Review – The Queen’s Rival: In the Court of Henry VIII

The Queen’s Rival: In the Court of Henry VIII

By Diane Haeger

Penguin Group

ISBN: 9781101478905

3.5 stars

I can’t pinpoint the moment I had my fill of Tudor stories but it occurred sometime in 2011. Yes, I lasted longer than most. I won’t pretend this will be my last either. Earlier this year I read a non-fiction book on Henry VIII and thought that would be my last but I forgot I had downloaded this to my Nook and found myself reading it when I needed something comforting — this is a setting I know well. I was out of town on a long business trip and I turned to it.

Elizabeth (Bess) Blount is a beautiful and naïve girl who lands a position in Queen Katherine’s household. This new position puts her directly in front of Henry VIII. Amazed by the opulence of the Court and especially by the King himself, she finds herself in a precarious situation. She can become the mistress to the King she believes she loves and in the process ruin her reputation and position with the Queen and possibly bring the downfall of her family. She picks Henry and gives him something he’s been wanting for years, a son.

While nothing about this story felt new, if you read enough books set in Tudor England nothing feels new, but it was well written and interesting. Parts were slow and at other times it felt as if large sections of Bess’s life were left out. We go from seeing her as a 14 year-old, and it feels as if only a few months worth of time, then she’s the King’s mistress and shortly after pregnant with his child. She finds a life outside of Court, and it’s a happy one at that, but it goes by so fast and I wondered when she turned 30. Besides that small quibble, it was good. A solid read.

I was wondering why I purchased this one considering I thought I was done with the Tudors and as it turns out it was for a challenge. So, now it appears I’m finished with The Royal Mistress Challenge. I ended on a good note then.


Review – The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant

The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant

By Robert Hutchinson

William Morrow

ISBN: 9780060837334

2.75 stars

Oh the Tudors. What a bunch you are — paranoid, mean-spirited, mean, gluttonous, and in the case of Henry, horny. This book only deals with his last years so a lot of the horny court play had run its course already and what was left was a sick, dying man sadly looking for companionship in his last days.

For a man so concerned with his public image and legacy, specifically an heir, he’s remembered much differently than I’m sure he ever thought possible even in his wildest dreams. In his later years, Henry was incredibly obese and most likely spent every minute of his last days in pain. His ulcerated legs constantly oozed. His diet of meat, meat, and more meat caused digestion issues, and he still worried about maintaining appearances. He’s an interesting figure and it’s obvious why so many people want to write books about him and the Tudor court. Honestly though, a book about Henry’s PR machine is something I’d probably read though.

It’s his final wife, Katherine Parr, who brings his family back together though. Welcoming Mary and Elizabeth into the fold and Henry, at this point, adds them to his succession line. His heir, Edward, dies at the young age of 16, Mary turns out to not be the best at ruling, but Elizabeth, well, she turns out to be Henry’s true legacy. Interesting how that works sometimes isn’t it?

This book is broken into chunks meaning each chapter is about a certain aspect of his life — his sickness, his will, his last queen, and his death. While it’s interesting to see these aspects broken down this way, the timeline gets muddles and I found it slightly hard to follow in terms of what year it was and what was important.

I’ve read a lot about the Tudors, both fact and fiction, and some of this felt too familiar to be as interesting as I wanted it to be. I’m glad I picked it up and I’m sure it’ll add a new perspective to my next Tudor historical fiction read. I realize that while I am sort of tired (sort of bored would be a better way to put it) of the Tudors, I know I’ll probably pick up another book about them and I’m not sure why. Perhaps that will be many days down the road though.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

I’m starting The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant by Robert Hutchinson.

“Henry VIII – ‘by the grace of God, King of England, France and Lord of Ireland, Defender of the Faith and the Church of England … on earth the Supreme Head’ – finally departed his long, troubled life, friendless and lonely, at around two o’clock in the morning on Friday 28 January 1547.  The golden glory of his spry, gallant youth had years ago faded away and the radiant European prince of the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 had decayed into a bloated, hideously obese, black-humoured old man, rarely seen in public during his last month.”  (pg. 13 of 273)