The White Princess by Philippa Gregory – Mini Book Review

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Hey guys, I don’t really have time to write much this week, but The White Princess came out a week ago already and I wanted to give you some quick thoughts. This is a continuation of Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series (I previously reviewed the following other books in the series: The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, and the nonfiction companion Women of the Cousins’ War). In this book she focuses on the eldest daughter of Edward IV, the wife of Henry Tudor (Henry VII), and the mother of Henry VIII, Elizabeth of York. If you want more information about what is contained in the story, you can see the feature I wrote about it for the SheKnows Book Lounge.

A couple thoughts:

  • Gregory’s Elizabeth was in love with her uncle, Richard III and, in fact, even carried on a love affair with him (before this book begins, obviously, since he is dead by the opening pages). This is not outside the realm of possibility, since there were rumors at the time he was planning to marry her. However, I thought we were reminded of this fact just a little too often at the beginning of the book, where seemingly every mention of Richard was followed by something along the lines of “my lover.” Luckily that went away before too long, particularly as Elizabeth began to find her way in her marriage to Henry Tudor.
  • What makes The White Princess really special is the level of conflict Gregory introduces that is internal to Elizabeth. She finds herself stuck initially between her mother (and her missing or dead brothers who should have inherited the throne) and her husband. This may not seem like such a conundrum as she didn’t exactly marry for love, but once she has a son who is set to inherit the throne from her husband, Elizabeth’s life becomes much more difficult. There are so many rebellions and pretenders to the throne around and Elizabeth has to work out for herself where her loyalties truly lie. Although this is a major theme, each time it is presented in a new enough way that it doesn’t seem redundant, just ever more heartbreaking for Elizabeth.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

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The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen – Book Review

The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he craved? She might never have been accused of treason and incest, she, Katherine Howard and Jane Grey might have kept their heads, and neither of Henry’s daughters might have ever become Queen.

It is against this backdrop of a history that never was that Laura Andersen places The Boleyn King. At 17, Henry IX, known to those close to him as William, is itching prove himself to his advisers and his country. Unfortunately, there are many who still dislike William’s mother, not least Protestantism she brought when Henry broke with the church to marry her – the Protestantism that William and England still practice. For many, Mary is still Henry’s rightful heir, and William, Elizabeth, and their two best friends have inadvertently uncovered what may be a plan to put Mary on William’s throne. Will they be able to unravel the plot in time to stop what is coming? 

The Boleyn King is a fun exercise in ‘what ifs.’ I wasn’t really expecting the thriller-esque plotline, but it was fun, engaging. And really, it makes sense: there is less open resentment for William than for the parade of queens that took the English throne after the death of Henry’s historical son, Edward, but the changes in English religious wife brought on by Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn leaves its scars on the populace regardless. Recommended.

For more information, check out the publisher’s page

Source: Publisher

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A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir – Book Review

A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

In less than a century, England saw two rulers who would be recorded in the popular history as usurpers: Richard III and Lady Jane Grey. When Jane Grey is overthrown by Queen Mary Tudor after ruling for only nine days, her younger sister Katherine Grey feels that her life has been torn asunder. Not only is she no longer the sister of the Queen and instead the sister and daughter of traitors, but her marriage to her beloved husband is annulled by his father, who no longer sees their match advantageous. Kate Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had a happy early life, but after the death of her uncle, King Edward IV, suspicion begins to invade her life as her father’s actions in regards to the kingdom and his nephews seem increasing suspect. As relatives to unsuccessful claimants to the Crown, Katherine and Kate have many parallel experiences and a shared obsession with the fate of Edward IV’s sons, the boys who would become known as the Princes in the Tower.

I have had mixed reactions to Alison Weir’s fiction, but really enjoy her nonfiction, so when I heard she had a new novel coming out I was excited check it out. I was not terribly sure about the idea of dual historical time periods going between the reign of Richard III and the reigns of the three Tudor women; it seemed likely not to flow well, or to be too contrived. As I began reading Kate and Katherine’s stories, though, I realized just how many similarities there were in the broad strokes of their stories, with the ascension and dethroning of their family members with pretensions to the throne. This was even more true as both women underwent these experiences when they were quite young and thus had to deal with the way that these events influenced their matrimonial prospects.

Early on it seems that Kate and Katherine’s shared interest in the Princes in the Tower was going to be unsatisfying and a bit of a loose thread, but a little over halfway through A Dangerous Inheritance the pieces begin to come together and this commonality between the women weaves their narratives together even more coherently than their shared status as the kin of traitors. Ultimately A Dangerous Inheritance is a captivating pair of stories with incredibly appealing and sympathetic main characters and I can definitely recommend it.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham – Book Review

Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks

Although he marries six times, Henry VIII has only three children who were at least arguably born in wedlock, one each by each of his first three wives. The eldest two, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, are both considered illegitimate at different times according to Henry’s whims and the laws of the land. Only his son Edward, by his third wife Jane Seymour, truly has a clear path to the throne. Unfortunately, Henry dies while Edward was still in his minority, leaving the young king to be ruled by prominent men of the kingdom, including his uncles on his mother’s side. The result is a period of upheaval, as various men succumb to the seduction of power and vastly overstep their boundaries. In the midst of this, Edward is growing increasingly radical in his Protestantism, and when he begins to get sick, he is determined that his eldest sister, the staunchly Catholic Mary, will not succeed him. As both of his sisters have been considered illegitimate at one point or another, disinheriting both of them seems the easiest and wisest course. Henry’s will ensured that if his children died without issue, the crown would go to children of his youngest sister, Mary. Luckily, Edward has an equally Protestant cousin in that branch of the family: the lady Jane Grey.

Jane Grey and Edward VI are perhaps the least written about Tudor rulers, so I am always drawn to books about them, as authors are less likely to be simply rehashing the same old thing. In this case, the only other book I’ve read about Jane Grey is Alison Weir’s Innocent Traitor, which I read shortly before I started blogging and so haven’t reviewed. The Jane of Weir’s story is meek and mild, but also very against taking precedence over her cousin Mary, who she believes is the rightful queen after Edward’s death, despite her Catholicism. Higginbotham’s Jane, on the other hand, thinks very highly of herself, her own intelligence, and her religion. Frankly, she’s a bit of a brat and you sense she would be an unmitigated disaster as queen.

Thankfully, with a Jane like this, Higginbotham does not tell her story from Jane’s own point of view, which might well be insufferable. Instead, we see the events from Edward’s ascension to Mary’s through the eyes of her mother Frances Grey and her future mother-in-law Jane Dudley. In addition to saving us from some of Jane’s high opinion of herself, these women are better placed to let the reader experience more of the drama of Edward’s reign and death first hand, which makes for a more interesting and informative book than we might have had from Jane’s eyes alone.

Her Highness, the Traitor is perhaps the strongest of Higginbotham’s books thus far. It is well-edited and the story flows smoothly and quickly. It also may have the broadest appeal because, although Jane Grey and Edward VI are scarce topics as far as the Tudors go, they are still Tudors and thus more familiar to many readers than some of Higginbotham’s other subjects. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir – Book Review

The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

Accused of incest, adultery, witchcraft, and plotting the death of her husband the king, Anne Boleyn was the first royal woman to be put to death for crimes of this nature. What really caused her downfall, though? Was Henry VIII simply tired of her, had she become a harridan who he no longer wished to deal with? Was she actually guilty of adultery and incest? Or perhaps Anne was an innocent victim in Henry’s all-consuming quest for a legitimate male heir? In The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn, historian Alison Weir examines the evidence against Anne and those around her, and comes to a conclusion not often promoted in popular Tudor historical fiction.

Weir tells the story of Anne’s fall from beginning to end, all the way to its impact on her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I. Along the way she explores the evidence and counter evidence both for Anne’s alleged guilt, and for the plethora of theories that have built up around her accusal, conviction, and execution. Weir writes clearly, and ostensibly without much bias. She seems to know the Tudor period inside and out, and her arguments are convincing, based as they are on documents and Tudor-era norms.

Although packed with facts, theories, and evidence, The Lady in the Tower never becomes dull or dry. Anne’s story is a fascinating and dramatic one, and Weir lets that come through, without the drama prejudicing her arguments. This is a very well-written and informative history that has undoubtedly influenced the way I view Anne’s trial and fall. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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