Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Tudor #HistFic Jane The Quene by Janet Wertman

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Jane The Quene by Janet Wertman

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Jane Seymour is one of the Tudor characters about whom I have read little, other than incidentally in stories of Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. The Tudor period has been so over-written, I approached this book with some hesitancy, thinking it would be another rehash of everything I’ve read.  I was pleasantly surprised – Jane Seymour comes across as a unique and layered individual, in contrast to the colorless, vapid, and upright woman described in so many other books.

In the England of 1535, Jane Seymour is 27 years old, edging to spinsterhood. She wants more than anything a marriage that will give her a future and a real place in society, but she is a shy and unspoiled woman who manages everything but is only part of the background. When the court of Henry VIII visits Wolf Hall, her family’s manor, she directs the event with such poise and efficiency that she finally gets noticed, and by Henry VIII himself.

Henry’s wife, Anne Boleyn, has become something of a curse to him: he changed England’s religion to divorce his first wife, Queen Katherine, to marry her (both unpopular moves with the English people) and Anne has given him only a girl child, followed by several miscarriages. He is desperate for a son and sees Jane’s honesty and innocence as a means to his redemption as well as a male heir.

Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious man who has, as the King’s clerk, managed to satisfy his every desire, also sees redemption for Henry in Jane and engineers the plot to have her become queen.

The author has woven a story in which we can see Jane as she was before the King’s visit and watch her develop into a confident queen. Her thoughts, fears and experiences through the plot to remove Anne and Anne’s subsequent beheading create a three dimensional person trying to manage the ardor of the King and her new and unprepared- for position at court. Her ambition, nascent at first, grows as she marries Henry and becomes Quene Jane, and I enjoyed the contrast the author made between the sweet story of her early life and encounters with the King and her developing ambition, which seemed to get the better of her as time went on.

As seems normal for the treachery and intrigue of the Tudor court, relatives tend to direct the loves of the women, and in this respect Jane is not different – her brothers regulated her life from the beginning and I was quite thrilled when she finally stood up to them, although she did take their advice to manipulate the king through his affection for her.

There are many unanswered questions about Jane – what were her feelings about the haste with which Anne Boleyn was removed and executed, her unduly swift marriage to the King, her insertion into the Tudor Court and the gossip associated with it. The author does a good job getting into Jane’s thoughts: guilt, joy, and growing strength and ambition. One can only wonder what would have happened if she had not died following childbirth. Would the King have tired of her and moved on?

I will freely admit I did not like the person Jane became as she moved fully into the role of queen. She lost the humility and sweetness that I had come to love about her. But I believe this is probably what would have happened, and the author has the pulse of this character. The historical detail is wonderful and the dialogue smooth, which made this an easy and fun read.

If you like historical fiction and are a fan of the Tudors, this is a good book for you! And I am more than ready for the next book in the author’s trilogy on the Seymours – The Path to Somerset

Book description

All Jane Seymour wants is a husband; but when she catches the eye of a volatile king, she is pulled deep into the Tudor court’s realm of plot and intrigue….

England. 1535. Jane Seymour is 27 years old and increasingly desperate for the marriage that will provide her a real place in the world. She gets the perfect opportunity to shine when the court visits Wolf Hall, the Seymour ancestral manor. With new poise born from this event, it seems certain that her efficiency and diligence will shine through and finally attract a suitor.

Meanwhile, King Henry VIII is 45 and increasingly desperate for a son to secure his legacy. He left his first wife, a princess of Spain, changing his country’s religion in the process, to marry Anne Boleyn — but she too has failed to deliver the promised heir. As Henry begins to fear he is cursed, Jane Seymour’s honesty and innocence conjure redemption. Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious clerk who has built a career on strategically satisfying the King’s desires, sees in Jane the perfect vehicle to calm the political unrest that threatens the country: he engineers the plot that ends with Jane becoming the King’s third wife.

Jane believes herself virtuous and her actions justified, but early miscarriages shake her confidence and hopes. How can a woman who has done nothing wrong herself deal with the guilt of how she unseated her predecessor?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Tudor #Histfic JANE THE QUENE by Janet Wertman

Today’s team review comes from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Jane The Quene by Janet Wertman

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3.5 stars

A light piece of historical fiction that, on the whole, I liked.  I was tentative at first, being very much ‘Team Boleyn’ as far as the six wives are concerned, but I was pleased to note that Jane Seymour was not portrayed as the meek angel of many a historical novel or TV drama, but every bit as calculating as her predecessor in her mission to capture the heart of Henry VIII; she was used as a tool by her ambitious family in exactly the same way.

The book is written in alternative third person POVs: that of Jane herself, and Thomas Cromwell.  I liked that the author showed the downfall of Anne Boleyn to be a fiction carefully constructed by Cromwell, who knew that Henry needed to get rid of her so he could marry another who might give him a son, but that he could not afford to have another abandoned ex-wife who refused to disappear.  Thus, a story had to be concocted to justify the murder of Anne.  I also liked the explanation of the dissolution of the monasteries; it is clear, concise, and makes for a good understanding of the whys, hows and consequences.  Janet Wertman writes factual detail in a fashion that is both easy to read and entertaining; thus, this book would be an excellent choice for someone who doesn’t know much about the era; for instance, she even explains what a monarch’s yearly Progress is.  Now and again I was a little too aware of the research being translated into the narration, but on the whole it was executed well.

The author is American and, alas, I did come across some American English in dialogue, along with historical inconsistency and modern phraseology.  Examples:

  • ‘Snuck’ – the British English past tense of the verb ‘sneak’ is ‘sneaked’.
  • ‘Snicker’ – British English is ‘snigger’.
  • ‘Gift’ used as a verb and ‘caring’ used as a general adjective to describe someone – these have only crept into British English in more recent years.
  • A reference to mashed potatoes – potatoes were not introduced into this country until some fifty years later, by Sir Walter Raleigh.
  • The phrase ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ – the first recorded use of this phrase was in a play, in the late 17th century.
  • ‘teenagers’ – not in use until the latter half of the 20th century.
  • Henry said, ‘You center me, Jane’.  So American and 21st century that it might as well have ‘Gee’ at the beginning and ‘lol’ at the end!

I also thought that, now and again, the dialogue between Kings, courtiers and Jane was too familiar, and doubted that Cromwell would have introduced the idea of Anne Boleyn’s treason to the King while both were in the presence of Jane Seymour.  I’m aware that writing historical fiction that takes place outside one’s own country must be an incredibly hard thing to do, and I always feel sorry for authors whose editors have let them down.  Google alone is a wonderful and easy-to-use tool.

Despite these ‘dodgy’ areas, though, I did enjoy reading it.  The writing flows, Ms Wertman tells a story in a compelling fashion, and I believed in the characters; these three factors alone are much of what this writing thing is about, after all.  With assistance from a more experienced editor (possibly an English one?) I imagine her work would get better and better.  To sum up, I would say this is light fiction for the newer reader of the genre; perhaps lovers of programmes like Showtime’s The Tudors series, or who enjoy an introduction to the period, rather than the serious history addict – avid readers of this genre are notoriously picky!

Book description

All Jane Seymour wants is a husband; but when she catches the eye of a volatile king, she is pulled deep into the Tudor court’s realm of plot and intrigue….

England. 1535. Jane Seymour is 27 years old and increasingly desperate for the marriage that will provide her a real place in the world. She gets the perfect opportunity to shine when the court visits Wolf Hall, the Seymour ancestral manor. With new poise born from this event, it seems certain that her efficiency and diligence will shine through and finally attract a suitor.

Meanwhile, King Henry VIII is 45 and increasingly desperate for a son to secure his legacy. He left his first wife, a princess of Spain, changing his country’s religion in the process, to marry Anne Boleyn — but she too has failed to deliver the promised heir. As Henry begins to fear he is cursed, Jane Seymour’s honesty and innocence conjure redemption. Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious clerk who has built a career on strategically satisfying the King’s desires, sees in Jane the perfect vehicle to calm the political unrest that threatens the country: he engineers the plot that ends with Jane becoming the King’s third wife.

Jane believes herself virtuous and her actions justified, but early miscarriages shake her confidence and hopes. How can a woman who has done nothing wrong herself deal with the guilt of how she unseated her predecessor?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Tudor #Histfic BRANDON by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Brandon by Tony Riches

After reading Mary -Tudor Princess less than a year ago I was looking forward to seeing this love story from the point of view of Charles Brandon.  Tony Riches has taken us into the mind of Brandon, a generous, clever man and undoubtedly a womaniser. An orphan whose father died fighting for Henry VII at Bosworth, Charles became the friend and mentor of Henry VIII when the latter was still a young prince.  Frequently lacking funds, Brandon was a political animal latching on to the power and influence of first Wolsey and then Thomas Cromwell. He took on the wardship of two young heiresses during his life, but he abandoned his betrothed, Elizabeth Grey, so that he could marry Mary, sister of King Henry and widow of King Francis of France.

Mary had loved him since, at the age of 13, she gave him her favour when he was jousting.  A stunningly beautiful princess with long red gold hair, she also appealed to him and he took a calculated gamble in secretly marrying her without Henry’s permission.  This could have been seen as treason but his close friendship with the King saved the couple.  We share Tudor history with Charles and Mary as they attend the Field of the Cloth of Gold, support their friend Catherine of Aragon and have to accept Anne Boleyn as her replacement.

I love the way the author tells the story simply, concentrating on Brandon himself but giving us a view of the exciting but dangerous world of the Tudor court and the way that the affable young prince Henry turned into an unpredictable, capricious King. At times there is a sudden jump of time and place from one paragraph to the next, but this is easy to forgive when you are transported so easily into another interesting situation. A great introduction into the Tudor world.

Book description

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #tudor #Histfic Mary: Tudor Princess by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from Suraya, she blogs here http://www.thestorymint.com/blog/suraya-dewing/

#RBRT Review Team

Suraya has been reading Mary: Tudor Princess by Tony Riches

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Writing historical fiction that doesn’t lose its authenticity while also remaining enjoyable to read requires great skill. As the writer creates the story he or she is drawing on a vast reservoir of knowledge and choosing which pieces will serve the story well is a challenge.

Tony Riches manages this juggle exceedingly well.

He keeps enough information in the story line so we understand the period and the political tensions of the time. Historical fiction is a wonderful way to learn more about a period without labouring through text books and I felt better informed about Mary Tudor after reading MARY. It was easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable.

I did not feel at any time that the author slipped into giving me information he felt I needed to know. For example, he brought Mary’s sister, Margaret, into the story and by contrasting hers and Mary’s lives we gained a deep understanding of how life was for aristocratic women and particularly these two key historic figures. This was cleverly done. With the writer making no judgement on their situations the reader was freed to reach his or her own conclusions.

However, the biggest challenge a writer of historical fiction faces, is to create believable characters and win empathy for them from readers and yet not stray too far from fact. He achieved this admirably.

I also thought he handled Mary’s loss of her first son sensitively and realistically. Having given the reader insight into Catherine’s desperate attempts to give King Henry VIII a son, the reader was already sensitised to what losing a son meant in those times.

This is a most enjoyable read and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in history.

Book description

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

About the author

Tony Riches is a full-time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.

His real interest is in the history of the Tudors and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.

Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.

Tony Riches

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic Mary: Tudor Princess by @tonyriches #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Mary: Tudor Princess by Tony Riches

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Unlike other readers I tend to avoid selecting Tudor history, perhaps because of a surfeit of them in earlier years, but Mary – Tudor Princess appealed because she was so little known to me; not Bloody Mary, Henry’s eldest surviving child, not Mary Queen of Scots but Henry’s sister Mary. Though written in the third person, this Mary speaks to us of her life of duty and compromise and the happiness she found by guile and diplomacy in finally achieving the marriage she desired.

Wise beyond her years, 13-year-old Mary accepts her betrothal to 9 year old Charles, a future Emperor and prepares herself by keeping his picture at her bedside, but suddenly her capricious brother, King Henry VIII, sees more profit in marrying her to the much older King Louis of France.  Rather than being filled with horror, as a young woman of this century would be, she faces her new life bravely, realising that the King’s age and poor health open the possibility of another husband when she is widowed.  To this end she extracts a promise from her brother that her next marriage will be of her choice though she was to find this was not quite as straightforward as she hoped.

The story also deals with the purchase of wardships, where an astute gentleman, such as Charles Brandon, Mary’s second husband, acquired a young ward so that he could gain access to her fortune by arranging her marriage either to himself or to a useful ally. And here too, we see young girls happily agreeing to this state of affairs, just as Mary’s grand-daughter, Lady Jane Grey would, 40 years later. The complex life of a noble lady in 16th century Europe is both fascinating and disturbing.

Tony Riches has given us a likeable, clever Mary who becomes a good mother and step-mother, who eventually marries the love of her life but quickly learns that she and her friend Queen Catherine are tools in a man’s world.  I thoroughly enjoyed entering the French court, watching Henry’s tournaments and experiencing Mary’s joys and sorrows.

Book description

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

About the author

Tony Riches is a full-time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.

His real interest is in the history of the Tudors and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.

Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.

Tony Riches

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Terry reviews #Tudor #HistFic Mary: Tudor Princess by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading MARY: Tudor Princess by Tony Riches

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4 out of 5 stars

Like many people, I have an unquenchable thirst for good fiction about the Plantagenet and Tudor period.  I wondered if Mary Tudor’s story in itself would be enough to sustain a novel, but was pleased to see that it added to my knowledge of the Tudor period and I liked the way the author used her story to produce another, interesting perspective on that of Henry VIII, as Mary fretted over the troubles with France and watched the fortunes of her friend Queen Catherine plummet.

There are some clever ideas in this tale of Henry’s sister, such as placing the thirteen-year-old Anne Boleyn as her maid, on the night of her wedding to King Louis of France.  Whether she really was or not I don’t know, and neither does it matter, though we are given the information that Anne became one of the ladies of Mary’s bedchamber.  That the reader knows more about what was happening at court than the protagonist is a smart move, as we turn the pages in anticipation of her finding out; as an aristocratic woman of her time, Mary’s life was, of course, subject to the machinations of the men who controlled her.  Later, when kept away from court at Brandon’s seat in Suffolk, she knew only what she heard from others, which included very little of her own husband’s infidelities.

As is usual with Tony Riches’ books, it is clear that much research has been undertaken without it ever seeming research-heavy, a skill I always admire.

Given that the story is of a whole life, and a not uneventful one, this is not a very long book and at times I felt that more detail might have made it more absorbing, for instance in the development of Mary’s first, brief marriage to King Louis of France, of Charles Brandon’s feeling towards her, of the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, and the loss of her first son.  I didn’t feel I knew Mary until half way through, and at times it seemed the story was being somewhat raced through as new characters emerged, older ones died off until, had I not known a great deal about this time, I might have forgotten who was who; on the other hand, it is written as Mary would have seen it—and novels of Tudor history are always hampered by the fact that everyone is called Anne, Mary, Catherine, Charles, Henry and Thomas!

I did enjoy it and read it in two sittings; I just felt that, on occasion, the story required extra depth to make me feel really involved with the main character and less as though I was reading a catalogue of factual happenings.  It’s as well-written as all Mr Riches’ books, though, and that I read it so quickly shows that I found it a page-turner.

Mary’s death at the end was beautifully executed.  I do love a good ending.  I’d definitely recommend this book as an addition to the library of fellow Tudor addicts.

Book description

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

About the author

Tony Riches is a full-time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.

His real interest is in the history of the Tudors and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.

Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.

Tony Riches

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT LA PETITE BOULAIN by @TudorTweep #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s Team Review is from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Noelle has been reading La Petite Boulain by G Lawrence

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La Petite Boulain is the first of a series of novels that will follow the life of Anne Boleyn (this is Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 1) by Gemma Lawrence, author of The Bastard Princess and The Heretic Heir, both about the daughter of Henry VIII who would become Queen Elizabeth.

Anne Boleyn has been the subject of many books, either about her or about the Tudors. I counted 45 on Goodreads alone, by some impressive historical fiction authors such as Antonia Frasier, Philippa Gregory, Jean Plaidy, and Nora Lofts, to name a few. Many of them I have read because I am in love with the Tudor story, so I looked forward to this book.

In La Petite Boulain, the early years of Anne’s life are explored in depth, beginning with her happy childhood at Hever Castle in Kent with her sister Mary and her parents, who were courtiers to both Henry VII and Henry the VIII. While still very young, Anne sees Henry VIII and is infatuated with him, even from a distance. Women in those times were always used as pawns by their parents to enable the family to rise in the ranks. Anne is no exception and at the age of twelve is sent to is sent to the Court of Burgundy to be tutored in court ways and manners by Margaret of Austria. An intelligent girl, Anne not only learns the various arts and language necessary for a courtier, but becomes an astute observer of court life and politics. As a polished young woman, she is sent to the court of France to be a lady-in-waiting to the Princess Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister, who was to wed the aged Louis XII, king of France. Eventually, she is recalled to England by her father, following the death of the Duke of Buckingham. The reader is reminded of her fate, as the story is bookended by her thoughts and observances during her time in the Tower of London, awaiting her possible execution.

What I liked about this book: The author did an exception and detailed job with the historical detail, from the food to the clothing. I loved being immersed in the minutiae of life in that age. The politics of the royal courts, which defines everyone’s life and fate, are laid out crisply and understandably. Religion becomes a part of this, as Martin Luther teachings took root in the Christianity of the commoners. The reader becomes drawn into Anne’s life and sees through her observations and thoughts the fate and treatment of women during that time. It also becomes clear why Henry would become so infatuated with her, as she learns well the lesson of enticing men with beauty, talent and intelligence, but never succumbing to their entreaties and wants. This prompts the question of whether Anne was really in love with Henry, or simply playing the political role of desirable courtier to advance her family. The next book may provide an answer!

What I did not like: The book is very heavy in exposition, mainly very lengthy descriptions of Anne’s thoughts. The dialogue that interspersed these long passages was well-imagined and a relief. Also, Anne’s constant wonderment and delight in the beauty and magnificence of the royal courts and nobility was somewhat overwhelming and at times slightly tedious. I deliberately read The Heretic Heir right after completing this book, to see if this were the author’s writing style. It is, but The Heretic Heir, in my limited opinion, is somewhat better.

All in all, I do recommend La Petite Boulain. I came away with a clearer picture of Anne herself and the time in which she lived. She became a real person, and even those who are not rabid fans of the Tudors will love the historical detail and reach an understanding of this complicated woman. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT La Petite Boulain by G Lawrence @TudorTweep #Histfic #fridayreads

Today’s Team Review is from Olga, she blog at http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Olga has been reading La Petite Boulain by G. Lawrence

My review:

I write this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to Gemma Lawrence for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I’ve been reading more historical novels of recent and I appreciate the mix of skills their authors require. There has to be a lot of research for the novel to be grounded sufficiently in the era and not seem a total flight of fancy. But ensuring that this research is seamlessly weaved into the story and avoiding the risk of turning it into a textbook requires talent, inspiration, art and a passion for the topic. And La Petite Boulain has all those and more.

I’m Spanish and although I’ve lived in the UK for many years I wouldn’t say that my knowledge of English history is deep or detailed. Like most people the entire world over, I’m more familiar with the Tudors and their historical period than with any others, thanks to the fascination they have always held for historians, writers, and movie and television scriptwriters. I would guess that most of us have read or watched something about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I at the very least. And we’ve heard of Anne Boleyn. We might even have an opinion about her.

Since I started writing reviews and blogging about books I’ve come across many books about Anne Boleyn. What prompted me to read this one was a recommendation by one of the reviewers in Rosie’s team that I know is very knowledgeable on the subject (thanks once more, Terry http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/) and the fact that this book looks at Anne not solely regarding her relationship with Henry VIII. The story is told in the first person, by Anne, who is waiting at the Tower to be beheaded (I’m sure this is no spoiler for anybody), and as a way of keeping calm and passing away the time without falling into despair (more so as she’s surrounded by hostile women sent to spy on her), she goes back in time and remembers her life from childhood. This is the first book in the series, and it takes us from childhood to the time when Anne returns back to England after spending several years away, most recently at the French court, when she’s already a young woman.

The book is beautifully written, with detailed (but not boring or drawn-out) descriptions of clothing, places, people and customs. The language and expressions are appropriate to the era without being overcomplicated or slowing down the story. We see Anne as she sees herself, a lucky girl who’s been born into a good family, with a caring, affectionate and accomplished mother, a father somewhat distant and cold, more interested in politics and the advancement of the family’s fortunes than in the feelings of their members, an older sister (Mary) who is the prettiest one, but less clever and freer with her morals (she’s a more sensuous creature), and a younger brother, George, whom she has much in common with.

We follow her amazement and wonder at historical events, such as the coronation of Henry VIII, when she takes a fancy to the young king, and see her education, first at home, and then at different European Courts, initially at Mechelen and then in France. The book captures well the innocence of a young girl arrived at a European court, who thinks everybody is beautiful, clever and brilliant, although even at that age she is a keen observer and a quick learner. She’s also good at noticing the power relations and getting closer to influencers and people who can teach her the most.

As she grows, she starts to notice and observe the underbelly and the hypocrisy of the society she lives in, and she also becomes a critical thinker, questioning organised religion and reading what were at the time considered dangerous tracks (Martin Luther). She is shocked by some behaviours she sees, including those of her family members, and by the clear difference in the way women are treated in comparison to the men, no matter how high their position in life, but she is determined to absorb knowledge and learn as much as she can, to ensure that she will not just be at the whim of those around her.

I enjoyed the historical detail, the reflections on events and historical figures of the era, but above all, the way the story is told, that takes the readers into Anne’s confidence and makes them experience with her both wonderful and terrible events, helping make her a real and understandable human being, rather than a cardboard figurine out of historical volume . La petite Boulain is an absolute pleasure to read, and despite knowing the story, I can’t wait to for the next book in the series.

La Petite Boulain is the first book in the series “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” on the life of Anne Boleyn by G.Lawrence.

https://www.amazon.com/Petite-Boulain-Above-Others-Lady-ebook/dp/B01CXCHPAU/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Petite-Boulain-Above-Others-Lady-ebook/dp/B01CXCHPAU/