrayed well. Anne Boleyn was haughty, Princess Mary was naive but shrewd, King Henry was pretty much his usual mix of an enigma of King and Man, and Catherine of Aragon was an afterthought. The entourage of the maids of honor and the servants provided a believable network creating the Tudor environment that the reader can sink their teeth into. The side note of the almost-romance provides a bit of a fun dalliance, but is never taken seriously throughout the novel, and provides an all too tidy ending.

I noticed this time around with the supporting Tudor figures, the titles and names were not overly explained, so that newcomers to the Tudor era may find themselves a little confused as to who was who (not knowing their historical significance). Obviously not a problem for me since I’ve read quite a few Tudor books, but I wanted to give fair warning for possible confusion. Also, as expected in some Tudor novels, there were quite a few convenient moments where Thomasine was able to eavesdrop on private conversations, but since she was spying for both Anne and Princess Mary this was shrugged off. I am happy to say there were no spying through the actual keyhole moments, but there were cleverly placed window alcoves and curtains.

There are times when I hear of yet another Tudor novel coming out and I want to scream, but I always look forward to Kate Emerson’s work. With Kate Emerson’s writing, you know what you are going to get. Her Secrets of the Tudor Court series are always cleverly descriptive and her passion for the Tudor era is evident. She skillfully weaves her stories blending fiction and fact to bring us the intriguing slice of life scenes set against a favorite period, and the novels are always page-turners. The King’s Damsel is no different, and I highly recommend it to historical fiction fans and especially Tudor fiction fans.

Book six, Royal Inheritance, will be out in 2013:
The protagonist of Royal Inheritance is Audrey Malte, allegedly the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. Audrey was raised as the “bastard daughter” of John Malte, the king’s tailor.



Filed under 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Bloody Mary, Kate Emerson, Tudor

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now on tour, and this month’s host is Cindy’s Love of Books

Here are some of the free EBooks I downloaded, the images of the EBooks are in the slideshow since there were quite a few:
(*Some of these are not free any longer* but Gohlke’s is..)

Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
Spanning the sinking of the “Titanic” to World War I, “Promise Me This” tells the story of one man’s determination to fulfill a promise he made–and of thewoman he has grown to love in the process.

Child of the Mist (The Highland Hills Book 1) by Kathleen Morgan

In the harsh Scottish highlands of 1565, superstition and treachery threaten a truce between rival clans. It’s a weak truce at first, bound only by an arranged engagement between Anne MacGregor and Niall Campbell-the heirs of the feuding families.

While Niall wrestles with his suspicions about a traitor in his clan, Anne’s actions do not go unnoticed. And as accusations of witchcraft abound, the strong and sometimes callous Campbell heir must fight for Anne’s safety among disconcerted clan members. Meanwhile his own safety in threatened with the ever-present threat of someone who wants him dead.
Will Niall discover the traitor’s identity in time? Can Anne find a way to fit into her new surroundings? Will the two learn to love each other despite the conflict? With a perfect mix of a burgeoning romance and thrilling suspense, this book is historical fiction at its best.

The Marriage Pact by MJ Pullen

Marci Thompson always knew what life would be like by her 30th birthday. A large but cozy suburban home shared with a charming husband and two brilliant children. A celebrated career as an established writer, complete with wall-to-wall mahogany shelves and a summer book tour. A life full of adventure with her friends and family by her side.

Instead, Marci lives alone in 480 square feet of converted motel space next to a punk rock band, hundreds of miles from her friends and family. She works in a temporary accounting assignment that has somehow stretched from two weeks into nine months. And the only bright spot in her life, not to mention the only sex she’s had in two years, is an illicit affair with her married boss, Doug. Thirty is not at all what it is cracked up to be.

Then the reappearance of a cocktail napkin she hasn’t seen in a decade opens a long-forgotten door, and Marci’s life gets complicated, fast. The lines between right and wrong, fantasy and reality, heartache and happiness are all about to get very blurry, as Marci faces the most difficult choices of her life.

Heart of Gold by Lacy Williams

Wyoming, 1902–Ranch foreman Charlie Welch suspects his boss’s daughter has returned home with purely selfish motives–she wants money.
After being estranged from her father for years, Opal Bright hopes her homecoming will result in both reconciliation and a solution to help the orphanage she sponsors back home in Omaha.
When Charlie and Opal find themselves mixed up with a ragtag group of bandits and trapped in an abandoned gold mine, they must risk everything to survive… including their hearts.

Of Moths and Butterflies by V.R. Christensen

Archer Hamilton is a collector of rare and beautiful insects. Gina Shaw is a servant in his uncle’s house. Clearly out of place in the position in which she has been discovered, she becomes a source of fascination . . . and curiosity. A girl with a blighted past and a fortune she deems a curse, Gina has lowered herself in order to find escape from her family and their scheming designs. But when she is found, the stakes suddenly become dire. All Gina wants is the freedom to live her life as she would wish. All her aunts want is the money that comes with her. But there is more than one way to trap an insect. An arranged marriage might turn out profitable for more parties than one. Mr. Hamilton is about to make the acquisition of a lifetime. But will the price be worth it? Can a woman captured and acquired learn to love the man who has bought her?

Night Swim by Jessica Keener
Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents’ lifestyle appears enviable – a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children – but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her well-dressed, pill-popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents’ arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives. Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when their mother dies in a car crash one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen consequences. In a story that will make you laugh and cry, Night Swim shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.

Walking on Broken Glass by Christa Allen

Leah Thornton’s life, like her Southern Living home, has great curb appeal. But a paralyzing encounter with a can of frozen apple juice in the supermarket shatters the façade, forcing her to admit that all is not as it appears. When her best friend gets in Leah’s face about her refusal to deal with her life, Leah is forced to make an agonizing decision. Can she sacrifice what she wants to get what she needs? Joy, sadness, and pain converge, testing Leah’s commitment to her marriage, her motherhood, and her faith.

Love’s Sacred Song by Mesu Andrews
Standing in the massive shadow of his famous father, young king Solomon wavers between fear and bravado, wisdom and folly. In the uncertain world of alliances and treachery, Solomon longs for peace and a love that is true and pure–a love that can be his cornerstone.

A shepherdess in the northern city of Shunem, Arielah remembers the first time she laid eyes on Solomon in Jerusalem when she was just seven years old. Since then she has known that it was her destiny to become his bride. When her father, a leader of their tribe, secures a promise from King Solomon to marry Arielah as a treaty bride to help unite the kingdom, it seems her dreams may come true.

But how can this simple shepherdess live as part of Solomon’s harem? Can Solomon set aside his distractions to give himself completely to just one woman? Or will he let duty, deception, and the daily routine divide his heart?

Out of Control (The Kindcaid Brides) by Mary Connealy

Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. She particularly enjoys her outings to the cavern near her father’s homestead, where she explores for fossils and formations, and plans to write a book about her discoveries. The cave seems plenty safe–until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to find her way out.

Rafe Kincaid has spent years keeping his family’s cattle ranch going, all without help from his two younger brothers, who fled the ranch–and Rafe’s controlling ways–as soon as they were able. He’s haunted by one terrible day at the cave on a far-flung corner of the Kincaid property, a day that changed his life forever. Ready to put the past behind him, he plans to visit the cave one final time. He sure doesn’t expect to find a young woman trapped in one of the tunnels–or to be forced to kiss her!

Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he’s ever known, but how can he overlook her fascination with the cave he despises? And when his developing relationship with Julia threatens his chance at reconciliation with his brothers, will he be forced to choose between the family bonds that could restore his trust and the love that could heal his heart?

The Apothecary’s Daughter (very excited about this one) by Julie Klassen
Lillian Haswell, brilliant daughter of the local apothecary, yearns for more adventure and experience than life in her father’s shop and their small village provides. She also longs to know the truth behind her mother’s disappearance, which villagers whisper about but her father refuses to discuss. Opportunity comes when a distant aunt offers to educate her as a lady in London. Exposed to fashionable society and romance–as well as clues about her mother–Lilly is torn when she is summoned back to her ailing father’s bedside. Women are forbidden to work as apothecaries, so to save the family legacy, Lilly will have to make it appear as if her father is still making all the diagnoses and decisions. But the suspicious eyes of a scholarly physician and a competing apothecary are upon her. As they vie for village prominence, three men also vie for Lilly’s heart.

Legacy Lane (Book One in the Harts Crossing) Robin Lee Hatcher

Angie Hunter left Hart’s Crossing for college and never looked back. So when her widowed mother needs care following surgery, Angie is more than ready to hire a nurse rather than return to her antiquated hometown. But when she is passed over for a promotion at work, an angry Angie quits and heads home anyway.

Francine Hunter is both excited and nervous about having her daughter home for the next two months. She sees this as her chance to make a new connection with her estranged daughter. Will she be able to nudge Angie toward faith without overdoing it? Or will Angie pack up and leave for a new job as soon as Francine has recovered?

Sarai: A Novel (Wives of the Patriarchs, Book One) by Jill Eileen Smith

Sarai, the last child of her aged father, is beautiful, spoiled, and used to getting her own way. Even as a young girl, she is aware of the way men look at her, including her half brother Abram. When Abram finally requests Sarai’s hand, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even her father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if Sarai makes a promise in return–to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.

But as the years stretch on and Sarai’s womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain–lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram’s patience last?

Jill Eileen Smith thrilled readers with The Wives of King David series. Now she brings to life the strong and celebrated wives of the patriarchs, beginning with the beautiful and inscrutable Sarai.

A Texan’s Honor (Heart of a Hero Book #2) by Shelley Gray
Shortest, lamest synopsis ever… but I do love the cover very much!
U.S. Marshal Will McMillan risks his mission to rescue Jamie Ellis. Will it cost him is life or just his heart?

Those were all just for me and my own addicting pleasure of free ebooks, bwahhaahaa… the next are for review:

Need You Now by Beth Wiseman, (April 2012) from Thomas Nelson (Reading now)

When big-city life threatens the safety of one of their children, Brad and Darlene Henderson move with their three teenagers from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas.
Adjusting to small-town life is difficult for the kids, especially fifteen-year-old Grace who is coping in a dangerous way.
Married life hasn’t always been bliss, but their strong faith has carried them through the difficult times. When Darlene takes a job outside the home for the first time in their marriage, the domestic tension rises.
While working with special needs children at her new job, the widowed father of one of Darlene’s students starts paying more attention to her than is appropriate. Problem is, she feels like someone is listening to her for the first time in a long time. If Darlene ever needed God . . . it’s now.

Book of Summers by Emylia Hall (MIRA publication May 29, 2012)
For nine-year-old Beth Lowe, it should have been a magical summer-sun-kissed days lounging in rickety deck chairs, nights gathered around the fire. But what begins as an innocent vacation to Hungary ends with the devastating separation of her parents. Beth and her father return home alone, leaving her mother, Marika, behind.  Over the next seven summers, Beth walks a tightrope between worlds, fleeing her quiet home and distant father to bask in the intoxicating Hungarian countryside with Marika. It is during these enthralling summers that Beth comes to life and learns to love. But at sixteen, she uncovers a life-shattering secret, bringing her sacred summers with Marika abruptly to an end.  Now, years later, Beth receives a package containing a scrapbook, a haunting record of a time long forgotten. Suddenly, she is swept back to the world she left behind, forced to confront the betrayal that destroyed her-and to search her heart for forgiveness.

Sixty Acres and A Bride by Regina Jennings (February 1, 2012)

With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to Texas and the family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have only three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa can’t keep herself from falling in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. Learning the American customs is not easy, however, and this beautiful young widow can’t help but catch wandering eyes. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, to what lengths will Rosa go to save her future?

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell (March 1, 2012)
Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith…until her twin brother joined the Colonial cause and ended up in jail. She longs to bring some measure of comfort to him in the squalid prison, but her faith forbids it. The Friends believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. She is not allowed to visit him, even if she were able to secure a pass.

Jeremiah Jones, a Colonial spy, needs access to the jail to help rescue me important to the cause. Upon meeting Hannah, a plan begins to develop. Who would suspect a pious Quaker visiting a loved one?

But Jeremiah is unprepared for Hannah, for her determination to do right, to not lie. How can one be a spy and not lie? Hannah, in turn, is surprised by Jeremiah…for the way he forces her to confront her own beliefs, for the sensitivity and concern he shows her despite the wounds he still carries.

In a time of war, can two unlikely heroes find the courage to act?

It is said that history is written by the winners. However, the “winners” aren’t always the best historians. Enter David Haviland, to set the record straight. In his quirky, inimitable style, Haviland separates fact from fiction regarding some of history’s most well-known people and events, such as: Lady Godiva: By far, history’s most famous nudist equestrian. But how nude was she, really? And how did this same legend give rise to the term “Peeping Tom”? The Boston Tea Party: What was the cause of this famous “party” that wasn’t really a party? (Hint: If you guessed a rise in taxes, you’re dead wrong!) World War I: How did a directionally challenged chauffeur spark the Great War? Queen Victoria: Nowadays, the word “Victorian” is synonymous with stuffy prudishness. But would a prude pose nude for a provocative portrait, or become “close” with a young Indian servant? In The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva, Haviland untangles fallacy, farce, and misrepresentation of historic proportions. The end result is a wholly fascinating, highly educational compendium of historical folly that will entertain readers young and old!

AND….. the last-but-not-least Review book, the sequel to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall “BRING UP THE BODIES“.. Now how awesome of a title is that??? Here I am in all my dorky Saturday Glory when it came:

But I haven’t read Wolf Hall yet. So, maybe I should. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm………
This one is not as chunky as Wolf Hall is though. It’s description is:
By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In Bring up the Bodies, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. From history’s darkroom, this novel offers a speaking picture to the modern world, a vision of Tudor England so recognizable it defies archaism. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.

And from Paperbackswap, I received Mary Tudor: A Life by David Loades
Few English monarchs have a worse reputation than Mary Tudor. She has been seen both as a religious fanatic who tried against the will of her people to reverse the course of the Reformation and as the pawn of her husband, Philip II of Spain – her infatuation with whom led her to betray England’s vital interests. How this pious, and by contemporary accounts, gentle woman aroused an antipathy that survives until the present is a central question in David Loades’s sensitive biography, now in paperback. Based on research into the documents of the time (many newly uncovered) the compelling story of Mary’s life is revealed here in unprecedented detail and depth, packed with incident and intrigue, and enmeshed in the politics of secular and religious struggle in England and Europe.

Yea, that was a Huge Mailbox. Huge. I predict four of these getting read in the next three months.


Filed under Bloody Mary, Christian Fiction, David Loades, E-Books, Inspirational, Mailbox Monday

>Book Review: The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner


The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (February 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0312658502
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!!
The Burton Review Rating:Five Glorious Stars!

Once upon a time there was a writer striving to become published so he did it his own way via the self-publication route. Out came The Secret Lion: Book One of The Spymaster Chronicles and although it caught my eye, it wasn’t readily available unless I wanted to pay a pretty penny. Several years later, this same author found huge success with his 2009 novel The Last Queen, and then again with The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. I loved these two novels as C.W. Gortner easily became my favorite male author to read. Imagine my joy when I heard that Gortner’s first spy novel had been picked up by St. Martin’s Griffin for a reissue after Gortner tweaked it up a bit. I was thrilled to receive a review copy of one of the first Tudor novels that had originally sparked my interest a few years ago. Gortner has another hit on his hands, as once again he takes the blogging community by storm with the story of a fictional character inserted directly into the intrigues of the dangerous Tudor courts.

This new novel takes on the name The Tudor Secret and follows a young squire Brendan Prescott who is a new arrival at a court that is about to become entwined once again in its perils of succession. King Edward VI is dying, and the Dudley family that raised Brendan the foundling is controlling all information in and out so that no one really knows what is going on with the young King. Princess Elizabeth has few friends, and one of those is Master Cecil. Brendan realizes quickly that his own survival depends on cooperating with Cecil and his cohort the deadly Walsingham.. all in a bid to save Elizabeth from peril at the hands of the scheming Dudley upstarts.

Most Tudor fans know the story of  how the monarchy changed hands from King Edward to Lady Jane and finally Queen Mary I. Gortner doesn’t bore us with the replaying of these same historical details and the struggle of the people during these times. Instead, he turns this well-known story into a spine-tingling mystery of many depths with romance, friendship and loyalty as underlying themes. I found the mystery angle to be well written and expertly interwoven into historic events, making this an unforgettable story for Tudor fiction fans. The Tudor Secret also shows a rare outsider’s look at Elizabeth and her sister Mary, as opposed to the many Tudor reads that typically focus on a noble or member of the royal family. I relished the tones of deviousness that Gortner put on some regular faces such as the Dudley men who I love to hate, Frances Brandon and Master Stokes. And I loved the rare favorable look at Cecil, who becomes Elizabeth’s biggest ally during her reign. Although some Tudor aficionados may take slight with the convenient plot twists that Gortner utilizes, I loved every scandalous moment. Any book that has me itching to get back to it is a win-win in the entertainment department, and this blends two genres that I love seamlessly together: historical fiction and mystery, set in one of my favorite eras to read about.

The Tudor Secret is full of suspense and fast-paced adventures which is an exciting departure from Gortner’s previous successful novels which focused on members of royal families, and I cannot wait for another Spymaster Chronicles novel! Those who are bored with the everyday Tudor-style novel should find a renewed interest in the genre with this new perception from a commoner new to the courts. C.W. Gortner is easily my favorite male author at this time for historical fiction, whether it is this historical mystery genre or otherwise. Congrats to C.W. for another excellent novel that I would love to recommend to any Tudor fiction fan, and it was well worth my wait. Five stars for its entertainment value, its mystery twists and the scandalous secrets!


Filed under 16th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Bloody Mary, C.W. Gortner, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, Tudor

>Book Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock


Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
Random House, September 7, 2010 USA
Pages: 416
Hardcover 978-1-4000-6609 $28.00
(UK: Bloomsbury May 4, 2009)
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars, bordering towards 4

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.

Though often overshadowed by her long-reigning sister, Elizabeth I, Mary lived a life full of defiance, despair, and triumph. Born the daughter of the notorious King Henry VIII and the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, young Mary was a princess in every sense of the word—schooled in regal customs, educated by the best scholars, coveted by European royalty, and betrothed before she had reached the age of three. Yet in a decade’s time, in the wake of King Henry’s break with the pope, she was declared a bastard, disinherited, and demoted from “princess” to “lady.” Ever her deeply devout mother’s daughter, Mary refused to accept her new status or to recognize Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn, as queen. The fallout with her father and his counselors nearly destroyed the teenage Mary, who faced imprisonment and even death.

It would be an outright battle for Mary to work herself back into the king’s favor, claim her rightful place in the Tudor line, and ultimately become queen of England, but her coronation would not end her struggles. She flouted the opposition and married Philip of Spain, sought to restore Catholicism to the nation, and fiercely punished the resistance. But beneath her brave and regal exterior was a dependent woman prone to anxiety, whose private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses, and unrequited love played out in the public glare of the fickle court.

Anna Whitelock, an acclaimed young British historian, chronicles this unique woman’s life from her beginnings as a heralded princess to her rivalry with her sister to her ascent as ruler. In brilliant detail, Whitelock reveals that Mary Tudor was not the weak-willed failure as so often rendered by traditional narratives but a complex figure of immense courage, determination, and humanity.

You must forgive the length of this review. It is indicative of a thought process of my views on Mary and my struggle to find the inner persona of Bloody Mary. Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII is well known as Bloody Mary due to the many burnings of the heretics during her reign as queen. Daughter of the pious Katherine of Aragon, Mary was strictly Catholic and refused to acknowledge anything other that Catholicism just as she refused to acknowledge her half-sister Elizabeth I as anything other than the whore’s daughter. Queen Elizabeth seems to be the one who is remembered more fondly than Queen Mary, even though it was Queen Mary who was the first female anointed queen. Why is Elizabeth the more exalted? Is it the fact that Elizabeth reigned for a longer amount of time and therefore was privy to more successful events such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada? Was it because of the reign of James I after Elizabeth I that everyone started to realize what they were missing once Elizabeth was gone? The reign of Mary was a difficult one with a strained marriage to King Philip of Spain, which the Englishmen did not appreciate a Spaniard and his consorts infringing on their territory. But Mary was always her mother’s daughter, and embraced her Spanish blood along with her uncle Charles V as well as the Catholic religion. The stubbornness and defiance of Mary has always intrigued me, and I am always eager for more light to be shed on the figure of Queen Mary I, who is often overshadowed by her terrorizing father and later the successful reign of her sister.

The purpose of reading biographies for me is to gain further insight into the actual character of the person, and to find some sort of hidden truth that I had previously missed. The persona of “Bloody” Mary is one that has been debated for many years and I wanted to form my own opinion about her. I have read several novels on Mary, but nothing non-fiction that specifically focused on Mary. Those novels would also slant one way or the other in regards to Mary’s character: she was either a religious zealot or a victim of her father’s tyranny. Perhaps she was a little of both. I wanted to discover something tangible that would help me to form a better opinion of her; perhaps something that I had not grasped previously.

With this Tudor biography we are thrusted quickly into the Anne-Boleyn-hater world. Anna Whitelock, author of Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen presents Bloody Mary’s biography in such a way as to martyr Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor while throwing the whole mess of blame on to Anne Boleyn’s doorstep. What I wanted out of this book was another look at Mary along with some little known tidbits and facts, yet I had not expected the extreme slant against Anne Boleyn. Even I realize that Katherine was treated unfairly when Henry’s devotion turned to Anne, but was it all Anne’s fault for the events that occurred that lead to Katherine and Mary’s fall from their father’s grace? Anna Whitelock believes it so. She heavily relies on Chapuys, the imperial ambassador for Charles V, cousin to Katherine, and later Simon Renard. Can we expect an unbiased view from Chapuys?

Whitelock writes: “When Anne went to visit her daughter {Elizabeth} at Hatfield in March, she wasted no time in humiliating her {Mary}. She ‘urgently solicited’ Mary to visit her and ‘honour her as Queen’ saying that it ‘would be a means of reconciliation with the King, and she would intercede with him for her’. Mary replied that ‘she knew no other Queen in England except her mother’ but that if Anne would do her that favor with her father she would be much obliged.”

Why does Whitelock see this as only being humiliating to Mary?  Why can’t she see it as Anne extending an olive branch to her step-daughter to try and keep the peace, with which Mary spurned and shoved away? This point of view and the authors tone turned me off, but once we got past the Anne Boleyn period the author was more pragmatic in her telling of Mary’s story. And since Mary’s story is reflective of the times themselves, the author then went into the main events of England with more detail than I needed, especially where the rest of Henry’s wives were concerned. I am annoyed with the fact that with each Tudor-themed read they must then go into the monotonous stories of the succession of Henry’s six wives. The issue at hand was Mary Tudor, and I didn’t get any information about Mary as the author told the seemingly obligatory six wives story. The relationships of the wives with Mary were not expounded upon either.

The six wives period is heavily laced with Mary’s father instructing her to abandon her mother’s wishes and to obey Henry as Supreme Head of the Church. This was the main storyline for several chapters. Finally, Henry dies, Mary’s young brother Edward is King, and then Edward takes up the task of harassing Mary about her religion. To Mary’s credit, she never disavowed her Catholicism and always stood firm in regards to hearing mass. Even when I had thought it would just be so much easier to live in peace with the kingdom and to go with the flow of the reformation, I was empathetic towards Mary during this time. She was resolute in the manner even after she realized that many of her staunch supporters were punished or killed because of their loyalty to Mary. I would have been interested to read about how Mary reacted to these punishments towards her supporters, but all the author lets through is the fact that Mary moans that she is losing her friends. Is this a selfish motive or was she truly bemoaning their fate? Mary even had the notion to flee England when the pressure for her to convert became too much, but she stood her ground and realized her place was in England and that her destiny was to be its Queen.

When Edward took the throne, the will of Henry was disregarded when Edward Seymour became the Lord Protector. Henry wanted the council of sixteen to help advise Edward but “it was agreed” that Edward Seymour was the best choice as a Lord Protector. Eventually he steps on too many toes and is done away with. Nearing his death and fearing the work he has done is about to be thwarted by the Catholic Mary, Edward declares both of his sisters as illegitimate which means that the Duke of Northumberland’s plans to gain the throne for his own son Guildford could actually work if he married Lady Jane Grey, the next relative in line. Once Edward VI dies, Mary rightfully seizes the chance to rise up and grab the throne herself. This is where I hoped the biography would take off, which was a little more than halfway through the book. She seemingly was the opposite of her brother in beliefs; the author writes that Edward changed his father’s will and the succession that Henry had laid out which had recognized Mary and Elizabeth. Again, there was a lot of back story that could have been told here, but we merely get the fact that John Dudley, Earl of Northumberland was an upstart and he was dealt with summarily after his plan for Lady Jane to become Queen had backfired.

What was heartening was the support for Mary at her accession. I had never read such a swift but thorough account of the rising for Mary to win back the throne. The people loved her, she was their once revered Queen’s daughter, and they were ready for the reform against the papistry to end and the destruction of the monasteries to be over. The people were beginning to show signs of their hatred of a currupted government and Mary was a beacon for Catholicism and to restore a sense of righteousness back to the royal crown. An interesting point that was made by the author was the fact that after years of relying on the Imperial ambassador and Charles V to help Mary’s cause, they decided to not help her win her crown back, as he didn’t think she would be the victor. Whitelock portrays the procession and coronation with an eye for detail unlike I have previously seen. I was amazed at how much the English were ready to welcome Mary as their Queen, regardless that she was a woman. It seems the government under the Lord Protector of Edward VI and then the Dudleys along with the Edwardian Reformation was a bit too much for the common people. Another interesting note was that the everlasting 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, held Mary’s crown for her during the coronation festivities.

Mary’s relationship with her husband Philip seemed to cause the most discontent to her people, and the fact that she failed in providing an heir. Mary was willing to ignore her people’s wishes when she chose to marry Philip, stating that it was for the good of the realm and to secure the Catholic religion for England’s future. Yet, the false pregnancies seemed to turn the people against her, as she lost their favor when she could not secure the Catholic succession, just as her mother could not provide her husband with the longed-for male heir. All eyes turned towards Elizabeth, the next obvious successor, who was Protestant, but the daughter of the hated Anne Boleyn. Which religion to choose? Did some choose Catholicism only to survive Mary’s reign, knowing that soon Elizabeth would pick up the task of the late King Edward’s reformation?

I would have enjoyed seeing more of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth I and how their relationship grew or faltered, but there was not much that included Elizabeth during the bulk of the biography except that Mary did not trust her and supposed her to be her mother’s daughter and a heretic. Elizabeth was implicated in the several plots that occurred during Mary’s reign, but nothing was proven. Edward and Mary seemed cordial enough until Edward became the Protestant leader and Mary skirted around Edward the issues as much as possible.

To move onwards to the writing itself, the sixty-six chapters were extremely short, which makes for an easy look-back type process if you wanted to look into a specific aspect of Mary’s life. The writing was clear and concise and full of details in regards to Mary, but was lacking that a-ha moment of insight for me. The tempo was even and undramatic which made the getting through the book a longer process. I have now gained a new-found respect for Alison Weir, whom others tend to criticize when her sentences contain words such as “could have” “would have” and “perhaps”, but I missed that train of thought in this biography. In contrast, Whitelock stays true to the well known story and the repeating of ‘letters and papers’ even though she tends to rely on not so reliable sources. There were more issues discussed in this biography than are typically addressed in novels, such as those that concerned the many plots that rose against Mary, which helped to illustrate the amount of unrest that Mary’s reign carried. Since I was looking for more insight into the character of Mary, I would have appreciated further intuition which Weir would typically provide with her pondering style of commentary.

There is not an extreme wealth of new information for the Tudor buff with this biography, but plenty of facts that may help to form your own opinion on Mary Tudor, a much misunderstood figure. The author did well when exuding the nuances and the religious beliefs of the times.With the quick chapters and the look at some issues that have not been overly written of before, this would be an excellent read for those who are looking for a look at the Tudor times that Mary lived in and ultimately reigned over. Overall, I came away with the feeling that Mary was not as much a “misaligned” figure as some like to claim. She was stubborn and adamant with her religion which is admirable, yet the amount of intolerance she expressed is still something that I cannot condone. She relied on her husband Philip for affairs of state, as Whitelock stated that she wrote to him imploring him to come back to England to help to control her government. Bringing a foreigner like Philip, who also brought England to war with France, was not something that England was ready for. The acts of Mary should not be reflected on the writer, though, and I would recommend this biography for those who would like to glean more information regarding the beliefs of Mary and to gain an accurate portrayal of England during Mary’s reign. I am still on the hunt for something that would make me more empathetic towards Mary, I really want to like her, but no matter how hard Whitelock tried to show Mary as a misunderstood woman I could not garner that full realization with this telling, though I do agree with the characterization of “the complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity”.

I found this interesting quote regarding this book, which I agree with in all ways except the great verve part:
‘This rollercoaster of a story is told by Whitelock with great verve and pace…It is good to find this book saluted as ‘an impressive and powerful debut’ by David Starkey: he has recently been quoted denouncing the feminisation of history by women biographers. Clearly he is able to lay aside such sentiments when faced with a proper historical work. Quite right too.’ (Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday)


Filed under 16th Century, 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Bloody Mary, Catherine of Aragon, New Release, Tudor

>Book Review: The Secrets of The Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson


Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket (January 5, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1416583271
Review copy provided by the author
The Burton Review Rating:Four Stars

Product Description:

Pretty, flirtatious, and ambitious. Nan Bassett hopes that an appointment at the court of King Henry VIII will bring her a grand marriage. But soon after she becomes a maid of honor to Queen Jane, the queen dies in childbirth. As the court plunges into mourning, Nan sets her sights on the greatest match in the land…for the king has noticed her. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time King Henry has chosen to wed a maid of honor. And in newly Protestant England, where plots to restore the old religion abound, Nan may be the only one who can reassure a suspicious king of her family’s loyalty. But the favor of a king can be dangerous and chancy, not just for Nan, but for her family as well…and passionate Nan is guarding a secret, one that could put her future — and her life — in grave jeopardy should anyone discover the truth.

Based on the life of the real Anne Bassett and her family, and drawing extensively from letters and diaries of the time, Between Two Queens is an enthralling picture of the dangers and delights of England’s most passionate era.

In Kate Emerson’s second installment in the Secrets of The Tudor Court series, Emerson brings to life the character she imagines as Nan Bassett. Called ‘Nan’ by her friends, there is not a lot known about Anne Bassett, this mistress of Henry VIII, except that he had courted her briefly. How far that went is unknown, but Henry seemed to be fond of her. The author takes this a bit further, and has Nan in the midst of Tudor court intrigues, as a maid of honor to Jane Seymour, albeit quite briefly due to Queen Jane’s death; and then as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, and eventually to Queen Mary Tudor.

But we are treated to more than just the coquettish ways of the courtiers: the author cleverly inserts facts of the times such as habits and foods, and the politics of the factions within the court as well. The writing style is adept at inserting these facts without turning it into a history lesson, and those readers who would truly like to learn more about the customs and traditions of Tudor England will appreciate the references the author relays. Along with the many details offered, there is a wide cast of characters within the novel, from Nan’s large family to the courtiers and the movers and shakers of the time. The author supplies a genealogical chart, and an informative Who’s Who section as well.

Since Nan spent time in Calais, then still an English possession, we are also privy to the unrest in Calais. Nan’s stepfather, to whom the author portrays as being close to Nan, was Lord Lisle, Deputy of Calais, otherwise known as Arthur Plantagenet. He was the illegitimate son of Edward IV, and Henry VIII’s uncle. Lord Lisle becomes implicated in a treasonous plot, along with some of the family members, while Nan needs to find ways to help her family without implicating herself in the process. Thomas Cromwell figures heavily here as well, as Cromwell dislikes Lord Lisle and believes he is incompetent in Calais. When Lord Lisle was arrested in 1540, the letters that were seized during this arrest were preserved, which in turn did historians a great service.

Nan’s mother is also featured, who was Honor Grenville, and in her second marriage to Lord Lisle had found herself in a higher standing than she had enjoyed with her previous husband; whom she had her children by. Emerson doesn’t go into great detail regarding the personal lives of the many siblings of Nan; they are seen more in the background and perhaps as a bit less than supporting characters. Their mentions are more along the lines of who and when they are going to marry.

Nan would like to have an advantageous marriage herself, and this is the characteristic that we are heavily introduced to in the beginning of Emerson’s novel, which did not endear me to her right away. But, as the novel progressed, Nan’s better side began to show through as if she had matured as we read on, and she was more careful than I expected her to be. Such as when the author takes liberties and invents an affair with one of her father’s men, Ned Corbett, and they have a child together. It was an intriguing storyline that could have ended badly as far as plot and predictability, but the storyline was played out well which was surprising. The author inserted this fictitious affair into the story, but it created an interesting plot and served the story well.

The novel weaves its way through the everyday court life, with comings and goings as we learn more about how life was during the period. There are not a lot of dramatics, but as a reader I came to also hope for Nan’s ultimate goal of securing a stable future for herself. She wisely conducted herself when she was with the king and did not flaunt whatever relationship she and others perceived her to have with him. When Catherine Howard comes into the picture, Nan doesn’t fight for a place as Henry’s mistress, as we would expect her to do, and I found this refreshing. It seems that Nan did ultimately but briefly achieve a sense of happiness, but her life also could be seen as one that was full of hardship and sacrifice.

I was intrigued by the way that Emerson portrayed Catherine Howard, which was more as shrewd young woman rather than the naive twit that we are used to. I enjoyed the name dropping the author deftly employed as I enjoy trying to place who was where, when and why; although those newer to the time period may find the multitude of names confusing and unwarranted. Emerson seems to take great care to provide her readers with a full sense of the Tudor times, with all of the main characters present.

The use of the title Between Two Queens made me think… as the book was not necessarily about two queens. But the fact that Nan was ‘stuck’ between two queens could be cause for discussion. Nan’s only source of income and status was as a maid of honor, and she was briefly one for Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Mary Tudor. Much of the focus is within the time period that Henry was looking for a wife, and Henry was without one when Jane had died after childbirth. There was a time when Christina of Milan was purpoted to be the Queen, but she would not have him. Anne of Cleves was next, and luckily survived the marital state. Catherine Howard, a fellow maid of honor with Nan, was selected as the next Queen. One wonders if Nan had a shrewd uncle, like Catherine had in the Duke of Norfolk, if Nan could have been advanced further. But Nan’s family had clung to the ‘old ways’ and the Catholic religion, although they tried to stay low during the Reformation and Henry’s reign. They did not succeed fully in that endeavor, as Nan’s mother and stepfather were implicated and held in the Botolph plot, thus further tainting Nan’s own reputation.

The author Kate Emerson mentions that she relied heavily on the six volume edition of The Lisle Letters compiled by Muriel St. Clare Byrne, which comprises of multiple family members’ letters and correspondence primarily between the years of 1533 -1540. Emerson astutely derives facts from these letters and reconstructs Nan Bassett’s life surrounding the facts within these letters. As a work of fiction, readers need to be aware that most of what is in this story regarding Nan is what the author imagines “could be true”, but I still enjoyed this story on a Mistress Anne Bassett, for whom will always be within a shroud of mystery, as with many historic figures of Tudor times are. Those who wish for drama akin to Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl may be disappointed, however. As a Tudor junkie myself, I enjoyed the education within the story and the writing style of Kate Emerson made this a pleasurable read for me. Instead of focusing on the life of royalty or kings and queens, this is an endearing work of fiction about a female struggling to maintain a safe existence within the many intrigues of the Tudor Courts.

For those wanting to know, Kate Emerson’s previous Secrets of The Tudor Court: Pleasure Palace is pertaining to a different family altogether. These two novels are stand alone, although I did enjoy the first one as well (see my review). Kate Emerson also created an inspired guest post during the first Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Event, and you can read that here at The Burton Review. Kate Emerson is a pseudonym for Kathy Lynn Emerson, and she also writes mysteriesand non-fiction works. She has also created a very interesting website devoted to Tudor women.


Filed under Bloody Mary, Henry VIII, Kate Emerson, Review, Tudor

>Giveaway & Interview with Julianne Lee, author of new release HER MOTHER’S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL OF QUEEN MARY TUDOR

> The Burton Review is honored to have had the opportunity to ask author Julianne Lee a few questions regarding her newest novel, “HER MOTHER’S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL OF QUEEN MARY TUDOR”. Keep reading for details on the giveaway sponsored by her publishers at Berkely!

In your previous novel, “A Question of Guilt: A Novel of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Death of Henry Darnley“, Mary Stuart was the focus of the plot as a ‘vilified’ queen. Your newest book, “Her Mother’s Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor” also addresses the ‘vilified’ queen topic. What was it about these two Queens that inspired you to write their stories?

Well, there are several reasons for choosing these subjects. Initially, it was a fascination with Scottish history that drew me to Mary Stuart. But when I studied her story, I saw that she’d been at the mercy of the men around her, who just didn’t know how to be led by a woman. Her situation was impossible, and the question of whether or not she was a good queen was unanswerable, because she’d not really been allowed to be queen at all. She was seen only as a prize, and secondary to the prize of the crown which everyone assumed would go to the man who married her.

Then when I read about Queen Mary Tudor, I realized I was actually identifying with her a little. Divorced parents, life expectations trashed, sense of safety destroyed…as I read, I had glimpses of the terrified woman she must have been. I felt compelled to write about her, and it was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever written.

Upon setting out to write these novels, was your ultimate goal to convince your readers that these Queens were indeed vilified for no reason?

Not really. As a former journalist, I prefer to just tell the story and let the reader draw her own conclusions. With Mary Stuart, I truly didn’t see the ending until I wrote it. And even then I don’t think the character of Janet decided anything hard and fast. With Mary Tudor, it was more complex. She may have been misunderstood by history, but at the end of the day we’re left with the fact that she did order the burnings of nearly 300 people. My only wish was to examine the psychology and circumstances that led to her decisions, without coloring her as evil or psychotic.

For your historical research, did you have the opportunity to visit Europe ? (If so, please tell us your favorite landmark!)

Oh, yes! I’ve written many books set in historical Scotland , and have visited the U.K. three times since ’99, and Germany once. I finished the last 6,000 words of my first novel at the Glenfinnan House Hotel, with a view of the Prince Charles monument, and Ben Nevis off down the glen. In ’03 I spent a week on Skye, taking an immersion course in Scots Gaelic. In ’05 I drove with a friend up to Lewis, then back down to Wales . On Lewis we visited some standing stones, and spotted an ancient tower just off the road just before sunset, and were able to stop and visit it in the quiet of the day. We could hear sheep bleating in the distance, and the peace was overwhelming. It was difficult to leave.

I’m a huge believer in hands-on research. When I couldn’t quite picture how to use a drop-spindle, I found someone who knew how to do it and could teach me. When I needed to describe a Scottish festival, I went to one. When I had characters cooking with fire, I hung a pot hook in my own fireplace and learned to use it. I’ve taken fencing classes, karate, and a couple of years ago I took up quilting by hand.

While writing “Her Mother’s Daughter”, did the progression of any of your characters surprise you? Or did you try and stick to the tried-and-true of each character?

I’m not sure what “tried and true” means with characters. They do tend to think for themselves sometimes. With Queen Mary, it was a process of discovery more like peeling away layers than the sort of observation one does with fictional characters. Fictional characters sometimes just walk around on their own with no help from me. Mary was an onion, which I kept peeling down and down. I did rather like Simon Renard, who turned out a little more dashing than I’d pictured him at first. He’s an historical figure, and when I found a portrait of him I went, “Hm…pretty.”

Did you enjoy a particular supporting character more than the rest?

Nicolo Delarosa, the lute player, was adorable, I think. He’s completely fictional, and as he developed I just liked him more and more. And I felt sorry for him. He’s one of those sturdy, dependable guys who suffer quietly.

Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth plays a very small role in your story. Was this because you felt that they did not spend a lot of time together in general, or was it for the purposes of the plot line in general?

I may have ignored Elizabeth more than she deserved, and it was because there is so much written about her that I felt I didn’t need to contribute to the enormous mass of it. The same is true about Anne Boleyn, who also doesn’t figure largely in this story. I preferred to explore figures that were a little less known.

What are your assumptions regarding the relationship of Mary and each of her siblings?

When someone is your brother or sister, there’s not much you can do about it. Even when your family is not close and loving, or when a member of your family behaves badly, they are still your family. During the sixteenth century, family was even more important to an individual than it is now, particularly for women. I think that Mary must have struggled with feelings for her brother and sister ranging from deep love to deep anger. I think she cared for her brother, but perhaps not so much for her sister. Of course, that is just opinion. Nobody can know for certain how Mary felt about Edward and Elizabeth at any given time.

What are your own thoughts on Mary’s frequent illnesses and false pregnancies?

It seems to me that she had terrible psychosomatic problems. Possibly an ulcer. As much stress as she was under her entire life, it’s no wonder her health was dodgy.

You also write historical fantasy novels; which genre do you prefer to write, and why?

I like to tell stories. To me, it’s all good. One of the things I like best about writing historical fiction is that I get to show people that it’s not all just dry names and dates.

Do you have any other historical fiction novels in progress?

My next project is about Jane Grey.

Besides the Tudor or Elizabethan eras, is there another time period that interests you more than others?

None more than others. I’ve done books set during the Jacobite Rebellions of the early eighteenth century, and the Wars of Independence in the early fourteenth century. I’ve done Glen Coe as well. One book that was published in Germany but not in the U.S. is set during the American Civil War. Though it was never published in North America, “Kindred Spirits” is now available on my website as a P.D.F. download. (

For those wishing to read more on Mary Tudor, what books can you recommend to your readers that you used for your research?

Books about Mary Tudor herself tend to be a little spotty. There is some good information in Garrett Mattingly’s book “Catherine of Aragon.” Another book, “Bloody Mary’s Martyrs” by Jasper Ridley is recklessly anti-Mary, but it has some excellent descriptions of the burnings and the victims. “Mary Tudor” by David Loades has some little-known nuggets, and of course Carolly Erickson’s “Bloody Mary” gives a disctinctive perspective.

Thank you so much for your time!!!!

Thank you for your interest.

Julianne Lee
Her Mother’s Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor
Berkley, Dec 1. 2009

And now a question for my readers!!

Who wants to win a copy of Julianne Lee’s latest book, “Her Mother’s Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor” ?

Read my review here, comment on my review, come back to this post telling me you did so.

Also leave me an email address in case you win so I can contact you. I’ll have TWO winners, USA only please.

Giveaway entries welcome until 12/11/2009.



Filed under Author Interviews, Author Post, Bloody Mary, FREE, Julianne Lee, Tudor

>Book Review: Her Mother’s Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor by Julianne Lee

Her Mother’s Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor by Julianne Lee
ISBN: 0-425-23008-2/978-0-425-23008-4
Publisher: Berkley, December 1, 2009
Paperback, Historical Fiction, 336 pages. Amazon page.
Review copy provided by publisher
The Burton Review Rating:Four Stars!


A new novel of sixteenth-century royalty from the author of A Question of Guilt:

Her name was Mary Tudor. First of the Tudor queens, she has gone down in history as Bloody Mary. But does she deserve her vicious reputation?

She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and half-sister to Edward VI and Elizabeth I. Mary Tudor’s life began as the sweetly innocent, pampered princess of Wales – until the age of eleven when the father she adored cast aside the mother she worshipped and declared Mary a bastard. Only after years of exile did Mary finally rise to the throne alongside the man who, aside from her father, was her greatest love – and her greatest betrayer.

Told by Mary herself and the people around her, this grand-scale novel takes us back to the glittering court of sixteenth-century England, and tells the tragic story of a fascinating, largely misunderstood woman who withstood the treachery and passion around her only to become one of England’s most vilified queens.

Julianne Lee attempts to bring to modern day readers the sympathetic view of Mary Tudor, the misunderstood queen of the sixteenth century. Queen Mary did not have an easy life, and the author immediately sets off to show her readers the myriad of different situations that she was placed in due to the fact that she was the daughter of King Henry VIII. Most Tudor era fans know the story of this Mary Tudor, who was otherwise known as Bloody Mary due to her excessive execution of heretics. She was the only surviving issue of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII; at first treated as a princess should be until Henry divorced her mother. Yet, it is her younger half-sister, Elizabeth I, who gets the credit for being a strong female monarch in the sixteenth century.

The author shows how Mary may have felt when she was told by her mother that her father was divorcing her, which jeopardized Mary’s own status. She was stripped of her princess title, and simply became “Lady Mary.” We see how Mary was indeed her mother’s daughter, embracing the Catholic religion with zeal, as this was the only constant in her life. The story the author tells focuses on Mary’s life and the major events that occurred around her, although we very quickly advance in the author’s telling to Henry marrying Anne Boleyn, beheading her and taking Jane Seymour as a wife. Throughout this period we are privy to Mary’s personal thoughts as she despises Anne, yet yearns for her place at her father’s side. Henry is portrayed as unfeeling and callous towards his daughter Mary, but as doting on Elizabeth when she was a baby. Obviously for the sake of the story itself this works well in the author’s favor for attempting to achieve sympathy for Mary. How much of this is factual is for another book.

We blink, and Henry is dead and his only sickly son, Edward is on the throne at age 9. I don’t even recall the sixth wife being mentioned. With the bulk of the book being told in third person, we are privy to the council meetings and the thoughts that the council members had about Mary, being a Catholic twenty-four year old potential claimant to the throne, never mind the fact that she was a woman. Mary is shown as very insecure, very pious and of ill health. Whenever she was stressed, it put her in a dangerous state of illness. Mary had feared poison from the heretic Protestant factions, and was beginning to lose faith in her own father’s loyalty and regard for family ties. She always felt he would never execute her because of the fact that she was his daughter, but Henry was a ruthless man and did not like being refused his requests. This request in question (which spanned the first half of the book) that Henry demanded of her was going against the very grain of Mary’s Catholic faith, for Henry wanted Mary to recognize him as having authority over the church and the pope. Mary finally felt that she could no longer trust in her faith to keep her alive. It seems Mary’s only friend was her imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. He advised her in most things and she is shown as relying on him at critical times, just as he advised her to accept the Act of Supremacy, although with a helpful caveat. Upon doing so, Mary was finally allowed some peace, and was welcome at her father’s court after this long battle. She failed in the very things she lived for, such as having children and restoring England to the Catholic faith, and perhaps it was this failure that distressed her so much that caused her illnesses. But even through these failures, she unknowingly taught Elizabeth what to do or not do once Elizabeth ruled.

What makes this novel unique is the way it opened up, with a modern day setting; and then the rest of the story is being told in an almost flashback fashion as Mary periodically appears as she explains what happens next. The chapter would open up with an italicized paragraph of Mary speaking her mind, and that chapter would tie itself into that foreshadowing opening paragraph. Also unique, are the “extras” to the novel. There are commoners, from thieves to family men that have their chance to their story in this novel as well. Through their eyes we get a broad scope of what the political and religious turmoils that the people in England were subject to, and this also helped keep the novel intriguing.

As a Tudor junkie, I enjoyed it. As a historical fiction reader, I loved it. There is nothing that I can say in hindsight that I think the author should have done differently. The writing flowed simply and I was entertained by the clever outline of the novel with the diary style entries by Mary and the outlooks from the commoners. This was a unique approach towards a story that has been told many times before, but truly gives a realistic touch towards the humanity of Bloody Mary. The author successfully portrayed Mary in a more favorable light as we begin to understand the depth of Mary’s faith and the mechanisms behind it. As the story progresses, we are more empathetic towards Mary as we witness the accounts of the relationships that Mary had with her family and her controversial husband, Philip of Spain. For the many readers who like to focus on the Tudor era, this is a read that must be added to your library, both for its original storytelling and the unique approach with which the author utilizes to tell this compelling story of Mary Tudor. I enjoyed this new novel by Julianne Lee so much so that I will be looking for her previous historical fiction read A Question of Guilt: A Novel of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Death of Henry Darnley (Oct 7, 2008) which focuses on another Queen Mary that I have not had a lot of sympathy for either. After reading Her Mother’s Daughter: A Novel of Mary Tudor by Julianne Lee, I am definitely much more sympathetic to the views of Bloody Mary and more understanding of why she seemed a bit over the top. I recommend this one to those interested in the Tudor era and for historical fiction fans in general.


Filed under Arthur Tudor, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Julianne Lee, Review, Tudor

>Book Review: Elizabeth’s Women:The Hidden Story of The Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman

Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman
Non-Fiction; September 2009
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd ISBN-10: 0224082264
Review copy provided by the publisher
Purchase it from Amazon UK, Google Checkout,BookDepositoryUK,BookDepositoryUSA

The Burton Review Rating:4 Stars at The Burton Review

Product Description:

“Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. As a child, she was served by a predominantly female household of servants and governesses, with occasional visits from her mother, Anne Boleyn, and the wives who later took her place. As Queen, Elizabeth was constantly attended by ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor who clothed her, bathed her and watched her while she ate. Among her family, it was her female relations who had the greatest influence: from her sister Mary, who distrusted and later imprisoned her, to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who posed a constant and dangerous threat to her crown for almost thirty years.

Despite the importance of women in Elizabeth’s life, most historians and biographers have focused on her relationships with men. She has been portrayed as a ‘man’s woman’ who loved to flirt with the many ambitious young men who frequented her court. Yet it is the women in her life who provide the most fascinating insight into the character of this remarkable monarch. With them she was jealous, spiteful and cruel, as well as loyal, kind and protective. She showed her frailties and her insecurities, but also her considerable shrewdness and strength. In short, she was more human than the public persona she presented to the rest of the court. It is her relationships with women that hold the key to the private Elizabeth.

In this original chronicling of the life of one of England’s greatest monarchs, historian Tracy Borman explores Elizabeth’s relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, “Elizabeth’s Women” sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth’s turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined: from her sister, ‘Bloody’ Mary, to the sisters of Lady Jane Grey, and finally the most deadly of all her rivals, Mary, Queen of Scots who would give birth to the man Elizabeth would finally, inevitably have to recognize as heir to her throne. It is a chronicle of the servants, friends and ‘flouting wenches’ who brought out the best – and the worst – of Elizabeth’s carefully cultivated image as Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, in the glittering world of her court.”

My thoughts:

In a world inundated with modern biographies on Elizabeth I, historian Tracy Borman sets out to explore the world of women surrounding Elizabeth I in hopes of shedding light on Elizabeth’s character and personality. Who helped shaped Elizabeth into such a formidable female ruler, something that was an anomaly in itself? This is a proficient account of the story behind the stories of Elizabeth’s peers, elders and family members that helps the reader to better understand the nuts and bolts of Elizabeth’s mind, which was always skillfully at work.

Despite the bevy of information at our fingertips regarding Elizabeth, she is still one of the most intriguing figures of the Tudor era. Born to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, she was at first a disappointment to her parents and a kingdom by being a girl. Losing her mother at the age of 3, she was brought up in her own household under the tutelage of preferred women. It is with these women that Elizabeth begins cultivating her personality and understanding the way of the tumultuous world around her. Although we regularly hear of the men or the favorites in Elizabeth’s life, rarely do we obtain as much information about the women who constantly attended her and were with her behind the scenes.. until now.

Borman begins the story of Elizabeth with her mother, Anne Boleyn, and gives the standard biography of Anne. Although at first she praises Anne’s intellect, she soon writes of her haughtiness and the swift fall from Henry’s graces once they were finally married. Seemingly it was once they were married that Anne’s and Henry’s marriage fell apart. Elizabeth seems to have not had much of a relationship with Anne or Henry as a child, except for Anne sending gifts to Elizabeth.

Borman explains how Elizabeth interacted with a few of the children and caretakers, such as Blanche Parry (who ended up serving Elizabeth for over fifty years), and she goes into small biographies of these secondary women as she introduces them to us. Another woman who also stayed with Elizabeth a lengthy amount and therefore gets more attention is the governess, Kat Astley or Ashley, who joined Elizabeth’s household when Elizabeth was 3 and Kat was probably in her late twenties. Elizabeth was very close to her as Kat was one of the few people in her life that stayed with her in her younger years. I had not realized the extent of Kat’s own learning because of the ridicule she receives by historians due to the Thomas Seymour affair. After Lady Bryan it was Kat who had continued to instill a love for learning, which was further enhanced by her last stepmother, Katherine Parr and the tutors she chose for Elizabeth.

For some thirty, forty and fifty years these few women such as Kat Ashley, Blanche Parry and Anne Dudley stayed nearby with Elizabeth and were close confidantes and friends to the Queen. Borman details the relationships of the women with Elizabeth in a way that has not been done before, when before we had always heard of merely Cecil influencing Elizabeth’s political decisions. We now get a look on the inside, the female perspective of jealousy, vanity and courtly appearance.

One of the most interesting continuing relationships in Borman’s book deals with the sisterhood of Elizabeth and Mary. Borman tells of how Elizabeth interacted with her half siblings, and I was surprised to learn that her sister Mary had eventually grown fond of Elizabeth, probably out of pity, once Anne Boleyn was executed. Knowing of the strained relationship Mary and Elizabeth had once their brother King Edward had died, I had never assumed that they were in reality ever close, yet Borman portrays Mary as once being maternal to Elizabeth. They were 17 years apart, and with Elizabeth being 3 when she lost her mother, Mary may have felt sorry for her. But soon enough for Mary’s reign, Mary was calling Elizabeth the bastard, the daughter of the little whore, etc. A swift turn around for Mary’s feelings towards Elizabeth, but one wonders all the different mechanisms at play, such as Mary’s jealousy towards Elizabeth as Elizabeth grew into a pleasant looking young lady and Mary was soon eclipsed by Elizabeth’s sharp mind and looks. Anne of Cleves favored Elizabeth over Mary, and Katherine Parr did as well. Did Mary resent this? Once Mary was queen, she did not trust Elizabeth, and denounced her right to the succession. There was a long look at Mary Tudor here, but was appreciated for the fact that we were able to glean what Elizabeth learned from Mary’s reign.

One of the many people who helped shaped the progress of Elizabeth’s reign was her cousin, Mary the Queen of Scots. Most people know of the outcome that happened after Mary had been a burr in Elizabeth’s side for nearly thirty years, and the author devotes an entire 50 page chapter to this conflict. This is where the allure of the book started to lose its luster, but it picked up its interesting pace as soon as the Queen of Scots was dealt with. I had already read enough accounts of these two Queen’s relationships and there was not any new insight for me regarding the effects of their animosity towards each other. Those who are not acquainted with that story may not be as disappointed as I was to see so much time devoted to this, however.

Of some of the influencers and courtiers that we read about are the Seymour family, the Sidneys, and Lettice Knollys (who married Elizabeth’s favorite, Leicester, much to Elizabeth’s chagrin). We also are treated to accounts regarding Bess of Hardwick, married to George Talbot, both as she was a gaoler for Mary Queen of Scots and later when Arbella was growing up into an eccentric young lady. Other characters include Bess Throckmorton who shocked Elizabeth by becoming pregnant by Sir Walter Ralegh, and the cousins Katherine and Mary Grey who posed a threat to Elizabeth’s throne.

There are several color photos in the book as well which I enjoyed perusing. Most I had seen elsewhere but one in particular stood out: Queen Elizabeth in Old Age at The Bridgeman Art Library
Queen Elizabeth I, with time and death waiting, looking over her shoulder. Circa 1620
Those who are looking for more insight into the characters surrounding Elizabeth during her life will not be disappointed. Beginning with Anne Boleyn and continuing with the two Queen Mary’s, we are privy to the causes and effects that made Elizabeth who she was, Gloriana. This is thoroughly researched, with the footnotes to prove it, and it is put together effectively. Through the reign of Mary I, we are made to understand how Elizabeth learned from Mary’s mistakes and held fast to her beliefs on how to rule exclusively without a husband or even an heir, as opposed to the hard and unbending rule of her sister. We begin to understand Elizabeth’s decisions on the refusal of marriage when Elizabeth witnesses the catastrophic effects of most marriages of those in power, from her father to her sister. We learn that Elizabeth had a strict expectation of the women in her chambers and wished for them to not marry at all, and was hard on those that strayed from the virginal status.

This is not just another biography of Elizabeth I or the history of Elizabethan England. In fact, Borman successfully dodges that bullet by not repeating many of the historical events that happened during Elizabeth’s life, and even skips those that greatly effected her. For instance, the author does not discuss the fatal period of Lady Jane Grey’s reign, nor does she go into the Dudley plot which scared Elizabeth half out of her mind as she was imprisoned when her sister was Queen and there is no mention of the burning of heretics. This is a fulfilling account of the women who definitely instilled Elizabeth’s characteristics and beliefs into her heart and mind. Moreover, I would recommend reading a biography on Elizabeth I before reading this one due to the nature that this is more of a study and commentary on those surrounding her who helped to shape the character of Elizabeth. It would be hard to understand the ramifications of some of the things that Elizabeth encountered in her relationships that are discussed here without knowing any of the political and biographical history of Elizabeth I. If you do not feel intrigued by the persona of Elizabeth I, this is not the book for you. I had hoped for more of a finishing commentary as a summary on Elizabeth from the author’s opinion; but overall I was sad that I had completed this book because I was enjoying my enlightened status of understanding Elizabeth as a woman, as the Virgin Queen, and why she chose that status for herself. There was the blurb about George and Jane Boleyn having a son which I disagree with, and the excessive information on the Queen of Scots negated a star for me. I enjoyed 95% of this book, being a Tudor fanatic that I am, and I definitely recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in the workings of Elizabeth’s mind, and of the many supporting or bothersome women in her life.

Heather from The Maiden’s Court was my Buddy-Reader for this read, and we interacted with these questions (*please see Part Two at The Maiden’s Court):
Before opening the book, Elizabeth’s Women, what are your expectations and what do you hope to learn?
Heather: I don’t really know all that much about Elizabeth yet, so I hope that I can learn a lot. One thing that I would like to learn more about is more about the relationship between her and her sister, Mary.

Marie: I am hoping for an otherwise unknown look at some of the ladies that surrounded Elizabeth. I would love to know if these women shared any secrets that now reveal interesting traits of Elizabeth.

(Before reading the book) Who are you most interested in as far as a peer or friend to Elizabeth?
Heather: The two books that I have read about her so far have mentioned a lot about Kat Ashley – that is definitely one. I would also like to see how she interacted with her numerous step mothers.

Marie: My favorite contemporaries of Elizabeth are Lettice Knollys, and Bess of Hardwick (AKA Elizabeth Talbot). I would love to learn more.

After the first chapter on Anne Boleyn, what are your reactions to the book so far?
Heather: It definitely did not give Anne any sort of a break – she is portrayed as someone who only looked out for herself and moving up. It also seems to be more sympathetic to the Princess Mary.
Marie: I was a little perturbed that the moles and extra fingernail were pointed out, but that reasoning or other theories were not used as well. Anne is portrayed as haughty.

Was there anything new that this author presented about Anne Boleyn that you didn’t know before?
Heather: There were only a couple small things – she was only the second Queen of England who came from an aristocrat family since 1066. Also, she kept his sister Mary’s child away from court because it had a mental disability – this was not something I had ever heard.

Marie: I hadn’t fully grasped that Anne had been at Henry’s court in Queen Katherine’s retinue for four years before Henry started to pay attention to her. She probably had no idea during those years how much would dramatically change for her. What were Anne’s hopes and dreams during those years? Was she focused on Henry Percy, who had broken a previous betrothal to be with her?
Most of the details were the same types of things in other biographies of Anne, but I was intrigued at the intellect Anne had shown at an early age, as this was the same for her daughter Elizabeth. Anne was chosen over her sister Mary to attend the French courts because of the superiority & presence of mind that Anne had over her sister.

What do you think of the role Lady Bryan played in raising Elizabeth, especially after the loss of her mother?
Heather: I think that she was very instrumental in making sure that Elizabeth was shielded as much as possible from the outburst of anger at Anne and what happened after her execution. She was one of the most stable things in Elizabeth’s life and think that she should really be commended for keeping things relatively the same for her when everything was changing rapidly. It could have been a very different outcome for Elizabeth if Lady Bryan had not fought for her.
Marie: In the tumultuous world of being a daughter of the slandered queen, Elizabeth seems lucky to have had someone to care for her so diligently regardless of the status of her mother and Elizabeth being called a bastard by her own father. She provided a stable environment for the child which is a blessing for Elizabeth.

What are your opinions of the relationships of Elizabeth with her stepmothers?
Heather: It doesn’t surprise me that Jane had little interest in Elizabeth – after all, she had just replaced her mother in a horrible way. It does surprise me a little that she favored Mary, almost over the children that her and Henry would have. It always surprises me to hear how Anne of Cleves had such an influence on the girls and had a good relationship with Henry after their marriage was annulled. Katherine Howard’s relationship is exactly how I imagined it. She was young and liked gifts and showered these on Elizabeth. She was also similar to Anne Boleyn in these ways. The similarities were probably what led Elizabeth to be very shocked at the loss of Katherine in the same manner as her mother. I think Katherine Parr had the greatest influence in the ways of thinking that Elizabeth manifested. Katherine oversaw her education and through that Elizabeth learned Humanism, the reformed religion, and how to rule among other things. She also gave her someone stable to relate to.

Marie: I was impressed at how Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves had forged their relationship even after Henry had chosen another wife after Anne of Cleves. Elizabeth was ever the pragmatic, and was kind to the succession of her father’s wives, and one can base many theories on how this formed Elizabeth’s opinions of marriage altogether. The relationship with Catherine Howard was glazed over in the book, but the fact of the closeness in age to the two Borman states that this would have a profound effect on Elizabeth. Besides the kindness shown by Anne of Cleves to Elizabeth, Katherine Parr was probably the most influential as far as political ideas and religious theories, and through Borman’s recounting of the relationship I see just how important Katherine Parr was to the development of the basis of Elizabeth’s beliefs regarding state policies and religion.

For the Chapter titled Governess, what was the most interesting thing you learned?
Heather: I couldn’t believe how involved Kat was in the Seymour Scandal. She continually kept pushing for Elizabeth to marry Seymour. Also being a gossip, she wasn’t able to keep her mouth shut, which got them into a lot of trouble. For someone who was supposed to be looking out for Elizabeth she made some huge errors in her judgment. I had never heard that there had been rumors when Elizabeth left the house of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour that she was pregnant – I kind of think they were just that, rumors.

Marie: Kat Astley/Ashley was also brought up with an education which was unheard of in most families, but the use of the intellect did not bleed through to her common sense. I had known she was involved in the Thomas Seymour affair and did not know how to act properly and with the proper airs, but the fact that she was indeed and educated girl was not known to me before. Elizabeth at age 15 showed more common sense and intelligence than Kat did when she was in her forties at the time of the Seymour scandal.

See Tracy Borman‘s site for upcoming events in the UK, her friend and fellow historian Alison Weir are hosting several discussions regarding Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. Borman is also the author of Henrietta Howard: King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant.
Bookmark and Share


Filed under Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Arbella Stuart, Bess of Hardwick, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, George Talbot, Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey, Lettice, Review, Robert Dudley, Tracy Borman, Tudor

>Friday Fill-In~ Guess this Famous Lady

>Friday Fill-In Fun Join in the Friday Fill-In Fun~ They provide the basics and we fill-in the blanks with whatever we want! So that means I get to use famous dead people or fave characters..

Can you guess who this person is?

1. One week ago I sent many to their deaths.

2. I would never have thought I would grow up to have an awful nickname when I was younger.

3. Mama told me never to forget her, even though I soon had four stepmothers.
4. The shame of it all is I should simply be remembered as the first queen, between you and me.
5. Take your time learning my history, there is a lot of it to learn, from being loved as a Princess, then not loved, and persecuted for my religion..

6. I am hoping my lonely life without my own family will pass!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to pining for Philip, tomorrow my plans include making my little sister observe my religion and Sunday, I want to attend mass all day!

The Winner to the giveaway for THE SEPARATE COUNTRY by Robert Hicks is Nea’s Nuttiness!
Nea’s Blog posting won it for her!

Next up was Susie and Jasmine if she has won it already.
ANNE BOLEYN 2- Book Giveaway still going on!

Bookmark and Share


Filed under Bloody Mary, Friday Fill In, Meme