This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: B

Each fortnight the ladies at Historical Tapestry will post a new letter of the alphabet and you do a blog post about a work of historical fiction that has that letter:
  • as the first letter in the title
  • as the first letter of the author's first or last name
  • the first letter of a character's first or last name
  • the first letter of a place where an historical event took place
So here is my post for the second letter of this challenge: B

The Last Boleyn, Karen Harper

This is another telling of the now very well known story of Mary Boleyn, sister to Queen Anne Boleyn. While Philippa Gregory brought this story to worldwide attention, this novel was published years before Gregory's version and seems to be deemed as more historically accurate.

From the back cover:

Greed, lust for power, sex, lies, secret marriages, religious posturing, adultery, beheadings, international intrigue, jealousy, treachery, love, loyalty, and betrayal. The Last Boleyn tells the story of the rise and fall of the Boleyns, one of England's most powerful families, through the eyes of the eldest daughter, Mary.

Although her sister, Anne, the queen; her brother, George, executed alongside Anne; and her father, Thomas, are most remembered by history, Mary was the Boleyn who set into motion the chain of events that brought about the family's meteoric rise to power, as well as the one who managed to escape their equally remarkable fall. Sent away to France at an extraordinarily young age, Mary is quickly plunged into the dangerous world of court politics, where everything is beautiful but deceptive, and everyone she meets is watching and quietly manipulating the events and people around them. As she grows into a woman, Mary must navigate both the dangerous waters ruled by two kings and the powerful will of her own family in order to find a place for herself and the love she so deeply desires.

I have already written a full review about this book and you can read it here.

This book may throw off readers who have read Gregory's work on the same subject because there are so many differences. However, most people seem to feel that Harper's work tends to be more historically accurate. We get the story completely from Mary's eyes here and it really is focused on her and her life, not just Anne's life through her eyes. While history seems to want to classify Mary as a loose, unintelligent girl, Harper's portrayal paints her as a someone caught up in the events around her but with the intelligence to find her way out at the end. I really liked her character in this book; she doesn't seem so syrupy sweet and shows that she does have a mind of her own (though her stubbornness in some matters was irritating at times!). I am also glad that Harper chose not to make Anne seem like a horrible, evil, witch; her character was much more believable to me here. I would certainly suggest that anyone who has read Gregory's take on the Boleyn story and is interested in reading more to pick up this book. It was probably the first historical fiction account of Mary's life, originally published as Passion's Reign in 1983.


  1. This is a good one-nice choice! I think I will probably enter the Josephine B. Trilogy by Sandra Gulland for the letter B of this challenge and get my post up before the 15th.

  2. Excellent choice for the letter B! I really must read this one. I have another book by Karen Harper here. Can't remember which one though at this time

  3. Always good to have another perspective. I think I remember reading this years ago.

  4. Marg, I have her "The First Princess of Wales" which is about Joan of Kent, wife to Edward the Black Prince. It is really good and was my first introduction to the author. She also wrote a mystery series staring Elizabeth I.

  5. Thanks for the review! You've sparked my curiosity, I just placed the book on hold at the library.