Book Review: “The Boy King” by Janet Wertman

The review was written and shared by Heidi Malagisi of Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

In 1547, young Prince Edward is having the time of his life studying and hoping to one day take part in a tournament. He has not a care in the world. That is until his beloved father King Henry VIII passes away, and the 9-year-old boy is now Edward VI, King of England. He must navigate family drama between his older half-sister Mary Tudor and his uncles, Edward and Thomas Seymour while maintaining order throughout the kingdom. To top it all off, he is trying to reform the entire country and convert Catholics into the Protestant faith. His short life and reign are portrayed in Janet Wertman’s third book in The Seymour Saga, “The Boy King”.

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Book Review: Uncrowned Queen by Nicola Tallis

Written by Rebecca Larson

Margaret Beaufort is quite possibly the most misrepresented characters of the Tudor era, but thanks to Dr. Nicola Tallis’ meticulous research we are exposed to a Margaret Beaufort that many of us have never seen before.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Slave by Tracy Borman

devils slave

After finishing The King’s Witch, Book One in the Frances Gorges trilogy, I immediately purchased Book Two: The Devil’s Slave.

The Devil’s Slave is a continuation of Frances’ story and the plots she became embroiled in to return England to Catholicism under the reign of King James I.

As a Historian and joint Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces, Tracy Borman has the perfect background to write such a book. Her knowledge easily translates with scenes that are strewn with historical detail, as well as vivid descriptions of the surroundings that bring the story and her characters to life. Having always wanted to be a fly on the wall at court, Borman’s writing style immersed me in the lives and events at the beginning of 17th century England, in a way that I had never imagined.

Frances Gorges is/was (because she WAS real) a woman who I easily connected with in The King’s Witch. She was considered a healer during a time when it constituted witchcraft, but all Frances wanted to do was help people.

*If you have not read The King’s Witch and do not want spoilers, skip the next paragraph.

In The King’s Witch, Frances lost the love of her life, Thomas Wintour, when he was executed for treason because of his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. After Thomas’ death Frances found herself in mourning and pregnant with the child of a traitor. Unmarried and having already been accused of witchcraft, Frances needed a plan. Would she raise her child on her own, and would she continue plotting to avenge her love’s death? In the Devil’s Slave, Frances once again loses people whom she loves dearly…but who will it be this time?

With a touch of Elizabethan history, Sir Walter Raleigh encourages Frances from the Tower of London to help carry out the Catholic schemes. Risking everything, Frances discovers that listening to Raleigh may be her only option – but it could also lead to her utter destruction.

The Devil’s Slave is a wonderful story a lady whose convictions are easily used against her – but Frances is a woman with a past who won’t make the same mistakes twice. Outside forces are pulling the strings, and Frances will do what she has to to take back control.

The Devil’s Slave is a wonderful story a lady whose convictions are easily used against her – but Frances is a woman with a past who won’t make the same mistakes twice. Outside forces are pulling the strings, and Frances will do what she has to to take back control.

Will Frances choose the path of the devil, or will she allow her faith to show her the way?

Book Two does not disappoint, and it leaves you anxiously awaiting Book Three with the conclusion of Frances’ story.

Tracy Borman is creating quite a career for herself in the historical fiction arena! Who knew someone could make the court of King James I interesting?!

Want to listen to my podcast interview with Tracy Borman? Click Here

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Book Review: “Anna, Duchess of Cleves” by Heather R. Darsie

Jane Seymour

As of the last few years, Anne of Cleves is arguably the most popular of Henry VIII’s wives. I know, I know…Anne Boleyn fans hate me for writing that. Even though Anne Boleyn will most likely forever be the most tragic and loved wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves is giving her a run for her money in the 21st century.

Anne of Cleves was the fourth bride of Henry VIII, and his second foreign bride after Katherine of Aragon. Anne was the wife who followed Jane Seymour. But the story that has been told about why Henry wanted to end their marriage was all a lie – and we know this thanks to the tremendous research by historian and author, Heather R. Darsie.

‘The King’s Beloved Sister’ looks at Anne of Cleves from a new perspective, as a woman from the Holy Roman Empire and not as a woman living almost by accident in England. Starting with what Anne’s life as a child and young woman was like, the author describes the climate of the Cleves court, and the achievements of Anne’s siblings. It looks at the political issues on the Continent that transformed Anne’s native land of Cleves – notably the court of Anne’s brother-in-law, and its influence on Lutheranism – and Anne’s marriage. Finally, Heather Darsie explores ways in which Anne influenced her step-daughters Elizabeth and Mary, and the evidence of their good relationships with her.

Was Anne – the Duchess Anna – in fact a political refugee, supported by Henry VIII? Was she a role model for Elizabeth I? Why was the marriage doomed from the outset? By returning to the primary sources and visiting archives and museums all over Europe (the author is fluent in German, and proficient in French and Spanish) a very different figure emerges to the ‘Flanders Mare’.

Whether you are obsessed with Anne of Cleves, or a novice to her history, you must read this book. I originally believed everything that I read about her. Everything the English wanted us to believe about her, that is. When I heard that my dear friend Heather was publishing a book on Anne of Cleves I was surprised that she had chosen Anne as her subject. I hate to say this, to even put it in writing, but I did not believe she could find anything that we did not already know. But she easily proved me wrong.

In this book you will be astonished by the truth. You will discover that Anne’s true birthdate is the same day as Henry VIII, not in September like we have been told for centuries. You will also be shocked to learn the truth about Anne’s first meeting with her future husband, and king.

A book written by Gilbert Burnet called, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, which was written in the mid to late 17th century stated, “He swore they had brought over a Flanders mare to him…” when supposedly referencing something Henry VIII had said. There is no contemporary evidence which suggests Henry said those words. That along with many other falsities are clarified in Anna, Duchess of Cleves – The King’s Beloved Sister.

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Book Review: “Henry VIII – and the Men Who Made Him” by Tracy Borman

Jane Seymour (1)

I purchased this book with a bit of hesitation because my library is full of book on the most infamous Tudor king. I wondered if Borman would be able to open my mind to any new information, or if I would be disappointed in the regurgitated information that I have read over the years.

Here is a bit about the book in case you are not familiar:

Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry?s life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionally as rivals?many of whom have been underplayed in previous biographies.

These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry?s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.

Recounting the great Tudor?s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman?s new biography reveals Henry?s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy.”

The author of this book, Tracy Borman, is a Historian and “joint Chief Curator for?Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, Whitehall and Hillsborough Castle.” Borman also is a frequent visitor to our TV screens with appearances of historical programs. Many of us believe she has one of the best jobs in the entire world.

Keeping all that in mind, Borman has amazing access to documents and history that many of us could only dream about. She shows her skill as a researcher and writing in this piece of nonfiction. If you believe that you know everything there is to know about Henry VIII I implore you to read this book.

With the interesting insight of the men who surrounded the King we can see how loyalty could both raise you to great heights and bring you down in a spectacular fashion. We also learn that Thomas Cranmer’s undying loyalty to his King is what inevitably saved him during the reign of the fearsome Tudor king. We learn from the book that after the death of King Henry that Cranmer wept by his bedside and in honor (most likely) of his king he began to grow out his beard. Cranmer went on to be a father figure to Edward VI.

I really do not want to spoil this book for you – please pick up a copy and see for yourself. Borman’s ability to report history in an easy to read manner is refreshing and definitely puts her at the top of my list of favorite authors. I have also read her book on Thomas Cromwell, as well as Elizabeth’s Women – both fantastic reads. Currently I am reading her book Private Lives of the Tudors.

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Book Review: Margaret Tudor – The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister

Jane Seymour (2)

Margaret Tudor was an English Princess and daughter of the first Tudor monarch, King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; Margaret was the sister of King Henry VIII and married King James IV of Scotland – did I mention she was also mother of King James V?

I was approached by Pens & Sword History to write a review on the book?Margaret Tudor: The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister?by author and historian Melanie Clegg, and happily accepted the opportunity to learn more about one of the Tudor siblings. I tend to focus on the life of her brother and so I found this as a great opportunity to learn more about this magnificent woman.

Excerpt from Amazon.com:

When the thirteen year old Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, married King James IV of Scotland in a magnificent proxy ceremony held at Richmond Palace in January 1503, no one could have guessed that this pretty, redheaded princess would go on to have a marital career as dramatic and chequered as that of her younger brother Henry VIII.

Left widowed at the age of just twenty three after her husband was killed by her brother?s army at the battle of Flodden, Margaret was made Regent for her young son and was temporarily the most powerful woman in Scotland – until she fell in love with the wrong man, lost everything and was forced to flee the country. In a life that foreshadowed that of her tragic, fascinating granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret hurtled from one disaster to the next and ended her life abandoned by virtually everyone: a victim both of her own poor life choices and of the simmering hostility between her son, James V and her brother, Henry VIII.

My Review:

Margaret Tudor, if she had been born male, would have been no different from any other King of England, and if she lived in the modern world may have been a force to be reckoned with. When I read books about royal women who are ruled by men it leaves me frustrated. Frustrated for them, that is. In this book I put myself in Margaret’s shoes and felt the frustration when her conniving husbands stole her money (which, by the way they could because men ruled women) and left her nearly penniless. It was in those moments that you see a Margaret Tudor who was very much like her brother Henry. She was also fiercely protective of her children.

Margaret was not afraid to ask her brother Henry VIII for help when she needed it. It appears that she took her role in Scotland very seriously and wished to keep relations between the two countries stable. Unfortunately for Margaret, both her brother and first husband, King James IV of Scotland were men who did not back down from a fight.

Because of this book I now look at James IV much differently than I used to, and this has piqued my interested to learn more about him. He appears to have been good to his queen consort even though he had mistresses and many illegitimate children. Something Margaret, like her grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, learned to live with because she was treated so well.

When James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden the Regent in England (Katherine of Aragon) contemplated sending the dead king’s body to her husband while he was fighting in France, but instead only sent his blood-stained surcoat. I was very interested in how the author described how Henry VIII would have reacted had she sent the body…but I do not want to ruin the story for you.

This story is a quick and entertaining read and is well-written and researched. At moments I nearly forgot I was reading non-fiction because Clegg did such an amazing job putting together all the pieces and painting a picture of Margaret’s life in detail.

What did I take from this book??Margaret had the Tudor fiery temper and stubbornness. She also ruled with the heart, something her granddaughter (Mary, Queen of Scots) would be claimed of as well.

If you love to learn about the Tudor dynasty I highly recommend buying this book. This book will be released in the US on January 4th.

Amazon – US (discounted pre-order price available now!)

Amazon – UK