Secrets of the Tudor Court, D.L. Bogdan
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. (Though please do NOT confuse THIS book with the series by Kate Emerson! They are not the same!)
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 from her mother 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. I think they could have been a very good couple if they'd been allowed to be together. 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, though I do understand why he had to go). Readers will get a glimpse of well known figures from Tudor history - Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Mary's brother the Earl of Surrey, etc, but the story really focuses on Mary's life and there are stretches where she is not at the royal court. While there are some interesting "side stories" in the novel, the main focus is on the relationship between Mary and her father and the fact that she was a constant pawn in her father's attempt to retain power.
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.