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The King’s Curse – Philippa Gregory

Published October 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The final novel in the Cousins’ War series, the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries, The White Queen, by #1 New York Times bestselling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory tells the fascinating story of Margaret Pole, cousin to the “White Princess,” Elizabeth of York, and lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.

After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.

What did I think?:

I’ve got such fond memories of when I first became aware of Philippa Gregory. A friend introduced me to her Wideacre trilogy consisting of the books Wideacre, The Favoured Child and Meridon all of which I adored and then my sister introduced me to her Tudor books and this is when I fell in love with her as an author. I haven’t been reading her as prolifically as I once did as unfortunately I feel like her last few novels in the Cousins’ War series haven’t been as brilliant as I know she can write but I still hugely enjoy both her writing and her intense focus on the women that history hasn’t given an adequate voice.

Margaret Pole is one of those women and The King’s Curse tells her story. She is daughter of the Duke of Clarence, cousin to Elizabeth of York (Henry VIII’s mother) and in this novel, becomes lady in waiting to Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon and then warden to her first daughter, Princess Mary. You may all be aware of what happens to poor Queen Katherine so this story is a fascinating insight into Margaret’s feelings and loyalties to both her King and to the woman she adores like a sister. Margaret comes across as a strong, sensible woman whose own family’s safety and well-being is paramount in her mind but she also demonstrates a steadfast faith and respect for those that she binds herself to both in duty and in friendship. She doesn’t have an easy life and her morals and values are tested in the worst ways imaginable but by the end, she remains true to herself and those close to her and earns the reader’s instant respect and admiration.

As I mentioned before, I love how Philippa Gregory takes a forgotten woman of history and suggests how important they may actually have been in the grand scheme of things. I loved learning more about her and was especially intrigued by her fragile relationship with King Henry VIII as he views her and her family as an obvious threat to his throne. Even though Margaret is our main protagonist, we still hear a lot about what is happening at the Tudor court at that period of history i.e. the divorce of Henry and Katherine, the rule of Anne Boleyn and the dissolution of the Catholic church with Henry VIII attempting to replace the Pope as the supreme ruler in England. It’s obvious the author has done some meticulous research as she forged this story and although parts of it have already been told before, for example in The Constant Princess and arguably her most famous novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, it never feels tired, old or re-hashed as we hear about events from a completely different point of view. I don’t think I’ll ever get weary of reading about the Tudor dynasty, a period of our past where the characters are just so incredibly effervescent and fascinating and I’m looking forward to getting to her next novel: The Taming Of The Queen.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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The Boleyn King – Laura Andersen

Published July 28, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Boleyn King is the first novel in an enthralling new trilogy. Re-imagining history in sumptuous detail, Laura Anderssen takes readers back to the deadly intrigue, turbulent affairs, and treacherous passions of Tudor England – and answers the compelling question What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted?

Just seventeen years old, Henry IX, known as William, is a king bound by the restraints of the regency yet anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics sowing the seeds of rebellion at home, William trusts only three people: his older sister Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by William’s mother, Anne Boleyn.

Against a tide of secrets, betrayal, and murder, William finds himself fighting for the very soul of his kingdom. Then, when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession looms over a new generation of Tudors. One among them will pay the price for a king’s desire, as a shocking twist of fate changes England’s fortunes forever.

What did I think?:

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and Ballantine Books so many thanks to them. I approached this novel with slight trepidation as I am a big fan of the Tudor period, Phillippa Gregory for fiction, Alison Weir for non-fiction, and I was curious to see what this author would do with such a well-loved stage of our history. Luckily enough, I was pleasantly surprised! This is an alternative history, which gives us the big “what if” question, in this case what if Anne Boleyn had given Henry a son and heir? How would history proceed? What would happen to England?

We first meet the young king at seventeen years old, almost ready to take the reins of the kingdom from the Lord Protector, Lord Rochford. Tudor fans will recognise him as Anne Boleyn’s ambitious brother, accused of incest with his sister which led to his execution by Henry VIII in “real” history. In this re-telling, he enjoys his role commanding the kingdom, slipping nuggets of wisdom into the young king’s ears. William feels quite overwhelmed by his duties, but is able to put his trust in his older sister Elizabeth (Elizabeth I) and two childhood friends, Dominic and Minuette. Trouble looms as they grow older, when the two boys both fall in love with Minuette, and the King finds himself torn between duty, friendship and passion.

As an alternative history, I think its a terrific re-telling of what may have been, and I enjoyed how the author made it feel believable in that she kept elements of the primary story – for example, Elizabeth’s alleged romance with Robert Dudley. I’m not a big fan of chick-lit or romance novels, but I appreciated the romantic element in this story, as again, I felt the author did a good job of making it plausible. And hooray, there were still many plots afoot to claim the throne that kept the story fast-paced and exciting, and able to claim the title of “credible historical fiction.” I am now eagerly anticipating the next novel in the series, and will definitely look out for other books by this author.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0