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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: M

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 next letter of this challenge: M

Secrets of the Tudor Court, D.L. Bogdan

From the back cover: When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King's fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him...

Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Noth until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary find the love and approval she's been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life -- and the course of history.

As I am always up for a good Tudor read I was looking forward to this novel about a little known figure from history. Mary Howard was the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk and she was married to Henry VIII's illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy but that is usually all you see of her in any Tudor era novels - if she is even mentioned at all. This novel focuses in on her life from childhood, through her turbulent years at the Tudor court, and ends with her father's death a year before her own. While a subject of this sort has a wide range of potential I personally felt there was something lacking. I do not think this was a bad book but something about it just missed the mark with me, though I did enjoy getting a peek at someone I had never read about before. It is a novel about a very obscure person from history (a line at the end of the novel says it all: No one will remember her) and in cases such as this there is going to be very little historical information for an author to pull from, leaving a wide scope for the author's interpretation and thoughts. So while I can't say the author's interpretation of Mary's story is inaccurate I can't say it is accurate either. I found Mary Howard a bit too much of a goody-goody and her dogged determination to love her father no matter what was a bit irritating, especially considering the horrible way he treated her and her mother (and when I say horrible I really do mean horrible). Her constant quest to find approval in her father's eyes made me want to throw up my hands in frustration as he repeatedly showed that he really didn't care. I did feel incredibly sorry for Mary since she was cheated out of the love she so desperately wanted from a husband thanks to her father's constant scheming and the scenes between Mary and Harry Fitzroy were really touching. And speaking of her father, I could never decide if he hated Mary or was in love with her. Between the horrible beatings (and if a reader out there has been the victim of domestic violence I would recommend they steer clear of this book) he gave her and then the odd "making up" scenes, I was really scratching my head and feeling that there was just something not quite right there. Besides the oddness of the relationship between Mary and the Duke, there were some parts of the plot that just seemed stuck in there but really served no purpose (one example being the fate of Mary's lover Cedric). I really thought the book had potential, and there were parts of it that I really enjoyed, but there were just too many odd things that left me scratching my head in the end. The epilogue by Mary's mother was really good and did strike a cord with me and seemed like a good ending to Mary's story. One thing I would have really liked would have been an author's note discussing where she got some of her information on the subject of Mary and the Howards (especially the Duke's personality). All in all I would say it was a good book, even though there were things I didn't personally like. It was an easy read and it would be a great book for someone who isn't into the really "heavy on the detail" historical fiction on the Tudors. I will certainly read another by this author as her writing was entertaining enough.

1 comment:

  1. I am not sure about whether I want to read this one or not. I haven't read anything Tudor for a while now. Not sure if I am all Tudored out!