Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Three narrators tell the story of Henry VIII's fourth and fifth marriages in this novel that mixes betrayal, greed, ambition, conspiracy, intrigue and even death with vanity and frivolity.  I devoured every juicy tidbit, and with my lack of historical perspective, had no idea how these women would fare in the end.  Not knowing the outcome made this novel even more enjoyable than The Other Boleyn Girl.  We have Jane Boleyn, wife of George, who gains the confidence of each successive queen, despite the fact that her testimony helped send her beloved husband and her beautiful sister-in-law Anne Boleyn to the scaffold.  Her scheming is all at the urging of the Duke of Norfolk, who has no scruples whatsoever and uses Jane as a manipulator and spy.  To make sure that her betrayal of Anne and George Boleyn was not for naught, she keeps trying to save herself, doing the Duke's bidding, even when she knows that more lives will be lost.  Anne of Cleves is the buttoned-up, dowdy woman destined to become Henry's fourth queen but without enough guile to gain the interest of the fat, stinky, lecherous old man who can have any woman in the kingdom.  Instead, he diverts his attentions to Katherine Howard, a beautiful, flirtatious, teenage maid-in-waiting.  She is quite the opposite of both Jane Boleyn and Anne of Cleves, in that she is too na├»ve and vain to realize that her deeds jeopardize the lives of her loved ones.  Sometimes in her efforts to keep us informed about all three women, the author becomes a bit repetitive.  We don't need frequent reminders that Anne of Cleves is just biding her time after the King discards her in favor of Kitty Howard.  The fate of these three women pivots on the whim of a man who has no qualms about executing anyone who presents the slightest threat to his sovereignty.  Consequently, life in his court is apt to be short-lived, and at one point the author raises the question as to why anyone would choose to be there.  Those who deem themselves safe are the most at risk.

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