When young Mary Howard arrives at the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress, Anne Boleyn, she is overjoyed. Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has witnessed the King's fickle nature before and knows how quickly he can turn on those he claims to love ...
Despite all of Mary's efforts to please him, she soon becomes a victim of the King's wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and illegitimate son to the King, does Mary find the love and approval she's been seeking.
But when Mary believes she is finally free, the tides turn. She has uncovered an intricate web of secrets within the palace walls, secrets that she must guard with her life ...
I was interested in reading this book because Mary Howard's name is well known to Tudor fans but this was the first book that I've found that tells her story. As with all Tudor books, you have to consider that this is fact based fiction, meaning the author has added their own spin on events and things may not be totally accurate. I can usually take these books at face value and just enjoy the story.
History has not looked kindly on the Duke of Norfolk. He is thought of as the ruthless monster who put Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard on the throne and abandoned them when they fell. But this book takes matters a step further and has him as a violent bully who beats his wife and daughter. The domestic violence scenes in this book are pretty graphic and nasty. Whether this was how he really treated his women, well we can only guess. But even as a fictional character this guy would be chilling and scary!
There is an undertone to this book which was not pleasant. At times you had the feeling that the author was hinting at a relationship between the Duke and his daughter which bordered on incest and I wasn't comfortable with this. Perhaps the author was unaware of doing it or maybe it was just the way I interpreted her words but I felt as if Mary's feelings for her dad were that of a woman with a violent lover who can't stay away from him. That 'I know I should hate him, I fear him but I'll love him forever'. She goes running every time he calls, she is obsessed with him, and always declaring her love. I didn't like that-it made my skin crawl every time Mary talked about her feelings and the way she acted around him.
Mary was very much a victim of an abusive family, so she appears to be a weak character. However if you lived in Tudor times when women obeyed men or were beaten, AND you had an important and noble father like Norfolk, you would do what he told you to do without question. I think that this is how Mary Howard would have behaved given these circumstances. However, it does not make for an entertaining book when you have a spineless main character so I can understand why people didn't like her.
I liked seeing more about Mary and Henry Fitzroy and seeing the major events of the Court and Henry VIII from the eyes of a different character who we do know was actually there. I'm always fascinated my Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard anyway.
It was an interesting read but the issues I mentioned made it a dark read and not something that I could read again for fun.