The Concubine by Norah Lofts
originally published 1963
Genre: historical fiction, fictionalized biography
Synopsis & Review: Anne Boleyn isn’t beautiful–she’s described by one contemporary as “all eyes and hair”–but she is graceful, witty, and oh so charming. And on her return from France, she catches the eye of Henry VIII, King of England. Though she is in love with Harry Percy, heir to Northumberland, and he with her, their love is broken up and the two separated so that the King might go a-wooing. Unlike any woman before her, however, Anne denies the King his desires, and in that moment, the seeds are sown for a revolution in England. For ten years she denies him, earning herself the sobriquet The Concubine, despite having refused to give in to Henry. And after turning England upside down to gain her, Henry would then wreak a vengeance upon her for those years of denial.
I read a lot about Anne Boleyn, fiction and non-fiction both, and one thing I have difficulty resisting is a new Anne Boleyn book. (Or Mary, Queen of Scots, too, but she’s less popular.) Read the rest of this entry »
Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
New American Library, 2nd printing, 2007
Genre: historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: At the age of eight, Anne Boleyn was sent to the court of the Archduchess Margaret of Burgundy in Malines, starting early her career as courtier. Scarcely a year later, she and her sister Mary joined the Princess Mary’s retinue when that lady traveled to France to marry Louis XII, and at the French court she stayed for another eight years, even after Louis’ death and Mary’s return to England. At the court of Francois, the Boleyn sisters rise to prominence, Mary for her beauty and Anne for her grace and wit. Watched over benevolently by Queen Claude, and with the Duchess Marguerite as a patron in learning, Anne develops her mind in a lascivious court that cares more for sensuality than intellect. It is here that Anne will be made or broken as she develops into a formidable young women destined to make her own mark on history.
Reading Mademoiselle Boleyn, and analyzing my reactions to it got me to thinking: why do I react badly to explicit sexuality in historical fiction, considering much of it demeaning to history and historical fiction? Read the rest of this entry »
Brief Gaudy Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Originally published 1949
Sourcebooks Landmark, 1st printing, 2008
Genre: historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: Young, lovely Anne Boleyn follows her younger, lovelier sister Mary to the court of Henry Tudor and Katherine of Aragon. While Mary becomes the king’s mistress, Anne endears herself to the Princess Mary, going with her to the French king’s court where she learns and perfects the arts of the courtier. Witnessing both her sister Mary’s fall from grace as the king’s mistress and subsequent marriage, as well as the Princess Mary’s arranged first marriage and second passionate elopement, Anne is determined to seek happiness in marriage. When she meets and falls in love with Henry Percy of Northumberland, it seems as though her dreams might come true; after all, though they are both promised to others, theirs is an eminently suitable match, and the lovers swear to uphold it. Only Henry Tudor is watching, and he too desires the pretty, vivacious Nan Boleyn. At a word from the king, Cardinal Wolsey separates Anne from her lover so that Henry Tudor might step into his place. From there, Brief Gaudy Hour follows pretty little Nan Boleyn as she becomes The Concubine, The King’s Whore–all while keeping Henry at arm’s length for years until he is free to marry her. Anne carries her family and friends with her to dizzying heights of power, but her time as Queen of England is short, and nothing will stop her once she tumbles from grace. click here for more on Brief Gaudy Hour!