Friday, 12 February 2016

Book Review: The Favored Queen by Carolly Erickson

From The New York Times bestselling author of The Last Wife of Henry VIII comes a powerful and moving novel about Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, who married him only days after the execution of Anne Boleyn and ultimately lost her own life in giving him the son he badly needed to guarantee the Tudor succession.

Born into an ambitious noble family, young Jane Seymour is sent to Court as a Maid of Honor to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s aging queen. She is devoted to her mistress and watches with empathy as the calculating Anne Boleyn contrives to supplant her as queen. Anne’s single-minded intriguing threatens all who stand in her way; she does not hesitate to arrange the murder of a woman who knows a secret so dark that, if revealed, would make it impossible for the king to marry Anne.

Once Anne becomes queen, no one at court is safe, and Jane herself becomes the victim of Anne’s venomous rage when she suspects Jane has become the object of the king’s lust. Henry, fearing that Anne’s inability to give him a son is a sign of divine wrath, asks Jane to become his next queen. Deeply reluctant to embark on such a dangerous course, Jane must choose between her heart and her loyalty to the king.

Acclaimed biographer and bestselling novelist Carolly Erickson weaves another of her irresistible historical entertainments about the queen who finally gave Henry VIII his longed for heir, set against the excitement and danger of the Tudor Court.

My Review:
I initially thought I was going to like this book as it follows Jane Seymour at Court when Henry VIII is trying to put aside Queen Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn. However the book after a while goes from Tudor novel based on fact into utter ridiculous bodice ripping fiction which is when I got fed up with it and stopped reading it.

In this version Jane has always wanted to marry Will, the son of friends of the Seymours but their union is threatened when her own father has relations with Will's young sister. Will's furious family refuse to allow the betrothal to take place but the couple are anxious to find a way to escape Court together as Anne's star rises. I liked Will as he was a genuine man who loved Jane and would have made her happy. Every plan he has for them to marry seems doomed and it was hard not to feel sorry for the couple.

As you expect in Tudor fiction, the story changes slightly to allow for a dramatic addition. In this, when the sweating sickness comes, Anne Boleyn does not return to Hever to be treated, but instead comes to Court looking for Henry and thinking he is with Catherine. When he is not there, Anne is forced to stay with Catherine, Jane and a few others who stayed with the Queen. When Anne gets sick, a few of the people try to throw her out the window and into the moat, solving several problems at once, but Catherine steps in to save her rival. I know this is pure fantasy but I liked that something different had been put into the plot to make things more interesting.

However as the book went on, the plot took several turns that I could not forgive. As everyone who reads Tudor non fiction knows, despite her brothers turning to the new religion, Jane remained a pious catholic right up to her death. So in this book when she starts with her 'Luther has a point' thoughts, I found that very unsatisfying. Jane captured Henry's attention by protecting her virtue and remaining innocent, compared with Anne's flirting and alleged adultery. So in this version, Jane turns away from her (fictional) betrothed love who she would not sleep with until she was married, to jump into bed with a married lowborn glazer on their second meeting? WTF is THAT all about? Sorry but NO. Jane was not a Tudor slut and this was beyond annoying for me!

According to reviews I read, Anne Boleyn has this glazer and soulmate murdered for some reason (I never read this far) so she plots to seduce the King away from Anne as revenge for her lover's death. Oh man, this was beyond crazy stuff and I'm glad I had already given up with it! The book also hints that Anne had lovers before the King. So Henry, who put aside Katherine Howard for not being a virgin, would accept Anne and Jane as wives despite them sleeping around? Yeah right.

There's fiction, and there is stupidity.
star rating photo: Two Star Rating 2stars.png

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