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review 2017-09-23 23:40
The Most Happy
The most happy: An alternate history of Anne Boleyn - Helen R. Davis

Imagine what England might have been like if Anne Boleyn had birthed a son for King Henry VIII.  This story imagines just that, instead of being cast aside after the birth of Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn gives birth to twins, Elizabeth and Edward VI, securing a legitimate male heir for the throne.  King Henry VIII still entertains his womanizing ways, but his jousting accident comes before he can push Anne aside and Henry names Anne the Regent until Edward comes of age.  It is now up to Anne to weather the tense political climate building between England, France and Spain and to secure the throne for her children until Edward comes of age.  

As an avid reader of all things Tudor, I was very excited to see what could be imagined for Anne Boleyn if her life was continued past her short reign as Queen. Some points in history were kept the same throughout this alternative historical fiction tale, but some were obviously changed.  It was interesting to see the new roles that Henry VIII's real life next wives took, many now served Queen Anne, some more faithfully than others.  I was also fascinated by the insight of Queen Anne as she aged.  She was very remorseful of her treatment to Katherine of Aragon and Mary, especially since she was almost placed in the same situation.  Queen Anne also explained many times that it was not she who pushed herself onto Henry, but she merely could not say no to the King.  I was also intrigued how, at the end everything seemed to turn out the way that history intended.  I did wish that the book went into more detail, this was a shorter story, so time moved quickly and many events simply happened and were not experienced through reading.  I would have loved to be engrossed in this alternate history for a little longer and have had the characters expanded upon a bit more.  Overall, an insightful look into what might have been for Henry VIII's 'Most Happy' Queen. 

​This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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review 2017-07-31 00:00
Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn by Nell Gavin
Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn - Nell Gavin
It's impossible to know the real truth about Anne Boleyn because much of the stories about her are written by her known enemies and detractors.  Gavin strives to give Anne a voice upon the moment of her death.  As she reexamines her life and relationship to Henry Tudor, the truth about what they mean to each other is revealed. Through the centuries, Anne and Henry are always together and there is a reason for this - they are soulmates.  What happens to love when you're soulmate is the one responsible for your death? 
 
I will admit to being instantly draw to Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn the moment I saw the title. I've long been a history buff and have been quite fascinated with the British monarchy.  Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is fantasy in that it assumes thoughts and idea which historians most certainly could not verify and because it enlarges the story of Anne and Henry to encompass various incarnations throughout the centuries. Anne herself appears in ancient Egypt, in Europe as part of a traveling Romani circus, the 1800's New York, and in Brooklyn during the seventies. Each new life is a chance to grow and to pay for the sins of the last life.  As a prostitute working in the Valley of the Kings in ancient Egypt, Anne would amuse herself by mocking and bullying a fellow prostitute who had an extra finger, causing her to be born as Anne Boleyn and also have an extra finger which she would strive for the entirety of her short to life to hide. 
 
Because this is a historical fantasy, certain liberties were clearly taken with Anne and Henry's lives. Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is not an academic text and most certainly does not read like one.  Anyone familiar with the history however might enjoy the speculation into what Anne might have been thinking when Henry broke off her engagement, or her loss at dealing with the fact that despite her supposed power, so much was really outside of her control.  I'm not sure that Gavin's tone always rang true but that didn't detract my enjoyment with the story.
 
I found that when the story switched to Ancient Egypt in particular, Gavin really set a beautiful stage and I could picture all of her characters vividly and their setting. Henry as a gay male prostitute who craved the love of a family because he was rejected by his own, made sense to me. I do however wish that the only LGBT representation of sexual identity had not been reduced to prostitution and dependency on a straight woman for companionship. 
 
The premise of Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, is that Anne keeps returning to earth after each death to pay a penance for the mistakes that she made in each previous life and to continue to grow as a soul. Anne learns early on that she and Henry are soulmates and have been twins, husband and wife, friends many times over. They are continually drawn to each other.  Also in Anne's orbit are many people that she met in her lifetime as a queen. Some come back as her children and still others are her friends.  Percy, Anne's betrothed for instance was a regular customer of hers when she was a prostitute in ancient Egypt, while Katherine turned out to be her daughter. 
 
Obviously reincarnation is not a new idea, nor is the concept of learning lessons with each additional life new. I'm not disturbed by the idea of Anne and Henry being soulmates, particularly because they had varied relationships in the different lives.  What I am disturbed by is Anne reviewing her lives in order to find a way to forgive Henry.  By every definition possible, Henry Tudor was a very abusive, angry man.  He raped Anne and then had her head cut off.  Gavin worked hard to suggest that because of Henry's syphilis ( a condition that has only been speculated about and not proven) that Henry was not himself and therefore entitled to Anne's forgiveness. It was very much implied that Anne could not move on if she didn't find a way to forgive Henry.  Even in fiction, perpetuating the idea that an abuser is deserving of forgiveness from their victim is harmful.
 
As much as Gavin sought to explore the inner feelings of Anne, She also spent a lot of time justifying Henry's actions.  Yes, syphilis can attack the brain but does that justify executing Anne? What about Catherine Howard? Even if I were to simply accept syphilis as a justification, it does not explain why in a previous life, Henry tricked Anne into sleeping with him by suggesting he wouldn't marry her unless his penis fit inside her.  Anne, who was raised to believe that Henry would be her husband had to submit to the size check.  How is that not abusive? 
 
 
 
 
 
Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/07/threads-reincarnation-of-anne-boleyn-by.html
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review 2017-04-09 12:46
Plenty of information on the court and the London of the era and a balanced view of Anne’s historical figure.
Anne Boleyn in London - Lissa Chapman

Thanks to Pen & Sword for providing me with a copy of this book that I freely choose to review.

I have recently read a number of books about the Tudor era, mostly historical fiction novels and I was intrigued to see what this book might offer.

The author has researched the topic well and discusses what London was like in Anne Boleyn’s time and describes the changes that not only London, but also the rest of England, experienced during this time, and in some cases, later. Even if those changes were not directly influenced by Anne’s role, it is clear that this was a momentous time for British history and Anne’s history is inextricably linked to them. Although London was not as important internationally as other cities at the time (Paris, for instance) it was the seat of power and influence of the kingdom. Most important people would have a residence in London at the time, and the book mentions the different properties the king had in the city and surrounding area and how those were renovated or abandoned according to the needs of the period. The fact that Anne’s family didn’t have a house in London is remarkable considering the ambition Thomas Boleyn had for himself and his children. As we know, that didn’t stop him but perhaps meant that he had not as many allies in the capital as he would have wished.

I was fascinated by the accounts of the never-ending moves of the court from residence to residence (due to sanitation and problems with the water supply, no single place could accommodate the king and his entourage for lengthy periods of time, and once they left the cleaning process would start again), by the way in which properties and alliances swapped and changed hands (the Queen is Dead, God Save the Queen indeed, as most of the women who had been ladies in waiting of one of the queens would end up serving the next one or even several in a row, whatever their personal sympathies or feelings might have been. And, of course, everybody would hope to get their hands on the property and positions of those now out of favour with the king) and by details such as how expensive it could be to be called to court (as you had to adjust your dress, carriages, etc., to the requirements) but also profitable if you managed to advance your position and you played your cards right. Some of the historical figures were remarkably resilient and managed to survive changes and whims, although those closest to the king were at highest risk. We learn about the roles of the different Lords and Ladies at the King and Queen’s service, we hear about the strict rules on hygiene, we learn about illnesses and mishaps…

The book does not go into detailed descriptions of places or events, but manages to recreate the atmosphere of the era and gives a good indication of the politics and how the different factions played against each other. The author suggests that to be successful and to survive close to the king, one needed to know how to move and behave both in London and in court. Anne was very familiar with the court’s inner workings (she’d been educated in the courts of Austria and France from a very young age) but due to her time away and to her birthplace, she didn’t know London well. Cromwell knew the ins and outs of London (and was very good at managing the crowds, getting money for coronations and other events, gathering information…) but was not so adept at the ins and outs of court. Ultimately, Henry VIII’s main interest seems to have been to please himself and if somebody stopped being useful or interesting to him, there were plenty of others happy to take their place and try their luck.

Chapman tries to provide an objective and even-handed view of Anne’s historical figure, not adopting sides or taking us on any flights of fancy. She quotes the sources for comments, anecdotes and stories about the queen, always documenting how much weight we can set by them, because much of what has been written about Anne dates from years or centuries after her demise and it was penned by people who did not know her. Even the people who were documenting the events as they occurred tend to be either pro or against Anne rather than neutral observers, and there is little doubt their accounts are coloured by their loyalty and feelings. When possible, the author provides more than one source or interpretation on the events and her sources will be of interest to anybody looking to make their own minds up (although, in my opinion, the book provides a balanced account).

The early chapters flow better and this is, perhaps, because the chapters seem to be designed to work if read separately, providing enough background and references to each period of Anne’s life. A reader who goes through the whole book in a relatively short period of time is bound to notice some repetitions. For example, discussions as to when the court became aware that Anne was pregnant, or descriptions of the chambers of the king and queen appear in more than one chapter. Despite that, I enjoyed learning how the court was organised and the roles others who were not of noble blood played in keeping everything running smoothly.

The last chapter makes a point of updating us on the changes to the properties of the period that have survived to this day. I had to chuckle at the comments about the re-Tudorisation of quite a few buildings in the Victorian Era (the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Windsor in particular).

This book is a good resource for people who are interested in the history behind the figure and are looking for an even-handed summary and account of the events. It will also be of interest to those who want to learn more about the society of the time and how it worked. It offers factual information (such as it exists) and allows us to put into context some of the stories and legends that circulate about Anne to this day. It might be too basic for those who’ve read extensively on the subject but will be a great addition to those who love the period and are looking for reliable data presented in an easy to read and engaging manner.

As an aside, I had access to a hardback copy and it contains black and white pictures that go from drawings of London and supposed portraits to modern-day reminders of Anne's figure.

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review 2016-10-09 16:38
The course of true love never did run smooth
The Lady Anne (Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 2) - Ammonia Book Covers,Brooke Aldrich,Lawrence G. Lovasik

I write this review as one of the members of behalf of Rosie’s Books Review Team. I was provided with a free copy of the book as part of the team.

I have read and enjoyed La Petite Boulain, the first book in the Above all Others series and really enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Anne Boleyn’s childhood, and particularly, the way the story was told, in the first person from the point of view of young Anne, or, to be more precise, the young Anne as remembered by the older Anne at the moment of awaiting her death in the Tower.

Here we see Anne return to England after spending part of her childhood and teenage years in courts abroad. She is sad to leave France, as she feels by now more French than English, and the weather and the difficulties of her trip don’t help make her feel at home. Luckily, things take a turn for the better quickly. She meets Thomas Wyatt, a neighbour, accomplished poet, and a childhood friend, and once she joins the court, becoming one of Queen Katherine’s ladies in waiting, she soon meets interesting people, makes new friends, rekindles old friendships, and becomes a fashion icon and very admired for her style, accomplishments, and her personality.

I was curious to see how this novel would portray Anne as a young woman, in an era more familiar to most people than that of her early years. She is presented as an interesting mixture of a clever and intelligent woman, with far wider knowledge and experiences than many of the women her age she meets, but still a young girl at heart, who loves the idea of courting, handsome and romantic knights, and has to admit to being proud of the way men are attracted to her and women copy her dresses and jewels. She changes her mind often and she thinks she is in love with Tom Wyatt one day, although it’s an impossible love, but then decides it’s only friendship. She falls in love with Henry Percy (of much higher standing than her as he’s due to become the Earl of Northumberland) and with her father’s approval pursues a marriage that would have been very advantageous for her family, but when Cardinal Wolsey and Henry’s father forbid the match, her disappointment makes her hate him. And then, there’s King Henry…

I must confess that I enjoyed the discussions about Anne’s ideas and her education in religion and philosophy in the first book, and there were only passing references to it here (partly because she worried about the company she keeps and how they would react if they were aware of her opinions, and partly because there are other things that occupy more of her time), and there is much more about romance and romantic ideas. King Henry seems to notice her following an accident (although perhaps before that) and her behaviour and her refusal to become his mistress seem to spur him on rather than make him forget her and move on. If Henry Percy gave up on her without a fight, this is a man who would risk everything (even the future of his kingdom) for his own enjoyment and to prove himself, and in Anne, he meets a challenge. Not being a big reader of romance, the pull and push of the relationship and the will she/won’t she (especially knowing how things will turn up) part of it was not what interested me the most, although the scenes are well done and I found the fights and disagreements between the couple enjoyable. I became intrigued by King Henry’s portrayal, not so much by what he does and says, but by how others see him. There is a very apt warning her brother George gives her, recalling how King Henry was walking with his arm around a nobleman’s shoulders one afternoon and two days later the said nobleman’s head was topping a pole on the King’s orders.

I was more interested in matters of politics and alliances (confusing as they were), the inner workings of the court, marriages and births, and Anne’s reflections about the roles of women and men in the society of the time, that she struggles against but ultimately feels obliged to follow. I was also intrigued by the depiction of her family, her brother George, always close to her, her sister Mary, who although Anne always saw as too free and easy, she comes to understand and appreciate (and who manages to achieve a happy existence in her own terms, eventually), her mother, who suffers from a strange illness, and her father, who appears to be only interested in the family’s advancement (although claims that it is not for himself, but for those who’ll come after). He seemingly has no respect for morality if it can get in the way of achieving his goals, and at times he treats his daughters as pawns or worse. In the novel, Anne is portrayed as having much of the initiative, at least at the beginning, regarding her relationship with King Henry, but I was very intrigued by the role her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, would come to play, and how much he influenced later events and the rise of Anne to become Queen.

This volume made me wonder, more than the first one, how reliable a narrator is Anne supposed to be. She makes a very interesting comment about wearing masks and the fact that we all perform our roles in public, whatever our feelings or thoughts might really be. After all, this is Anne remembering her life and trying to distract herself from her likely dark fate. Sometimes she does protest too much, when talking about her accomplishments, intelligence and fashion sense, and insists that she does not believe in false modesty. She also talks about Tom Wyatt’s affections and how she had not encouraged him, but she evidently enjoys his attentions. At other times, she describes events and scenes as if she were at the same time protagonist and observer (from telling us what she was feeling and her concerns, she will go on to describe what she looked like or what she was wearing). She does highlight the behaviours she thinks show her in a good light and easily finds ways in which to dismiss some of her more selfish or problematic behaviours, but at a time such as the one she’s living through, after having lost everything and everybody, it’s only understandable. If anything, it shows her as a complex and contradictory individual and makes her appear more real.

The writing is once more fluid and beautifully detailed, bringing to life places, customs and times long past.

Although I know what will happen next, I’m intrigued to read Anne’s version of events and look forward to the next book. I highly recommend this series to anybody interested in Anne Boleyn who enjoys historical fiction, and to anybody who is considering reading about such a fascinating historical figure.

 

 

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review 2016-06-23 12:27
Anne Boleyn in her own words as you’ve never read her before
La Petite Boulain (Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 1) - Raquel Neira,Brooke Aldrich,Lawrence G. Lovasik

I write this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to Gemma Lawrence for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I’ve been reading more historical novels of recent and I appreciate the mix of skills their authors require. There has to be a lot of research for the novel to be grounded sufficiently in the era and not seem a total flight of fancy. But ensuring that this research is seamlessly weaved into the story and avoiding the risk of turning it into a textbook requires talent, inspiration, art and a passion for the topic. And La Petite Boulain has all those and more.

I’m Spanish and although I’ve lived in the UK for many years I wouldn’t say that my knowledge of English history is deep or detailed. Like most people the entire world over, I’m more familiar with the Tudors and their historical period than with any others, thanks to the fascination they have always held for historians, writers, and movie and television scriptwriters. I would guess that most of us have read or watched something about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I at the very least. And we’ve heard of Anne Boleyn.  We might even have an opinion about her.

Since I started writing reviews and blogging about books I’ve come across many books about Anne Boleyn. What prompted me to read this one was a recommendation by one of the reviewers in Rosie’s team that I know is very knowledgeable on the subject (thanks once more, Terry http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/) and the fact that this book looks at Anne not solely regarding her relationship with Henry VIII. The story is told in the first person, by Anne, who is waiting at the Tower to be beheaded (I’m sure this is no spoiler for anybody), and as a way of keeping calm and passing away the time without falling into despair (more so as she’s surrounded by hostile women sent to spy on her), she goes back in time and remembers her life from childhood. This is the first book in the series, and it takes us from childhood to the time when Anne returns back to England after spending several years away, most recently at the French court, when she’s already a young woman.

The book is beautifully written, with detailed (but not boring or drawn-out) descriptions of clothing, places, people and customs. The language and expressions are appropriate to the era without being overcomplicated or slowing down the story. We see Anne as she sees herself, a lucky girl who’s been born into a good family, with a caring, affectionate and accomplished mother, a father somewhat distant and cold, more interested in politics and the advancement of the family’s fortunes than in the feelings of their members, an older sister (Mary) who is the prettiest one, but less clever and freer with her morals (she’s a more sensuous creature), and a younger brother, George, whom she has much in common with.

We follow her amazement and wonder at historical events, such as the coronation of Henry VIII, when she takes a fancy to the young king, and see her education, first at home, and then at different European Courts, initially at Mechelen  and then in France. The book captures well the innocence of a young girl arrived at a European court, who thinks everybody is beautiful, clever and brilliant, although even at that age she is a keen observer and a quick learner. She’s also good at noticing the power relations and getting closer to influencers and people who can teach her the most.

As she grows, she starts to notice and observe the underbelly and the hypocrisy of the society she lives in, and she also becomes a critical thinker, questioning organised religion and reading what were at the time considered dangerous tracks (Martin Luther). She is shocked by some behaviours she sees, including those of her family members, and by the clear difference in the way women are treated in comparison to the men, no matter how high their position in life, but she is determined to absorb knowledge and learn as much as she can, to ensure that she will not just be at the whim of those around her.

I enjoyed the historical detail, the reflections on events and historical figures of the era, but above all, the way the story is told, that takes the readers into Anne’s confidence and makes them experience with her both wonderful and terrible events, helping make her a real and understandable human being, rather than a cardboard figurine out of historical volume . La petite Boulain is an absolute pleasure to read, and despite knowing the story, I can’t wait to for the next book in the series.

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