Category Archives: Henry VIII

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 April’s host is Cindy’s Love of Books

I’ve got a great selection of books to review, and I bought a couple tht I just couldn’t stand not having any longer =)

I purchased:

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman (I’ve had the other two in the trilogy forever but could never find this book two, and I wouldn’t start the series till I got this one! Can’t wait!)
Graced with physical beauty, though shallow of heart, Charity O’Connor is a woman who knows what she wants. She sets her sights on the cantankerous Mitch Dennehy, editor at the Irish Times, who has unwittingly stolen her heart. And although the sparks are there, Mitch refuses to fan the coals of a potential relationship with his ex-fiancée’s sister. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat and she always gets what she wants–one way or another. Is revenge so sweet after all? Or will Charity get burned?
Full of intense passion, betrayal, and forgiveness, A Passion Redeemed will delight Lessman’s fans and draw new ones.

A Heart Divided by Kathleen Morgan
It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen’s arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff’s return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery–they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them?
Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

(TWO books with the Vatican in their titles. Interesting!)
For Review, this first one was a surprise, but I read the last one so I’ll probably get around to this one, too, especially because of the Vatican tie-in:

Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandeth (May 2012)

Oscar Wilde makes a triumphant return in the fifth novel in the critically acclaimed historical mystery series, featuring Wilde as the detective aided by his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1892 Arthur Conan Doyle, exhausted by his creation Sherlock Holmes, retires to the spa at Bad Homburg. But his rest cure does not go as planned. The first person he encounters is Oscar Wilde, and when the two friends make a series of macabre discoveries amongst the portmanteau of fan mail Conan Doyle has brought to answer – a severed finger, a lock of hair and finally an entire severed hand – the game is once more afoot.

The trail leads to Rome, to the very heart of the Eternal City, the Vatican itself. Pope Pius IX has just died. These are uncertain times. To uncover the mystery and why the creator of Sherlock Holmes has been summoned in this way, Oscar and Conan Doyle must penetrate the innermost circle of the Catholic Church – seven men who have a very great deal to lose.

Requested for review:

Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick (April 17, 2012)

German immigrant and farm wife Hulda Klager possesses only an eighth-grade education—and a burning desire to create something beautiful. What begins as a hobby to create an easy-peeling apple for her pies becomes Hulda’s driving purpose: a time-consuming interest in plant hybridization that puts her at odds with family and community, as she challenges the early twentieth-century expectations for a simple housewife. 

Through the years, seasonal floods continually threaten to erase her Woodland, Washington garden and a series of family tragedies cause even Hulda to question her focus. In a time of practicality, can one person’s simple gifts of beauty make a difference? 

Based on the life of Hulda Klager, Where Lilacs Still Bloom is a story of triumph over an impossible dream and the power of a generous heart.

Prize of My Heart by Lisa Norato (I’m so happy to finally receive this one, after seeing it everywhere on the blogs!) March 1st, 2012
An unsolved mystery separates ex-privateersman Captain Brogan Talvis from his lost son–his only living relation, his only family. Shortly before her tragic demise, his wife abandoned their infant to strangers, refusing to reveal the child’s whereabouts. Now, three years later, Brogan has discovered the boy at the home of a shipbuilder’s daughter, Lorena Huntley.Lorena guards a dark secret about her young charge. She finds herself falling for the heroic captain who has come to claim his newly built ship, unaware his motive for wooing her is to befriend the boy he plans on reclaiming as his own–until the day another’s evil deceit leaves her helplessly shipbound, heading toward England.As the perfect opportunity to reclaim his son unfolds, Brogan is haunted by thoughts of Lorena in her dire circumstance, and he is forced to make a heartrending choice between his child and the woman who has begun to capture his heart. But only his unselfish sacrifice can win him the greatest prize of all–love.

The Divorce of Henry VIII: The Untold Story from Inside the Vatican by Catherine Fletcher (June 19, 2012)

In 1533 the English monarch Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife of twenty years Catherine of Aragon in pursuit of a male heir to ensure the Tudor line. He was also head over heels in love with his wife’s lady in waiting Anne Boleyn, the future mother of Elizabeth I. But getting his freedom involved a terrific web of intrigue through the enshrined halls of the Vatican that resulted in a religious schism and the formation of the Church of England. Henry’s man in Rome was a wily Italian diplomat named Gregorio Casali who drew no limits on skullduggery including kidnapping, bribery and theft to make his king a free man. In this absorbing narrative, winner of the Rome Fellowship prize and University of Durham historian Catherine Fletcher draws on hundreds of previously-unknown Italian archive documents to tell the colorful tale from the inside story inside the Vatican.

Skip Rock Shallows (Copper Brown #3) by Jan Watson (June 1, 2012)
Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can’t understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock—a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents’ trust.

As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner—one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he’s hiding.

Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family, or dreams of a future that includes anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet. But are they both in over their heads? And in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?

That’s a big mailbox this week… Where do I begin…


Filed under Henry VIII, Mailbox Monday

>Book Review: The Queen’s Rival by Diane Haeger


The Queen’s Rival by Diane Haeger
New American Library, March 1, 2011
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four big stars

As the beautiful daughter of courtiers, Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount is overjoyed when she secures a position as maid of honor to Katherine of Aragon. But when she captures the attention of the king himself, there are whispers that the queen ought to be worried for her throne.
When Bess gives birth to a healthy son the whispers become a roar. But soon the infamous Boleyn girls come to court and Henry’s love for her begins to fade. Now, Bess must turn to her trusted friend, the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, to help her move beyond life as the queen’s rival.

Finally a novel on Bessie Blount! Her name has followed me throughout many Tudor reads, but I have never been able to read something that had the potential to answer many of my questions about her, a famous mistress to a handsome and dashing King Henry VIII. Diane Haeger has focused some recent novels on the Tudor courts, and along with Philippa Gregory she was one of the first historical authors I read (The Secret Bride which was an intriguing story of Henry VIII’s favorite little sister, Mary). In The Secret Bride, Mary defied her royal brother’s wishes and married the man she loved.. his best friend. And thus.. I was hooked on that wild Tudor family. Last year, Haeger wrote of Catherine Howard in The Queen’s Mistake, and the author finally gave young Catherine the voice that she is always lacking in most Tudor novels. Now Haeger gives us yet another inside look in those same veins of Henry VIII’s court and finally gives us Bessie Blount. Blount is almost always mentioned in Henry VIII reads as she was the mistress who bore Henry his first son, who grew up to marry the fearsome Thomas Howard’s daughter.

Everyone knows how Henry VIII noticed Anne Boleyn dancing one day and promptly had to have her, which then set him up for the succession of wives afterwards. But before all that.. who was Bess Blount? Was she a flighty air headed girl? What was the relationship between she and Henry really like, especially since he was at his prime? How did pious Queen Katherine treat her rival? How did Henry’s other mistresses treat Bess? Why did she leave the court?  Did Henry shush her aside once she was with child? What was it like to be a mistress to a man whom everyone wanted a favor from? Why didn’t she have the stuff that Anne Boleyn  had to make Henry marry her?

My questions were answered with Diane Haeger’s novel on the mysterious lady who seemingly loved King Henry VIII. Haeger portrayed the relationship without rushing, as she made the reader get to know Bess and wish for her to take a different path, safely away from a ruthless king. Yet Henry is not quite the murdering king we have come to know, as he is still young and vibrant and full of hope. Bess’s own life is like an open book with Haeger’s writing, although besides the facts we will truly never know what depths of emotions there were between Henry and Bess, I was impressed and satisfied with the story that Haeger writes, which finally fills in so many blanks regarding Bess Blount and her family as she spun her tale with devotion and patience to the subject. It was tenderly written with sweet as opposed to bawdy sex scenes and the ending of the story had me dabbing at my eyes. I enjoyed the book more for the amount of time it encompassed, from Bess’ arrival at court at age fourteen to Bess’s second marriage while following along King Henry’s own timeline of subsequent mistresses and marriages. The reader is also treated to well-known players at Henry’s court such as Wolsey, Katherine of Aragon, and Henry’s bastard son. One wonders how close England could have been to having his bastard son in succession to the throne which could have set a precedent for England. Haeger’s novel on Bessie Blount is one that will be most appreciated by Tudor fans who have always longed to know what went on behind Henry’s closed doors and in his heart with regards to one of his first acknowledged mistresses.


Filed under 16th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Bess Blount, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII

>Book Review: Pale Rose of England: A Novel of The Tudors by Sandra Worth


Pale Rose of England: A Novel of The Tudors by Sandra Worth
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (February 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0425238776
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

It is 1497. The news of the survival of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, has set royal houses ablaze with intrigue and rocked the fledgling Tudor dynasty. With the support of Scotland’s King James IV, Richard-known to most of England as Perkin Warbeck-has come to reclaim his rightful crown from Henry Tudor. Stepping finally onto English soil, Lady Catherine Gordon has no doubt that her husband will succeed in his quest.

But rather than assuming the throne, Catherine would soon be prisoner of King Henry VII, and her beloved husband would be stamped as an imposter. With Richard facing execution for treason, Catherine, alone in the glittering but deadly Tudor Court, must find the courage to spurn a cruel monarch, shape her own destiny, and win the admiration of a nation.

I have all of Sandra Worth’s books, but have only found the time to read The Rose of York: Love and War (review) which paints a very different picture of Richard III than my normal style of reads. Worth is evidently pro-Richard, pro-Yorkist etc. and I still have not yet defaulted to that side, though Worth has made it her mission in life as far as a writer to put a glorious light on the Yorkist line as opposed to the usual vilification of Richard III. In my opinion, Sandra Worth’s first book was well written (yet it was slightly overdone with the romantic view of Richard), thus with the new Yorkist installment, Pale Rose of England, I was skeptical but ready to be open-minded. (And yes, I say this only because I have not yet read Sharon Kay Penman’s Sunne in Splendour, who probably turned many Lancastrians into Yorkists with that book).

Don’t let the subtitle fool you… this is not yet another look at Henry VIII and his many wives, as this novel begins before Henry VIII’s rule. This novel is also an intriguing alternate history examination of what could have happened to the princes in the tower, namely, the boys locked away from their mother in terror during the usurper Richard III’s rule. Their uncle, Richard III, took the throne after Edward’s death, and little Edward and Richard simply vanished after being held in the Tower. Edward was supposed to be crowned in 1483 around age nine or ten, but Uncle Richard declared them illegitimate. No one can truly say what happened to the innocent young boys, but they never did return to the courts and take the throne in succession as they were meant to do after their father Edward IV. Since no one can realistically proclaim what really happened to those boys, I say alternate history because the author has used Perkin Warbeck as the Pretender who was out to take Henry VII’s throne for himself in the name of the Yorkist line.

In Pale Rose of England, the author uses a popular theory that young Richard was safely stowed away as a child, perhaps by Uncle Richard himself. Later, this same Richard Plantagenet returns to England, known as Perkin Warbeck to the English who ridicule him, bringing his Scottish wife Catherine Gordon with him.

“Without exception, the Tudor is hated. All he has brought us is fear and taxes. We pray daily for the restoration of your royal father’s line. When you leave here to march against the Tudor, you’ll see the truth of what I say. All Cornwall with rise up to join you.” says Prior John to Richard. Thus sets the scene for the very high hopes that Richard, Catherine and fellow Yorkists shared, and I realize I will have to put aside my strong Lancastrian (Tudor loving) tendencies in order to root for this Perkin fella. Which is not hard, with the way Worth has written this despairing, heart wrenching, soul gripping story. Henry VII is a force to be reckoned with, and is a part of the story as much as Richard is, which is a refreshing change of pace as far as characters go.  I enjoyed reading more about him and wondering about his characteristics as a ruler, as a miser, as a man under his mama’s thumb, even though I could never say he was a good guy. Lady Catherine Gordon was new to me, and she was her own pillar of strength in opposition to Henry, most of the time. Though I did want to slap her at some parts and tell her to run run run run run.. but she didn’t.

Sandra Worth sets forth her theories regarding this Pretender who really could have been England’s Richard IV.. who could have tossed the Tudor line off of the throne.. with as much attention to historical details as she could. This is not a piece of Tudor fluff, it became depressing beyond words and made my heart ache for Lady Catherine, a royal lady of Scotland who was kept an essential prisoner in the Royal Courts for much of the more than four hundred pages. Catherine went through one emotional upheaval after the other during her support for her husband’s quest, and as we know since thereafter was only a successful Tudor rule, she lost it all. Her story kept me reading, as I hoped she would somehow be redeemed, that somehow there would be a knight in shining armor for her, somehow her years of misery would be rewarded with something.

This is not an easy read, and runs along the lines of a tragedy with political forces pulling the strings. Who is pulling the strings this time was the Tudor usurper as we he was pleasantly called. The major dimension of the story of Catherine Gordon’s life is loss, torture, despair, and impossible situations and the cloud of doom hovers over the reader and Catherine throughout most of the 464 pages.

Whether or not this Perkin fella is truly Richard, Duke of York, the young “lost” prince in the tower, I cannot say. Worth certainly presents a compelling argument leaning that way.. but I am not utterly convinced, even though the major European rulers at the time seemed to believe the Pretender was not pretending. I am looking forward to reading Anne Wroe’s The Perfect Prince for further insight. As far as Worth presents this tangled weave of love and deception, you really have to be ready to put your lot in with Catherine and support her emotionally as you go along. Otherwise, I see a strong possibility of some not liking the novel because of the way Catherine let things happen around her. Yes, in reality, she may not have had much of a choice, but I still think that there were other things that could have occurred to help her plight, especially since her cousin was the King of Scotland. But that’s not the way history tells it, so neither does the author. Henry VII had a grip on her and the entire situation, and somehow all other major powers let Henry maintain this power. There are small quibbles I had with the plot, mainly because I didn’t want Henry to have so much power, but Sandra Worth tells a compelling, poetic and romantic story that really could sway Tudor lovers into becoming Tudor lovers with Yorkist tendencies. Ahem.

A few books from my library that I can recommend regarding the mystery of the Princes in the Tower include David Baldwin’s Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower and Alison Weir’s Princes in the Tower as well as her The Wars of the Roses which are detailed (and conflicting) non-fiction reads. Sandra Worth has authored an interesting article regarding Richard/Perkin at On The Tudor Trail: Uncovering The Mystery of Perkin Warbeck  and she will also be the author of the month for the lovely ladies of the Historical Fiction Round Table. Be sure to watch that site for the links to the giveaway opportunities, reviews and more articles regarding the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.


Filed under 15th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII, Perkin Warbeck, Princes in the Tower, Sandra Worth, The Rose of York: Love and War, Wars of the Roses

>Book Review: Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton


Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love by Elizabeth Norton
Amberley Publishing, 2009
198 pages (not 240)
ISBN-13: 978-1848681026
Review copy provided by the publisher, Thanks!
The Burton Review Rating:

The first ever biography of JaneSeymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, who died in childbirth giving the king what hecraved most – a son and heir.
First biography to show the real Jane Seymour, she may have been submissive and obedient in front of Henry, but her true personality was far more cutthroat.

Huge interest in the wives of Henry VIII, most of his wives are the subject of at least two books, Jane has none.

Jane Seymour is often portrayed as meek and mild and as the most successful, but one of the least significant, of Henry VIII’s wives. The real Jane was a very different character, demure and submissive yet with a ruthless streak – as Anne Boleyn was being tried for treason, Jane was choosing her wedding dress.

From the lowliest origins of any of Henry’s wives her rise shows an ambition every bit as great as Anne’s. Elizabeth Norton tells the thrilling life of a country girl from rural Wiltshire who rose to the throne of England and became the ideal Tudor woman.

Jane Seymour, the mother of Henry’s heir to the throne, is one of the lucky wives of the tyrant Henry VIII that he did not kill or repudiate. Jane Seymour was practically an unknown figure at the Tudor Courts, as she was merely a lady in waiting to both of Henry’s first two queens. Once Queen Anne Boleyn became too cumbersome for Henry to deal with, he allowed his advisors to condemn her to death. Henry had his eyes on Jane Seymour already, and he wanted Anne out of the way, and not in the same way that the tiresome Catherine of Aragon had hung on to him. Anne was executed May 19, 1536 and Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour the very next day. Tudor films like to portray Jane as a shrew as poor Anne Boleyn looks out from her tower and watches Henry and Jane walking arm in arm. What is the story behind this Plain Jane? The novel by the same name by Laurien Gardner turned her into a naive young lady with very little going for her. I am intrigued by Jane Seymour, the one lady who provided Henry with everything he ever wanted: Edward VI.

Though this is touted as the first ever biography on Jane, I would hesitate to characterize Norton’s book as such. Inevitably in any book that deals with Henry VIII, we must be given the backstory of the wives that came before the one in question. So Norton goes through the motions of again explaining the debacles of the marriages of Catherine and Henry and then Anne and Henry before we get to the marriage of Jane and Henry. No extraordinary information was given, my eyes had glazed over a few monotonous passages. But what I did glean was the information on Jane’s own family which my previous reads had never terribly touched upon, except for the two brothers, Edward and Thomas, who were prominent figures of the Tudor courts.

Norton describes subtly a potential scandal between Jane’s father and Jane’s sister-in-law Catherine Filliol, but sadly she does not elaborate. This would have been eagerly pounced upon if she had. I have also read elsewhere that the elder brother’s (Edward) second wife, Anne Stanhope, was quite a haughty person and very demanding, but this wasn’t expanded upon either. One very interesting sentence at the beginning of the book when Norton was going through the family tree was that “of Henry’s wives and three named mistresses”, four were great grand-daughters of Elizabeth Cheney (would have been nice if she elaborated on more of Elizabeth Cheney). She also said Elizabeth Tilney, daughter of said Cheney, was the grandmother of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.  I would have enjoyed a pictorial look at the family tree, as the Seymours and the Howards were cousins. These two Elizabeths’ histories sound like it would make a great book.

What is it about Jane that attracted Henry? Simply put, she was the opposite of Anne Boleyn, the former wife. Jane’s motto became ‘Bound to Obey and Serve’ which is also something Anne would not do if she did not agree with Henry. One thing that Jane did not agree with Henry on was the dissolution of the monasteries. This is one subject that the author does take a great deal of time with, and was a refreshing change outside of the typical historical view of this time. Jane was opposed to the desecration, and was not of the protestant leaning that her son Edward had later embraced. The author does state that Jane would probably have been quite distressed to learn how her favored brother Edward had manipulated her son Edward into turning the country into such Protestant zeal.

One nagging thought on the writing of Norton is that she calls Catherine and Anne by their title as Queen several times, and I barely remember she actually calling Jane a Queen, and it perturbed me. It was always simply Jane. Just as Jane was probably always a Plain Jane, as history likes to continually portray her. The inner need I have to categorize Jane as a she-wolf was not achieved in this book, as Jane was just still Jane. She did not seem very interesting, and the author even stated that she was excellent at staying in the background. Was this done on purpose by Jane? Did she know that Henry wanted the epitome of the subservient wife and she purposefully managed to keep her head by portraying no countering thoughts? She couldn’t have become too outraged at the dissolution of the monasteries or we would have heard of it, although according to Norton she did not like it.

The one other thing that we know that she disagreed with Henry on was the attitude towards his first daughter, Mary, aka Bloody Mary. Jane was eight years her senior, and showed great affection towards Mary, since Jane was first a maid to Mary’s mother the first Queen and Jane felt a distinct loyalty towards Catherine and her daughter Mary. Mary also approved of Jane, which was a rarity for Bloody Mary to not turn her back on someone trying to show her a kindness. Anne Boleyn had attempted to show kindness to Mary, but was rejected time and time again with Mary calling Anne the whore. Jane comes along, and Mary and her were fast friends, well before Mary accepted her father Henry as the head of the Church of England. Where Jane showed extreme kindness towards Mary, she seemingly despised young Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne Boleyn. Was it because of that family tie that Jane didn’t like her, or was it merely the fact that Elizabeth was a preciocious toddler?

Information on Jane is scarce. The book is scarce on information on Jane. The book is very short, and is not the 240 pages that is advertised. The text is 158 pages and then the notes, index and bibliography make it 191 pages. There are also the interesting illustrations, some of which are the same ones used in other Amberley publications. It would have been more helpful if the notes were simply footnotes to the actual writing as it would have been better served being displayed as such and not as the afterthought. There were moments when I felt something was interesting and the author made some good points, albeit speculatively. Since the book is short, it was worth the time I did spend on it (a part of a day) but would not recommend spending the list price for it. This would be a good library find, and is perfect for my Tudor Mania Challenge.


Filed under 16th Century, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth Norton, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Tudor

>Book Review: The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades


The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades
ISBN-13: 978-1848683358
Amberley issue 2009; Reissue of earlier edition in 1994
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four stars!

The marital ups and downs of England’s most infamous king. The story of Henry VIII and his six wives has passed from history into legend taught in the cradle as a cautionary tale and remembered in adulthood as an object lesson in the dangers of marrying into royalty. The true story behind the legend, however, remains obscure to most people, whose knowledge of the affair begins and ends with the aide memoire Divorced, executed, died, divorced, executed, survived. David Loades’ masterly book recounts the whole sorry tale in detail from Henry’s first marriage to his brother’s widow, to more or less contented old age in the care of the motherly Catherine Parr.

Historian David Loades presents a convincing narrative as he summarizes the events of Henry VIII’s six marriages in almost a conversational format. This work is a reissue in 2009 put out by Amberley with some updates to a previous 1994 title by the author. Most Tudor fans know the stories of each of the wives and like me, may have read many Tudor novels surrounding these women. I found interesting snippets of information in this summarized work, as well as it reading like a refresher for the times and nuance of Henry VIII. I enjoyed the introduction which explains the importance of the Royal marriage market and the process that was accepted among many to marry towards other Royal houses in order to increase land holding or some royal significance such as potential heirs to a throne. Which was not the way that Henry VIII operated, as he chose from his courtiers and fellow noble families when he was wife-shopping.

Loades presents the wives in chronological order, and I found Catherine of Aragon to be once again a formidable lady who put up with a lot from her King. Loades describes the failed pregnancies and how this disillusioned the King with each passing day. Their daughter Mary comes into play of course, and she is portrayed as extremely hostile once the ‘Boleyn Whore’ succeeds in her quest to the throne. Anne Boleyn’s demise and therefore the chapter on her seemed to go by quickly, as Cromwell effectively removed her and her family from the courts of Henry VIII by the farce of a trial that sent her, along with her fellow accused, to the executioner’s block. One particular sentence that peaked my interest was regarding Anne’s sister-in-law, Lady Jane Parker Rochford: “Not a great deal is known about his{George’s} trial, and the story that his wife testified against him may well be apocryphal. There is some circumstantial evidence that she later accepted his guilt, but that may have been the only way in which she could get a property settlement out of the King.” He goes on to state that the homosexual references to George are probably more of a twentieth-century speculation. Anne’s character was portrayed as a bit of a wild child who did not know how to control her tongue, and Loades stated that it was her wit and sexual attraction that appealed to Henry VIII from the start, but it was this exact wit and sexual attraction that created her downfall as well.  Most of the noble families were hateful of the upstart families of Anne, and they were eager to displace the Boleyns and the Howards from the peerage. The fact that Anne was innocent meant nothing to the jury.

Loades goes on to write that the day after Anne was executed, Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour. Jane has always been an enigma to me. Was she truly the Plain Jane as contemporary novelists like to characterize her as, or was she eyeing the crown from the beginning of her royal courtship? Loades describes her as frumpy, so what did Henry see in this Plain Jane? The author surmises that she was almost an exact opposite of Anne Boleyn: no overt sexual traits, no outspoken mannerisms and her family was well liked, unlike the Boleyns and the Howards. If hereditary genes had anything to do with it, Jane also showed promise of being fertile, as she was one of nine children. And Henry once got his heir, Jane died, so onwards to wife number four and the first true marriage-for-the-good-of the-realm, which was a disaster in bed because she was not attractive to Henry.

Anne of Cleves is presented a bit different than I had expected; she was still the naive person when it came to consummation, but she was also annoyed with Henry when he later married Catherine Parr, the last wife.
She may have been annoyed when he married Catherine Howard after her, but it was probably too early for her to realize what was going on due to her foreign surroundings. But the flirty Catherine Howard had replaced the unseemly Anne of Cleves, reducing Anne to the status of the sister of the King. Catherine’s character was portrayed as we typically imagine her, and she seems to have been simply to young to deal with the politics of the times and was extremely stupid in her need for boyfriends. The author goes into the political machinations that brought each of these wives in and out of the picture, and the major players in this function. Jane Parker is again mentioned, as she the one who helped Catherine illicitly meet with Culpeper. Loades does not state why Jane would help the young queen to do such a thing, but does note that she quickly gave incriminating information but was not spared execution. And soon Cromwell was also summarily executed in a quick timeline as Loades tells it, lacking the drama of what was going on behind the scenes to cause it to happen. Catherine Parr rounds out the tale as the last wife, yet for once Loades gives some more background information on her as she was once known as Lady Latimer and Catherine Neville. The factions of the families were explained and brought up; from the hated Boleyns to the tolerable Howards to the respectable Seymours.

Although I do enjoy Alison Weir’s writing, the main difference I found in this text by David Loades is that he uses less “supposedlys” and sticks to facts and not conjecture. Those readers wanting a more detailed account of all the events relating to the wives and the times would not get much of a good taste in Loades summary, but this could be very much treated as a summary of the marriages of Henry VIII but not necessarily of the wives themselves. The writing style itself made this an easy read, as Loades never went too far into depth into the politics or religious topics, instead just touching on them as they related to the wives. I enjoyed the sporadic moments on when I felt I learned something new, but I would not recommend this for the very seasoned Tudor reader because of the lack of insight. Alternatively, this would be a fantastic non-fiction read for those who would like to learn a few facts about Henry VIII’s wives without having to suffer through a five hundred page account such as the books by Starkey, Weir, and Fraser. At 240 pages which includes author’s notes and bibliography, Loades successfully reviews the marriages while educating the reader, with a look at some interesting illustrations as well. Loades states that there were plenty of “Six Wives” titles on the market, and especially more recently, and he adjusted this work accordingly as to not saturate the reader with the same amount of facts that have been used and reused and reiterated. Which is why I feel this was an excellent work to read when wanting a quick look into the familiar stories regarding the six wives of Henry VIII.

This book is also perfect for entering my Tudor Mania Reading Challenge and I will include this review link there. I just may win my own contest!


Filed under 2010 Review, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, David Loades, Henry VIII, Jane Parker, Jane Seymour, Katherine Parr, Tudor

>Book Review/Giveaway: The Dark Rose: Book Two in The Morland Dynasty Series by Cynthia Harrod Eagles


The Dark Rose: Book Two in The Morland Dynasty Series by Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Several publishers since 1981
isbn13: 978-1402238161
Reissued in July 2010 by Sourcebooks
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

The second book in the epic bestselling Morland Dynasty series which spans from the Wars of the Roses to Queen Victoria’s long reign into the courts of kings and the salons of the Regency, onto the battlefields of Culloden and the Crimea, and beyond:

In The Dark Rose, the turbulence of Henry VIII’s reign brings passion and pain to the Morlands as they achieve ever greater wealth and prestige. Paul, great-grandson of Eleanor Morland, has inherited the Morland estates, and his own Amyas is set to be his heir. But Paul fathers a beloved illegitimate son, and bitter jealousy causes a destructive rift between the two half-brothers which will lead to death. Through birth and death, love and hatred, triumph and heartbreak, the Morlands continue proudly to claim their place amongst England’s aristocracy.

I read book one, The Founding, in the Morland series, and found it to be an interesting enough novel to merit reading book number two. Especially since this book two, The Dark Rose, is set against the backdrop of the Tudor era which is my absolute most favorite era and of which I have read about nineteen Tudor themed books in the last year alone. So, I am a stickler for certain things regarding the Tudors. On sentence two of the foreword I was surprised to read that the author believed Henry VIII “had only two mistresses”, and therefore he has been misjudged. We all know that Henry had a son off of Bessie Blount, and that one mistress was Mary Boleyn. I would count Anne Boleyn as a mistress, it is even possible that Jane Popyncourt was his very first mistress. Mary Shelton was his mistress while Anne was pregnant, and Jane Seymour was later his mistress while Anne was reaching her downfall. Catherine Howard was then his mistress while Henry was married to Anne of Cleves. And I also firmly believe that he had many more mistresses who did not leave blatant evidence of being undoubtedly his mistress. I repeat all this to enforce the point that when Eagles stated unequivocally Henry was not so bad simply because he “only had two mistresses” that she states as fact, she turned me off before I had a chance to begin the fictional story she was about to tell. I suppose I am making a mountain out of a molehill but that’s how it began for me. There are more inaccuracies about small facts that the casual reader may not be aware of throughout the novel, but I was.

Although the plot line tries to be impressive as it follows along the intrigues of the magnificent Tudor era, the many characters leave a lot to be desired. Focusing on Paul, the head of the Morland estate, Paul despises his wife Anne Butts and he has a child with another woman. Paul despises his half brother Jack and Jack’s offspring, yet Jack was extremely well liked at home and at court. Which makes Paul hate Jack more. Which make me hate Paul more. Once Paul’s two sons reach majority, Paul’s legitimate son Amyras also despises his half bother Adrian. Negativity abounds. In book one, I was not sympathetic to the main character, Eleanor, as she believed herself to superior to everyone and everything. In book two, Paul is the same way, and I was much more interested in the happier members of his extended family off at court then to be reading about Paul and his son fighting about the illegitimate son (who was always off in a corner brooding, with the thick foreshadowing atmosphere that proved itself towards the last half of the novel). Nannette is the next main character focus, and she was a lot more likable until she beds a family member. But that was how it was done back in the day. Cousins married cousins, so that this story helps to perpetuate the dynasty by Morlands marrying cousins twice over.

There were some well written story lines in the story, such as the sickness that overtakes many of the family members in 1517, the witch factor with Paul’s lover, and the process of Henry VIII disposing of his first wife. I enjoyed how the birth of Katherine Parr was written in and how the family was friends with the Parrs throughout the story. Then again, there were times the plot could have used a bit more meat to it, but not so much as when Anne Boleyn is friends with Margaret (daughter/cousin to someone in the Morlands, I lost track again) we get to read about Margaret creeping up on Anne while she is sleeping so Margaret could sneak a peek at unsuspecting Anne’s Sixth Finger. And then Anne and Henry Percy betroth themselves to each other only to have them banished from court because of it. All of it happened that quickly as I wrote it. Same thing when Paul’s son was married: he was married to a member of Norris family, and just as quickly it is mentioned that he had two sons off of her, then mentioned in passing there were two more, etc., because the story at that point had shifted to his cousin Nannette who became a friend of Anne Boleyn so why revert back to Paul? Just as in book one, I really had trouble keeping some of the Morland members straight, as the characters came and went and died and shifted to somewhere else, never giving me a strong sense of just one single character once it shifted from Paul.

It was always interesting to see where the author inserted the fictional Morlands into the genuine families of the Tudor era. And I don’t want to come off as being so negative about this book, because it really wasn’t that bad, it is just that the characters are written in such negative lights that it is impossible for me to not come off as negative as well. For example, the following train of thought of Paul’s son, Amyas:

His father was nearing fifty, Amyas thought, and evidently did not mean to marry again. What use was his life to him? Once Paul was out of the way, he, Amyas, would change things, put things on a more modern footing, shew the tenants who was master! Paul, in clinging on to his useless life, was being inconsiderate.

{Shew was a word back then. After reading the novel, you’ll get used to it as it is used many times.} I did want to know more about the characters, but it seems they were always just a bit out of reach for me. There are many, many lovers of the Morland Dynasty series out there so I am very aware that I am in the minority for not totally enjoying the writing, but after two novels of not-so-great characters that I could not empathize with, I am going to bide my time before picking up another. I think if I do get around to continuing with this series I will have a better chance of enjoying it as it moves away from favored eras where I won’t be so much in want for more historical accuracy. At least I don’t think I would notice errors as much. I also must disclose to you that I am highly aware this is my opinion and reaction to the book, and my thoughts count pretty little in the grand scheme of things. And since there are so many of the fans out there of the Morland Dynasty, I think that those readers who would enjoy a roving family dynasty style of a read, this is top notch in that area. Be forewarned though, the series is a whopping 34 books in the series. So far.

The first two books did not occur in an immediate timeline, as some of the extended family members rapidly expanded between the time of book one and before book two. Therefore this can easily be read as a stand alone book, as those people who are not yet wary of the Tudor stories would enjoy this as it doesn’t just focus on the many wives of Henry VIII. There are strong themes of the reformist versus the papist, and the most “royal” attention was given to Anne Boleyn since a main character, Nanette, was her close friend in the story. The political times and the major players of the Tudor era represent most of the story line’s backdrop, with the predictable Morlands sitting around the fire talking about the intricate workings of the Tudor court as the Morlands continue to marry within the family.

Read my review of book one in the Morland Dynasty, The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles here.
I am entering this novel in The Tudor Mania Challenge which is ongoing throughout the month of July.
GIVEAWAY… Ends July 2nd.
Comment on this other post… where I had previously announced the Giveaway for both of Cynthia Harrod Eagles’ books one and two of The Morland Dynasty. Follow the rules on that post to enter for the drawing.


Filed under Anne Boleyn, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Henry VIII

>Guest author Sarah A. Hoyt discusses Kathryn Howard, Fifth wife of Henry VIII

>NO WILL BUT HIS by Sarah A. Hoyt (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; April 6, 2010; 978-0425232514; $14.00) is the fourth in a series of historical novels about the wives of Henry VIII, whose lives and loves shaped the future of all of Britain .

Her name was Kathryn Howard. Cousin to Anne Boleyn, the women for whom King Henry VIII changed the world, the orphaned Kathryn grew up a poor relation in a household where discipline was lax. Her youthful indiscretions would have hardly mattered if the eye of the aging King had not fallen on her. But she caught the King’s attention and, a Howard, Kathryn was ambitious. Henry called her his rose without a thorn, and she assumed the role of his untouched child bride, his adored fifth wife. Meanwhile, Kathryn relatives conspired to make sure that the truth was kept from the King.  Read an excerpt.

Mind Over Matter by Sarah A. Hoyt

The writing of No Other Will Than His – or at least the selling of it – started five years ago, when apropos very little in a phone call with my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, I found myself disputing her assertion that Kathryn Howard fifth wife of Henry VIII was “just a slut” and not very bright. Eventually my vigorous argument got me a contract to write a book about her.

I confess my opinion in the matter was probably colored by having attended an all girl highschool, where the class slut was also one of the brightest students. But there were more material considerations. Every other of Henry’s wives was smart and accomplished in her own way.

In fact, taken all in all, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour might have had little else in common, except that every contemporary agreed each one was a very intellectually accomplished female. Oh, certainly, Katherine of Aragon’s mind might run to theology, but she was also an able and accomplished agent for the relationship between England and Spain and proved more than a worthy adversary for Wolsey and all the King’s men. And Anne Boleyn was undisputedly quick of wit and as prompt with song and line as the king himself, if not more so. Jane Seymour, on the other hand, as quiet and domestic as she might have been – or at least played – was adept at managing the not inconsiderable royal household and was friends with her stepdaughter, Mary Tudor, who was herself no mean scholar.

With this in mind, and taking in account that part of what might have given Henry a disgust of Anne of Cleves was her inability to converse nimbly in English, it is highly unlikely he would have chosen a dumb bunny for his fifth wife.

I’m not disputing she was ignorant. The surviving letters from her are certainly pitiful. Though I will maintain you don’t have to be dumb to write near illegible letters. I have known mathematical and musical geniuses who could barely string two words together. On the other hand in her day book learning was not in general favored for women – beyond the king’s daughters themselves. Her step grandmother, too, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, might have kept Kathryn deliberately ignorant so as to make her more pliable – and that’s assuming that she was interested enough at first to care if she learned or not.

However, even though she might have been proffered to the king as a puppet, something in her must have caught the king enough to marry her. Her cousin, Mary Howard, was at one point encouraged to make the king her paramour, but never to attempt to marry him. Kathryn, however, who was still a child in our terms, was told to aspire for the top, and did manage it.
In the hothouse environment of the court, there must have been many other dainty, pretty young damsels to take the king’s eye. But only Kathryn captured him in matrimony and that bespeaks both courage and intelligence – the daring to aim for the top and to achieve it.

Yes, afterwards she might have miscalculated her position and ultimately paid for it with her life. Strategic brilliance cannot be expected of a girl who died before eighteen.

But in a brutal time, she used her looks AND her mind to best effect and even though her romantic heart might have preferred Thomas Culpepper embraced the challenge of capturing the crown.

Her fall was as fast and precipitous as her rise, but with all that, let’s pause for a moment and admire a young woman who has often been much maligned, but who in life must have been a creature of considerable courage, decision and intelligence.
NO WILL BUT HIS by Sarah A. Hoyt is available for purchase from Amazon, Ebay or your favorite booksellers.

Bookmark and Share


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Catherine Howard, Henry VIII, Sarah A. Hoyt, Tudor

>Book Review: The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy


The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy
Publisher: Kensington (January 26, 2010)
Historical Fiction
ISBN-13: 978-0758238443
Review Copy provided by the author
The Burton Review Rating:


Shy, plain Lady Jane Parker feels out of place in Henry VIII’s courtly world of glamour and intrigue–until she meets the handsome George Boleyn. Overjoyed when their fathers arrange a match, her dreams of a loving union are waylaid when she meets George’s sister, Anne. For George is completely devoted to his sister, and cold and indifferent to his bride. As Anne acquires a wide circle of admirers, including King Henry, Jane’s resentment grows. But if becoming Henry’s queen makes Anne the most powerful woman in England, it also makes her highly vulnerable. And as Henry, desperate for a male heir, begins to tire of his mercurial wife, the stage is set for the ultimate betrayal…

Encompassing the reigns of five of Henry’s queens, THE BOLEYN WIFE is an unforgettable story of ambition, lust, and jealousy, of the power of love to change the course of history, and of the terrible price of revenge.

Tudor fans have long been intrigued by the wife of George Boleyn, Jane Parker, as she was a crucial witness for Thomas Cromwell in condemning George, his sister Queen Anne, and four other men for treason against King Henry VIII. This is the fictional story of Lady Jane Parker, as she first meets George, and begs her father to procure him as a husband for her, and her story lasts until she is also sent to the scaffold, years after her husband.

In this retelling of the Tudor legacy of wives, Brandy Purdy takes the drama and the rumors a step further by adding spice and sexual encounters. Where Philippa Gregory has told a fictional account of the fall of Anne Boleyn and her extended family in The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance, Purdy dresses it up with all of the falsehoods that were bandied about, and stretches it beyond my wildest imaginations.

Much to Jane’s delight, George and Jane are married as she so fervently wished, but seemingly George’s amorous intentions are elsewhere. Ultimately, Jane takes this jealous realization to Thomas Cromwell and secures a reason for King Henry to rid himself of his tiresome wife, Queen Anne. Jane was bent on vengeance, as stated several times in this novel told in a first-person account through Jane, as she was always the one in the background being taunted and ridiculed when all she wanted was to be loved by her husband. She wanted Queen Anne to die, and didn’t care the men she also implicated were to die, but she somehow did not believe her husband would also be sent to the block. She merely wanted Anne out of the picture so that she could have George all to herself.

Immediately we are thrust into the typical Boleyn-hating rumors regarding Anne, such as her sixth finger, the ‘wen’ (witch’s mark) on her neck; Anne giving birth to a two-faced monster; Anne’s sister Mary’s children being Henry’s spawn; George being a homo-sexual..and Purdy adds a few more to the pot by having Jane give birth to Cromwell’s baby..

And once the Boleyns are out of the picture, Jane is back at court tending to Anna of Cleves and then Katherine Howard. Purdy added for dramatic effect the notion that Jane had met this Katherine when Katherine was an adorable five year old, and thus had developed a mothering nature towards Katherine once she was at court. Katherine is oblivious to this one sweet nature of Jane’s, as she blindly cavorts with Thomas Culpepper while she was married to King Henry and thereby seals her doom, along with Jane’s, due to her lust.

Purdy ventures not too deeply into the accused incestuous nature of George and Anne’s relationship, but this is the only freedom that she does not seem to take. She shows the courtiers of Brereton, Weston, Norris, and musician Smeaton as always doting on Anne and seemingly always at court; Smeaton kissing Anne’s hem of her skirt, with all the other gentlemen fawning over Anne at every waking moment, even when she was out of favor with King Henry. The scaffold scenes are all factually wrong, though poignant. The supporting characters of the Tudor court are not dealt with, there were as few names as possible dropped. There is no mention of Jane’s own family once she marries George. I would have loved to know how the Parkers felt about George being executed and their daughter being the cause of it. There are many facts that were disregarded for the sake of a good story, and too much sex was included. For instance, we are also privy to Anna of Cleves and Katherine Howard getting it on. And much wasted seed was spilling down legs at various times.

Much like Gregory’s writing style, Purdy’s own is fast and quick paced, making this a fast read. I hesitate to say ‘easy’ read.. those readers who like their Tudor novels without excessive copulation will be sorely disappointed; as well as those will be disappointed if you prefer the Tudor era novels to stick closer to the actual facts of the times. Purdy takes as many liberties as possible with this telling of the wives of Henry Tudor, in an attempt to offer an exciting alternative to the standard Tudor fiction. If you have little knowledge of the Tudor era, this read may be less grating on your sensibilities as opposed to the latter. But, if you want the “Oh my GOD!” factor this time around, this one would certainly satiate that need. Especially for the fact that sneaky Jane was absolutely everywhere whenever anything was going on at all. I had to roll my eyes back into my head a few times every time she stealthily left the room so she could go hide in a cupboard and watch what was about to occur.

The Boleyn Wife is available February 2010, as a reissue of Purdy’s self-published Vengeance is Mine.


Filed under Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, 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


>The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir

The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir:
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
On Sale: January 5, 2010
Price: $28.00
Pre-Order Price Guarantee at Amazon ($18.48)
ISBN: 978-0-345-45321-1 (0-345-45321-2)
Review copy provided by Publisher, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars!

Product Description:

“Nearly five hundred years after her violent death, Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII, remains one of the world’s most fascinating, controversial, and tragic heroines. Now acclaimed historian and bestselling author Alison Weir has drawn on myriad sources from the Tudor era to give us the first book that examines, in unprecedented depth, the gripping, dark, and chilling story of Anne Boleyn’s final days.
The tempestuous love affair between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn scandalized Christendom and altered forever the religious landscape of England. Anne’s ascent from private gentlewoman to queen was astonishing, but equally compelling was her shockingly swift downfall. Charged with high treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London in May 1536, Anne met her terrible end all the while protesting her innocence. There remains, however, much mystery surrounding the queen’s arrest and the events leading up to it: Were charges against her fabricated because she stood in the way of Henry VIII making a third marriage and siring an heir, or was she the victim of a more complex plot fueled by court politics and deadly rivalry?
The Lady in the Tower examines in engrossing detail the motives and intrigues of those who helped to seal the queen’s fate. Weir unravels the tragic tale of Anne’s fall, from her miscarriage of the son who would have saved her to the horrors of her incarceration and that final, dramatic scene on the scaffold. What emerges is an extraordinary portrayal of a woman of great courage whose enemies were bent on utterly destroying her, and who was tested to the extreme by the terrible plight in which she found herself.
Richly researched and utterly captivating, The Lady in the Tower presents the full array of evidence of Anne Boleyn’s guilt—or innocence. Only in Alison Weir’s capable hands can readers learn the truth about the fate of one of the most influential and important women in English history.”

Although perhaps anti-climatic with the multitude of biographies and Tudor histories, this newest work by historian Alison Weir provides Anne Boleyn enthusiasts with so many detailed accounts of the last four months of Anne’s life that there is little left wanting. It is extensive with the recounting of the events that led to Anne’s arrest, and Weir leaves no stone unturned in her endeavor to relay details from the myriad of sources. Weir uses many sources to quote from, examines, explains, and then succinctly affirms or refutes each fact, and leaves nothing left to our imaginations. I would see this book as a spider web that examines all the related threads formed from conjecture, from various opinions to recorded fact, and Weir weaves all this detail into a reliable work that skillfully observes all facets of the fall of Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn herself has been a sort of enigma for some; there have been many unanswered questions due to the multiple contradicting storytellers of her day and later. Weir attempts to examine all angles and then gives her opinion and why she thinks the certain way about something.

In those tyrannical days of Henry VIII, advisers, friends and bishops would not make their opinions known on most topics until they knew “which way the wind blew”; they dared not risk Henry VIII’s displeasure. The same was true during the arresting process of the accused at this trial of Anne Boleyn. The book focuses on 1536, it encompasses the major events and common views that brought Anne and Henry to their current relationship, with the politics and religious views of the time being spelled out. It details the factions of the times, and who were Pro-Boleyn before Anne’s fall, and who were always anti-Boleyn and sought for the downfall of this upstart family.

Some interesting facts that Weir touched upon were that Anne felt that Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries had gone too far, and that Anne and Henry differed in their opinions about how far the reformation should go. Anne was not as zealous as Henry was, and did not condone the stripping of all of the funds that the Church had once relied on. I also found interesting that there were mentions of three ladies who were the ones to initially stir up the trouble with the accusations of adultery on Anne’s part. There were many more courtiers who were involved in the setting of the snare, moreso than I had once believed. I was also intrigued as to the Catholic traditions that Anne observed before her death.

The threat of regicide, and plotting to take Henry’s life, was actually the coup d’etat that sealed Anne’s fate. Once Cromwell had cast doubt on Anne’s character due to the infidelities he accused her of, and then the horrid accusation of incest, the figurative nail in Anne’s coffin was actually the idea that Anne had plotted with her lovers that she would marry one of them after Henry had died. This is what scared mad Henry the most, because perhaps he WAS bewitched when he fell in love with Anne and felt forced to break with the Roman Church.. perhaps she had sinister tendencies and wished to see Henry dead as well! And obviously, this was all too convenient for Henry to deny in the first place, as he had fallen in love with Jane Seymour months before the trial, and was eager for this way out.

With Anne gone, Henry was free to pursue marital bliss with Jane Seymour and beget the treasured son. I also found it interesting the way that Jane Seymour had conveniently made herself available when Henry tired of Anne, and makes me suspect the innocent Plain Jane characterization. It seems the affair was going on for quite awhile before Anne’s downfall. One cannot help but wonder what would have happened to Jane herself, if she had lived through the dangers of childbirth. Jane had already been chided by Henry to not be meddling in state affairs.. as Anne had also done..

How much of the infidelity accusations Henry truly believed, could not be known, but the fact that Thomas Cromwell had everything neatly tidied up to rid the court of Anne and some of his own meddlesome courtiers makes Cromwell seem like quite the evil person. Quite interesting is the fact that the poet Wyatt and another courtier were accused and arrested as well. Weir details out the methodical process of Cromwell and his friends to ensure the accused (the ones they wanted to be rid of) were found guilty, and each step made my blood boil as I learned how despicable Cromwell really was. I found morbid redemption in knowing that Cromwell would himself wind up with his boiled head on a pike in London at the bequest of Henry just a few years later. This is not to say that I formed this opinion via Weir’s words; she was actually not as judgemental towards Cromwell as I am. She states that he was merely trying to save his own neck, knowing that Henry wanted a way out of the failing marriage, and he is the one who orchestrated it “for the good of the realm” using as many puppets as he could possible find.

In my recent review of “Elizabeth’s Women” by Tracy Borman (which I also enjoyed), I mentioned how I was surprised at the mention of a son to George Boleyn, Anne’s brother. At The Maiden’s Court I mentioned this ‘fact’ as well and felt that it was not possible that George and Lady Jane Rochford had a son. Weir also mentions the son of George Boleyn here, also named George who later becomes the Dean of Lichfield in Elizabethan times, but explains that he is most likely an illegitimate son. I had researched online that this George was given the dean post in 1576, (40 years after the death of the elder George), offering perhaps that this George in question was offspring of a Boleyn relation, of which there were many. There were many more interesting tidbits in Weir’s work, especially pertaining the backgrounds of Smeaton, Norris, Rochford, and Brereton.

Another interesting fact was that Henry Percy, Anne’s very own former betrothed, had reported to Cromwell in April of 1536 that he didn’t like the fact that the ‘lowly’ musician Mark Smeaton was able to afford horses and costumes etc. He hinted to Cromwell that he must have received some sort of reward from the Queen, and even said that he saw Smeaton leaving the Queen’s apartment. Of course Cromwell’s eyes must have gleamed at this offering of information! Yet, had Percy done this out of jealousy? It seems that is the romantic view, where the probably most likely view is that Percy did not like the Queen very much at all, and Weir goes into this further.

I would hesitate to call this a biography of Anne Boleyn, as it is much more encompassing as to be a portrait of the tumultuous times that caused Anne’s disgrace. I enjoyed the surprising facts that I had not known before, and I think that anyone who is interested in the politics that brought Anne’s reign to an end should read this. I was also disheartened to learn that there are very few accurate likenesses of her due to the fact that her memory was effectively banished from England and destroyed pretty much immediately. But it made me happy to learn that for at least the last forty years, a group of trustees has ordered for a bunch of roses to be placed at her tomb on the anniversary of her death. (Online it states that this has been since the 1850’s).

This book is a treasure trove of encyclopedia-like facts regarding Anne and her contemporaries, but those who enjoy the drama of Anne’s demise may feel a bit over loaded with the many names, dates and facts, who said what and when. Yet, it is these minute details that Weir divulges which make this a wonderful read for the Tudor fanatic due to the unveiling of lesser-known ideas. Although in most passages it reads well and is not difficult to follow, there is so much information that it seems easier to digest in slow spurts. This is not a book to read at the doctor’s office or with toddlers demanding attention. Weir does not attempt to force her opinion on her readers, she lays it all out for us to digest and appreciate its worth; and then she simply states what she has come to believe to be the most logical explanation for the events in question. This is a vast work of intricacies of politics and factions and how they all came together to bring about the death of Henry VIII’s second wife.

Since this book is full of details… facts..(I need another word for details today), this is not Light Reading. Yes, despite my overall euphoria over this read, there were a couple of days there I could not get in ten pages at a time. It was loaded with itsy bitsy teeny facts that weren’t making their way into comprehension. (*True story- I momentarily closed my eyes and briefly fell asleep while on lunch, reading the book, and awoke with such a start that my freshly brewed cup of tea went flying through the air and made quite a clatter and a mess. That was within that couldn’t-get-in-ten-pages-period.) The multiple versions of each and every event started to grate on my nerves as well. We would sit through a page worth of a ‘chronicle’ and then Weir would smartly tell us.. haha.. the buffoon.. that could not be true (not exactly in those words, hence the adjective ‘smartly’). Obviously she was trying to prove the point how easily the facts got distorted, therefore people grew to believe wrong accounts and form misguided opinions; these same opinions that formed History. And every now and then I got perturbed at the redundancy of certain phrases, such as apocryphal. I had to look it up. Another word I had to look up was buggery. EWWWW. And I don’t like reading books that pose questions. “Just how honorable were Henry’s intentions?” etc. I would like to read the book, not have a back and forth conversation. But then I bucked up and read on, and the last chapters of the book had me riveted. I was then disappointed that I finished it. Vicious cycle of Reading a Good Book. And I wouldn’t mind having that conversation now.

My other gripe? Having merely the Advance Reading Copy, and not the final version. I am missing the photos and the all-important index. I would definitely love to have the final copy so that I could go back and forth with the index, which is a weird habit of mine when I just feel the need to absorb facts. But I did have the Select Bibliography, which is a book collector’s dream my husband’s nightmare!! And I would love to add this latest wealth of Weir knowledge to my special favorite Tudor bookcase, which is where its rightful place would be.

Bookmark and Share


Filed under Alison Weir, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Review, Tudor