Posted in 16th Century Non-Fiction Reviews Tudor

review: The Anne Boleyn Collection

The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway This book reads like a collection of essays and may be blog posts from The Anne Boleyn Files—I’m not familiar enough with the website to know if this is the case. It is arranged in an easy to follow style with the purpose of bringing some of the most valid arguments forward regarding Anne Boleyn’s guilt or innocence and relating information on the people around her. Citing all sources and even making points about the sources themselves, the author digs into previously uncharted footnotes of history, such as the mysterious graves belonging to Anne Boleyn’s alleged brothers who died young, and the disease that many believe King Henry VIII suffered from. As with the author’s other book, The…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Meg Roper

Meg Roper by Jean Plaidy This young adult novel penned in the early 60’s is based on the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More, one of King Henry VIII’s ministers who fell out of favor during the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. It is a simplified version of her full length novel titled St. Thomas’s Eve (republished as The King’s Confidante) but is not, as some listings file it, the same book. Chronicling the political career of Sir Thomas More, this story covers the controversy with religion, including Martin Luther and Henry VIII’s title of Defender of the Faith. It follows More’s family from their happy home at the Barge to their new home in Chelsea. When More becomes the most important man in the…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Wild Irish

The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell In 1593, Grace O’Malley, Mother of the Irish Rebellion, famously met with Queen Elizabeth I of England with a petition to set her son free of Elizabeth’s English-Irish governor and a few other concessions. Robin Maxwell takes this historic event and turns it into a retelling of Grace’s life, from a young girl sailing on her father’s ships to a woman of 60, hardened by war, grief and endless fighting. ‘The Wild Irish’ is an apt title for this novel, as there is no sugar coating the gory, harsh treatment of the Irish within their own rival clans and later the English to the Irish, and vice versa. While it’s easy to commiserate with Grace, there is such incivility…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Virgin: Prelude to the Throne

Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell I knew I’d like this one, as I’ve liked all of her novels. She has a distinct writing style that includes plenty of drama, yet stays true to the facts. The story begins with the death of Henry VIII. Elizabeth is relieved when she is sent to live with the Queen Dowager, Catherine Parr, at her residence in Chelsea. Elizabeth receives a new wardrobe, the best tutors and the adoration of her beloved step-mother. But it all comes crashing down with the arrival of Thomas Seymour, newly appointed Lord High Admiral. He sweeps Catherine off her feet and secretly marries her, risking the disapproval of the Regency Council, and perhaps more importantly the man running the government…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Queen’s Bastard

The Queen’s Bastard by Robin Maxwell One of the great rumors surrounding Queen Elizabeth I is whether or not she had a bastard child or children. There have been several books written on the subject and many theories abound, including the historical figures Edward de Vere, William Shakespeare and one Arthur Dudley, who was notated in Philip, the King of Spain’s state papers. Robin Maxwell takes the character of Arthur and forms a very plausible and adventurous story of his life. The masculine details in this book are so genuine and authentic. I’m always amazed when an author of the opposite gender can so deftly relay the thoughts, feelings and mannerisms of the said character. There are minute details of animal husbandry and manege (the…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Thomas Cromwell, one of Tudor England’s most denigrated figures, is given an honest voice as the protagonist in this minutely detailed, albeit partial, fictional autobiography. It begins with a scene from Cromwell’s violent youth and then jumps to his patronage under Archbishop Wolsey, intermingling some flashback scenes throughout. Cromwell’s rise after Wolsey’s death is very detailed, pitting him against personages such as Thomas More, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and other men high in the king’s favor. The beauty of the writing lies in Cromwell’s manner–he is very open and forthright. I had always pictured him as a schemer, but here we witness him telling his methods and opinions to even his enemies, going as far as putting their…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel Continuing the fascinating portrayal of Thomas Cromwell from her award winning novel, Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel seamlessly begins where the former left off: en route to Wolf Hall, the Seymour family home, where all are aware of the king’s budding desire for Jane, the meek and quiet daughter of the house. Anne Boleyn’s star is falling, and though many believe she was the making of Thomas Cromwell, readers will find that is not quite the case, nor does he need her support to continue in his own career path. The religious aspect of the reformation is not his primary focus, but rather the monetary gains, restructuring the law and guiding England to prosperity. This prodigy is the Cromwell…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Queen’s Rival

The Queen’s Rival by Diane Haeger Bess Blount is well-known as Henry VIII’s first official mistress, but few novels have delved into the details of her life. This story begins with the blue-eyed, blonde beauty as a young teen on her way to court. There she befriends Elizabeth Bryan and Gil Tailbois, and begins a fascination for the young king. Over time, even as she witnesses more than one young lady fall from grace, losing reputation and place, she nonetheless finds herself entirely under King Henry’s spell, and ultimately she becomes his lover. Tudor enthusiasts know the story of Henry VIII’s amorous affairs well enough to know that Bess is eventually discarded by the monarch, but what happened to her after she left court? This…

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Posted in 15th Century Tudor Wars of the Roses

review: The White Queen

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory Imagine an Elizabeth Woodville who is not a vindictive harpy; a cold and calculating queen. Imagine a woman who set out to restore her deceased husband’s titles and lands to her sons and got caught up in a relationship with the king. She never set her eyes to the throne. She loved the king as a man and he won the crown and brought her into prominence. He made suggestions of appointments and marriages for her relatives. She was never over-reaching, except in a few instances where she was feeling vengeful for wrongs done to her family. She was a good and loving mother, a faithful wife and a dutiful queen. And if she ever started feeling a bit…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Other Queen

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory Mary, Queen of Scots is a newly arrived ‘guest’ of England’s Queen Elizabeth I at the home of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his indomitable wife, Bess. As told from three perspectives (George, Mary and Bess) this is the story of the many plots to free the Scots queen and the dwindling fortune and unraveling marriage of the couple unlucky enough to play host to ‘The Other Queen’. Mary, young and very ambitious, plays the innocent, but is in fact a non-stop schemer who cloaks her dishonorable behavior with her untouchable saintliness as a royal and, to a lesser degree, her Catholic faith. She is unwilling to accept that she is wrong in any of her choices, and–to…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Constant Princess

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory I first read this book years ago when it was newly published and remember it as one of my favorite Philippa Gregory novels. I liked the character of Arthur and Catalina’s descriptions of her life in the palaces of Spain. I do remember thinking the depiction of Henry VII was… different. And I enjoy an unconventional telling, which Gregory always provides. Listening to the book being read aloud makes the repetitious prose less annoying. It actually sounds the way a person thinks–which is probably what the author intends–but reading it on paper it doesn’t have the same effect. The narrator has a pleasant and appropriate voice for historical fiction, with perfect pronunciation of foreign names and words. The story…

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Posted in 16th Century Reviews Tudor

review: The Boleyn Inheritance

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory I listened to this on unabridged audio and have decided Philippa Gregory’s books are much better read aloud than read to oneself. This one is even better than some of the others because it has 3 narrators: Jane Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Anne of Cleves, each doing a perfect job with their role. Jane Boleyn is calculating, haughty and stern, Katherine Howard is silly, breathless and flirty, and Anne of Cleves is sober, resigned and resolute. Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford–infamously known for sending her husband to the block by giving evidence against him–was living with begrudging relatives when the Duke of Norfolk recalled her to serve Anne of Cleves. Ceaselessly scheming to further the Howard family’s interests, he placed…

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