Sunday, 12 April 2015

Book Review: The Queen's Promise by Lyn Andrews

From the bestselling author Lyn Andrews comes a compelling historical epic set at the endlessly fascinating Tudor court about the most infamous woman of the age - Anne Boleyn - and the man who loved her before she became queen. From the moment Henry Percy, the future Earl of Northumberland, first glimpses the beautiful Anne Boleyn he is captivated and quickly proposes marriage. Anne has been taught to use her charms to her advantage and to secure her family's position of power at court. She sees that Henry Percy's affection is sincere and agrees to marry him. But a match of the heart has no place in a world where marriage is a political manoeuvre. Torn apart, the lovers are exiled to separate ends of the kingdom. For Henry a lifetime of duty awaits, while he remains true to the only woman he will ever love. But he is not the only man to be bewitched by Anne. And when King Henry VIII determines to make her his queen, the course of history is changed for ever...

My Review:
Henry Percy is not the fighter or dominant son that his father wants. He has no interest in the prospect of marrying Lady Mary Talbot or taking up duties dispensing justice on local thugs and raiding Scots. It is at Court where Henry is sent to make contacts to please his father under the eye of family enemy Cardinal Woolsey. It is there that Henry Percy loses his heart to the new girl at Court Anne Boleyn. But the Cardinal and King are determined to do anything they can to ruin this union. The furious Anne swears revenge on Woolsey for destroying her love match.

I had a few issues with the historical facts in this book. I am of the opinion that Mary Boleyn, not Anne was the older sister. Mary was married first, went to the English Court first and was the King's Mistress first. I don't have an issue with the author having a different view but it does change the order of events from what is generally accepted in other books I have read. It is generally written that the King ordered the end of the affair because he wanted Anne for himself but in this book, he was still happy with Mary Boleyn. I found this a little off-putting but it wasn't a deal breaker and did not change my overall rating of the book as that would have been a bit petty. It is historical fiction after all!

I liked Henry. He was intelligent, quiet and respectful, loved reading and living a quiet life. He in many ways represents the perfect Tudor husband and I can see why Anne liked him. I had sympathy for the fact that he cannot choose his wife or path in life. He is landed with the wife from hell in the horrific Lady Mary, who gives Jane Rochford a run for her money. What a vile creature she is! It is baffling why she is so jealous of Henry's love for Anne as she has never spoken a kind word to her husband or tried to be a wife to him. The story of her being determined to miscarry his son out of spite and then claim he poisoned her is just appalling.

The version of Anne in this book is sympathetic-overly so in my opinion. There is nothing in the book about all her remarks at wanting the Queen dead and the terrible behaviour meted out to Katherine and her daughter Mary, and anyone who supported her. Anne's vicious tongue was often used against friends and turned many against her like Cromwell. Again, this did not greatly bother me because it is a book about Anne and I like to see different versions of her character. So it was interesting to view the author's opinion of her and have that revenge theme occuring.

I'm always wary of fictional characters being inserted into a well known fact based fiction but Will was a good choice. Rescued by Henry's father from border thugs. Will becomes a servant of young Henry and remains his faithful friend. I felt it added extra interest to the book and I enjoyed getting to see some of the outbreaks of violence in the North that the Percy family would have had to deal with on a regular basis. Also the details about the cold castles and the illnesses that it caused help to add realism to the story. I also liked seeing more of the Percy family and having the Earl as a kinder man than he was usually portayed. I liked that it was Woolsey, not his father, who forced Henry to marry Lady Mary. Woolsey was always looming as an enemy and forcing the Percy's to do things they didn't want to do. This was intriguing. One of my favourite additions to the book was Robert Aske, the aspiring young lawyer, being friends with Will. This was a great idea and I loved the scenes he was in.

My only problem with the book was the decision to take 181 pages for Henry and Anne to meet. By page 223 their relationship is over. I would have liked to see less of the frankly uninspiring snippets of Anne in Europe which added nothing to the plot, and more of the budding relationship before they were forced apart. For a book called The Queen's Promise, we barely see Anne as Queen and from coronation (p433) to death (p484) is so rushed! We hardly even see King Henry! I wish that we had explored more of Anne as Queen and how the change of religion caused uprest in the North for Henry to have to deal with. As the book was mostly about Henry, WHY could we not have seem Henry, Will and Robert caught up in the Pilgrimage of Grace? I would have loved an emotional end to the book with Will and Henry mourning Robert's terrible death! This was more interesting to me than the childhood stuff that took up so much time in the book.

This is why the book is getting 3 stars. The author told a story that was engaging and entertaining but the most important part of Henry's life in the North-the rebellion-was only mentioned in the author's notes. I find it a bit bizarre to go to all the trouble of introducing the politics of the North and Robert Aske into the book and then not include the rebellion that he led against Cromwell's reforms. This would have been such a gripping end to the book! Instead Aske's fate get two lines in the author's notes. That was such a disappointment to me! This is still a good book but it could have been a great book with a bit more thought.
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