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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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review 2016-05-24 21:26
Book Review of Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn by Hunter S. Jones
Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn - Hunter S. Jones

The last hour of Anne Boleyn's life...

 

Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny's stage.

 

A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII. She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Château Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king. What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment... the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed for ever.

 

Review 4*

 

This is an intriguing look into the last hours of Anne Boleyn's life. A friend of mine recommended this book to me. I am not really a huge reader of historical fiction, but who hasn't heard about these royals and the tragic circumstances leading up to Anne Boleyn's beheading? So, being curious, I decided to give this book a try.

 

First off, I would like to say that the cover is very striking. It definitely catches the eye and has many elements in it that are relevant to the story within the cover.

 

This book is told in first person by various characters, from Anne Boleyn herself to King Henry VIII and the executioner amongst others. The author has taken real facts but added her own fictional twist to the tale. Unfortunately, I found this story, although a page turner, to be a little too dry for my taste. I felt that there could have been more meat added to the fictional sections to make it more scandalous. I don't know if Henry really loved Anne or not, or whether the accusations he levied against her were true or not either. Henry must have found himself under extreme pressure to father a male heir for him to annul his marriage and order Anne's death, then set his sights on Lady Jane Seymour. Or he was an utter womanizer and it was his infidelity he was hiding by accusing his wife of it instead when she failed to give him the son he desired. We can only guess at his thoughts, though his actions on the day of the execution was rather telling in my opinion.

 

What I did discover about Anne Boleyn from this book was that she was strong willed and had many enemies that wished her ill. I am not sure if she would have gone to her death without a fight. Whether she was drugged/sedated up until her beheading to keep her quiet one will never know. However, what I do know is that she was a formidable woman who faced death with grace.

 

Hunter S. Jones has written an intriguing fictional tale of real events. Her descriptive writing brought the past to life and her fast paced writing style kept me turning the pages. However, by having each chapter told through the various characters, I found the flow a little choppy and slightly disconnected from each other. But, having said that, I would consider reading more of this author's books in the future.

 

Although there are no scenes of a sensuous nature, there is mention of execution and beheading. Therefore, I do not recommend this book to younger readers (under 12) or those with a nervous disposition. However, if you love historical fiction and you're interested in the Tudor's, this is the book for you. - Lynn Worton

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review 2015-11-16 04:05
Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn - E. Barrington

This book was kind of hard to rate, and honestly a tad hard to finish.

 

The writing was quite good, approaching beautiful in some parts. The history was a bit shaky at times, but I'm aware I'm more likely to notice that than some people and honestly, I'm willing to let that slide most of the time as long as it is fun to read.

 

That was the book's downfall.

 

Anne was remarkably hard to connect to. I've seen her done conniving and vicious and I've seen her done thoughtful and clever, and I've enjoyed both sides. This novel's main issue was that the author couldn't quite seem to decide which way she wanted to go.

 

It is a valid argument that Anne was, on some level, both, but the shifts between the two felt like there were multiple people writing Anne here and they couldn't agree on how to portray her. She was often thoughtful and even silly when she should have been conniving. She made mistakes that didn't seem to spring from her character, but from the need to keep connected to the history of things. I felt like instead of writing Anne to slowly fill in the spaces between historical events, flowing over and through them and inhabiting them as you sometimes see in truly great historical fiction, they were road bumps in the path of this character that was maybe Anne and maybe not.

 

That is honestly my major problem. Anne was just sort of...there. She didn't come to life and sparkle because I could never guess what she would do next, even when I knew the facts that she needed to fit into.

 

The writing did make up for this somewhat, but the lack of sparkle made it slow-going for me. If you're interested in the time period with Anne as the center point, it's not a bad book by any means, and I am interested enough in the author to consider picking up something else by her, but it was not quite what I was hoping for.

 

This book was provided to me for free by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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