April 2, 2013

The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge: April

We have had a few new people join the reading challenge this month:

Shannon Pembroke
Bandit Queen

Welcome to all of you! :)

March also saw quite a few new reviews:

  • Shannon Pembroke reviewed A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell, Sovereign by C. J. Sansom, Le Temps Viendra by Sarah Morris, Katherine by Anya Seton, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd, The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Suzannah Dunn, The Pleasure Place (Secrets of the Tudor Court) by Kate Emerson, Between Two Queens (Secrets of the Tudor Court)by Kate Emerson, and By Royal Decree (Secrets of the Tudor Court) by Kate Emerson.
  • Jaclyn reviewed Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Bolyen by Margaret Campbell Barnes and To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd.
  • Esther reviewed The Men Who Would Be King by Josephine Ross, House of Treason by Robert Hutchinson, The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell by John Schofield, and Two Queens in One Isle by Alison Plowden.
  • Jen Deguzman reviewed The King's Damsel by Kate Emerson.
  • Lisa reviewed Death and the Virgin Queen by Chris Skidmore and The Tudors by G.J. Meyer.
  • Jonah Knows Best reviewed The Secret Bride by Diane Haeger, and In Bed with the Tudors by Amy Licence.
  • Mer reviewed Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives.
  • BanditQueen reviewed The Tudors by E Massie.

All reviews can be accessed on the March Page. If I left out any reviews, please let me know! 

For April, be sure to post your reviews (or a link to your reviews) as a comment on this post.

I am in the process of putting together the giveaway for April, sponsored by author Sandra Byrd, so keep an eye out for a separate post on that! 

Don't forget, you can sign up for the Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge through December 2013. Those not signed up for the Reading Challenge must leave a comment on The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge 2013 Page.


  1. Thank you. I'm a new follower and just joined the challenge. I've also followed you on Facebook.
    Annette @ http://impressionsinink.blogspot.com

  2. First up this month is my review of Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell. The review can be found on my blog:

  3. First for my reviews is The White Queen (The Cousin's War #1), by Philippa Gregory 2009

    #1 of 6 in The Cousins' War series about the War of the Roses.
    An excellent historical novel about Elizabeth Woodville, who became Queen consort of England as the wife of Edward IV. According to Gregory, this book is historically accurate with the background filled in to complete the story.

    Elizabeth is a strong but un-sympathetic and toward the end, an unlikable character. Plotting, witchcraft, war, betrayal, love and murder are all part of this high drama. Rich historical details enhance the drama and meld for a totally enthralling and informative read.

    Next: The Red Queen (#2)

  4. Book 2 Review
    The Red Queen (The Cousin's War #2) by Philippa Gregory 2010

    The Red Queen is written in the same time frame as The White Queen, but we follow the life of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor who becomes King of England, making Margaret the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty.

    Margaret is a strong willed and selfish child who wishes to spend her life in the church. With dreams of Joan of Arc and angels she strives to achieve saintdom by kneeling so tirelessly in prayer that her young knees are scarred. Wishes aside she is married off, still a child, to produce an heir.

    With historical accuracy and fictional romance, Gregory's novel provides glimpses into the completely male dominated world and the hypocritical lives that women of nobility were doomed to live within.

    Margaret is a difficult character to sympathize with or like, but within the context of her surroundings, the forced life choices, her unending lonliness and solitude, the reader may find compassion for her dedication and unwavering spirit.

  5. 3rd Review
    The Lady of the Rivers by author Philippa Gregory 2011
    The Cousins War #3

    Third in the series, this book precedes The White Queen chronologically. Our heroine Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, is a woman supposedly descended from Melusina, a river goddess and may have mysterious powers.

    From her young marriage to the Duke of Bedford, and her passion and love for his squire Richard Woodville, Gregory weaves the story of the woman who becomes the Queen Margaret of Angou's best friend and confidant and the mother of The White Queen.

    Rich dialogue and gripping dipictions of war and high drama, with touches of the occult permeating this historic jewel.

    So far, my favorite of the series.

  6. BanditQueen Review 2: Mary, Bloody Mary: novel by Carol Anne Meyer.

    Excellent story, gets into the sad upbringing of Mary Tudor the daughter of Henry VIII; her story, but many historical errors spoil the story.

    Mary betrothed to King Francis of France: she never was and never could be. King Francis was already married to Queen Claude by the time Mary was born. Quite true that this is her third as she was indeed betrothed to Henri, son of the King of France. The betrothal to Emperor Charles is also set in 1527 and not 1521.

    Mary begins life as the centre of the world of Henry VIII and her mother Catherine of Aragon, the betrothed of Charles V and is hastily crowned aged II as Princess of Wales. Mary has to move to Ludlow. Her mother will not go with her and she is heart broken. Her father refused to relent and the child is taken from her mother and put in the care of the faithful Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.

    Henry has doubts of his marriage and has fallen in love with a woman, whom Mary would later hate Anne Boleyn. His marriage is declared invalid, Mary a bastard, both are vanished from court, and Mary is torn from all she knows and loves. By law she is no longer heir.

    September 1533 and Elizabeth is born. She is the new heir, despite her father's disappointment. Mary is sent for to court but it is clear that she is only here to wait on Princess Mary. Her father is cruel to her and Anne hates the child. For the next two years Mary is sent to Hatfield House to be a servant of Princess Elizabeth.

    Anne orders that two people Anne Sheldon and Lady Bryan are cruel to Princess Mary and constantly makes threats to her life and wants her to be insulted and beaten. Her visits she makes her life hell, but Mary becomes ill. Catherine pleas to go and to nurse her daughter but is refused. Mary is very ill and very afraid. Chaprys visits her and warns her to give in to her father's wish to say his marriage to Anne is valid. She will not. Then her mother dies.

    However, the author has Mary stay at Hatfield which is not correct: for her health Henry removed her to her own house at Hudson, where she was again treated well. It was just that her household was reduced. Anne was angry and made threats to poison her.

    Mary is told about the adultery of Anne Boleyn by her faithful servant Bryan who refused to treat her badly, as her nephew is accused with her. He is a made up person called Francis Peacham. No such person existed. But her son Francis Bryan was accused and then released as not guilty. Mary has to comfort her servant and for the next two weeks they are afraid. Anne is found guilty and the nephew is executed as one of the five men killed a few days before Anne.

    Jane Seymour becomes Henry's Queen but nothing changes at first for Mary. Henry demands that she sign for his will as head of the Church or she could be put to death. Alone and afraid Mary gives in and Jane persuades Henry to accept Mary back as his child. She is surprised when he arrives as he has grown fat. She is repulsed, but relieved that she is accepted back at court. Margaret is also given her old job back at least for a time. Mary comes back to court and is there when Jane gives birth to Edward and then dies.

    Mary will lose her beloved Margaret of Salisbury as Henry cruelly kills her, a loss that shapes tragic reign.

  7. 4th Review
    The Kingmaker's Daughter (The Cousins' War #4)
    by Philippa Gregory 2012

    The fourth book in the Cousin's War series, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two compelling sisters Anne and Isabel, the daughters of the "Kingmaker," Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.
    The young sisters struggle with the critical life decisions thrust upon them by their father, who uses them as pawns in his political games.
    The sisters are married off as young girls with hopes of gaining royal status and it doesn't seem to be important which side they are required to be a part of, as long as it is the winning side.

    The reign of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville finds Anne and Isabel becoming adults, learning simultaneously an education in survival and distorted supersitions which form their values and directions.

    Intelligent prose, gripping dialogue and intriguing scene portrayal had me body and soul from the very beginning.

  8. Review 5
    The Other Queen (The Tudor Court #6)
    by Philippa Gregory 2008

    Note: Not aware that the book was in a series. Will read and review the remainder soon.

    This intense novel focuses on the often overlooked captive years of Mary, Queen of Scots. She finds herself imprisoned by George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, two of Queen Elizabeth's most loyal and trusted.

    At first Bess and her husband welcome the beautiful young queen into their home, taking pride in serving their Queen. Soon, they find the formidable and daunting task of jailers/hosts will bring them not only financial ruin but also threats and suspicion of espionage and betrayal.

    Heard through the voices of Bess, George and Queen Mary the reader enjoys a panoramic perspective, which includes historical accuracy and intelligent, emotional dialogue. Mary, Queen of Scots is portrayed in a totally new and refreshing way, and Bess is brought to life illustrating the vastly disparate dimensions of working nobility.

  9. Review 6
    Katharine the Virgin Widow (Tudor Saga #2)
    by Jean Plaidy

    Focusing on the years prior to her marraige to King Henry VIII, this is the early story of Katharine of Aragon, a pampered and favored princess of Spain, sent to England to become the bride of Arthur, Prince of Wales by her royal parents, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

    The young infanta, soon finds her frail, young husband dead, and questions of the marriage validity and her place in the court mounting. Prince Henry alone has the power to restore Katharine's lost position and ultimately her destiny.

    Original and penetrating prose place the reader in the room with the fully developed historical characters.

  10. Jane Dunn's "Elizabeth & Mary Cousins, Rivals, Queens" is a dual biography of the two ... much more detailed than Alison Plowden's book on the same pair. Interesting ideas, but little "follow through". For example, it notes that the women surrounding Mary in her childhood (Catherine d'Medici, Diane de Poitiers) had more influence than most of the stepmothers that surrounded Elizabeth at the same age ... but it doesn't "follow through" by discussing the type of influence (Mary saw women exercise power by influencing the king; Elizabeth saw women powerless in the presence of a king, but during the regency of Catherine Parr, and in Mary before her marriage, Elizabeth saw women exercising power like a man ... but only in the absence of a king).

    Esther Sorkin

  11. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (copyright 1997) is an excellent read, incredibly captivating, and deeply moving as it brings to life the 'true' story of Anne Boleyn.

    We are introduced to the recently crowned Queen Elizabeth as she is being pestered about getting married. She is about to learn more about herself than she could ever imagine, as an old woman miraculously fulfills a promise she was not aware of -- to give her the diary of her infamous mother, Anne Boleyn. The diary is not only a wonderful glimpse into the mind of Anne, but is also a revelation to Elizabeth -- the realization of the connection to and the love of her mother. Anne’s fear and uncertainty, her vitality and perseverance, her capacity for love, as well as her loneliness are all expressed as she writes to the only friend who is always there for her - her diary.

    Anne is a woman desperately fighting for her right to happiness in a world ruled by men. The desire to be what Henry wants her to be and more shows her intelligence, strength, confidence and devotion. Yet she is never really free, and her life comes to depend on the sex of her child. The King’s power and temper, which are enough for anyone to fear, makes the ability to truly love him difficult. This troubles Anne, though she finally does manage to fall in love with him - a delicate love she works hard to tend, her devotion is touching. But the tender love withers in a storm of anger and sadness -- having not produced the promised son, Anne’s once loving and passionate husband becomes terrifyingly cruel and bitter, a terrible beast.

    Elizabeth, so much the image of her father, had no idea. No idea of the evil, of the injustice. No idea that her own strength and bold nature may have come from her mother. Her mother, a woman who was brutally preyed upon by ambitious men and abandoned by her lover, who faced a room filled with deceit where not one of her judges would defend her, and who did everything she could as she fell from the good graces of the King to protect the light of her life - her daughter.

    So good.

  12. 2nd Book review - The Irish Princess by Karen Harper

  13. Adding review #2 for the year: Allison Weir'd Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings


  14. Review #7
    The Constant Princess (The Tudor Court #1)
    by Philippa Gregory 2005

    In my opinion, this has to be one of the best and most intriguing historical novels about the Infanta of Spain, daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand (of Columbus fame)born to be the Princess of Wales and the Queen of England, Katherine of Aragon. Presenting Katarina from a young age of 5, living on campaign with her Warrior Queen Mother and father through her marriage to Henry VIII.

    We see a vastly different Katherine than usually told. A young, educated and pampered young princess who's sheer determination, quick mind and constancy see her through poverty, betrayal, humiliation and lonliness to triumph at the Tudor court as a much loved queen with power and respect.

    I love this portrayal of Katherine as a fiercely strong woman, knowing and learning the way to her destiny.

  15. Review #8
    The Other Boleyn Girl (Tudor Series,#2) by Philippa Gregory. 2003

    The fictional story of the Boleyn sisters, Mary and Anne, and their lives played out within the Tudor court.

    I loved this book, with it's twists and turns, sisterly love and jealousy, betrayal and intrigue, political games and romance. An avid reader of historical fiction (and Philippa Gregory), I found myself absorbed in the dialogue and anticipating the next scene. Gregory sees very different stories unfolding during this time than is normally written or portrayed and I found it facinating (if not true, but who really knows what happened?).

    Note: I saw the movie when it came out and it is not (or little) based on the book. The two match only minimally.

  16. Derek Wilson's "The Uncrowned Kings of England" is a biography of the Dudley family through four generations -- from Edmund, who rose under Henry VII and was executed by Henry VIII, to Robert Dudley, the "base son" of Elizabeth's Leicester, who left England when James I was interfering with his attempts to declare himself legitimate and moved to Florence, Italy ... where he may have been one of the most accomplished of the family. Very well written, and very interesting. The extremely "pro-Dudley" slant is a good balance with other books.

    However, there are places where it goes overboard. For example, Wilson seems to blame Elizabeth for Leicester's failure to have a legitimate heir. However, Leicester dumped Douglass Sheffield (when they had gone through a marriage ceremony of sorts) after the birth of their son, and claimed the ceremony was not legally binding. According to other biographies of Elizabeth, when he married Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth started an investigation into possible bigamy ... which gave Leicester a second chance to legitimize his son. He didn't ... and when his son by Lettice died, Leicester didn't get a third chance. Since the son by Douglass not only lived to adulthood, but had thirteen children, it is certainly plausible that Leicester could have had his heir if he had not disclaimed the marriage to Douglass ... and this is his fault, not Elizabeth's.

    Esther Sorkin

  17. Review #9
    The Boleyn Inheritance (Tudor Series #3)by Philippa Gregory 2006


  18. Eric Ive's "Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery" is excellent, but a little mis-titled, as I can't see why they call it a "mystery". An excellent outline of the events, explaining some otherwise surprising actions on the part of all parties, and discusses the reason for Jane's "transformation" from Protestant fanatic into a milder, Victorian heroine He argues that Edward had every right to leave the crown to Lady Jane, making her rightful queen, because Mary had been bastardized and couldn't inherit. However, this ignores a few things. One is the fact that much of England never believed that Mary was really illegitimate ... and as Richard III discovered, a technical defect in a marriage isn't much if people don't believe it. Second, is that according to an email exchange on the Q & A blog of tudorhistory.org, Ives said an illegitimate child could inherit from his or her mother ... and Catherine of Aragon had a claim to the English throne, as Edward III's son, John of Gaunt and his second wife, Constance of Castile had a daughter, who was Catherine of Aragon's great-grandmother. All in all, very good.

    Esther Sorkin

  19. Robin Maxwell’s “Mademoiselle Boleyn” (2007) is written from the view of Anne Boleyn as she recollects her adolescent years spent in the French court. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Anne and her sister, Mary. Initially looking to her sibling as a source of protection and experience, she eventually realizes that she is the stronger more knowledgeable one. While Mary may appear shallow, weak or stupid in comparison to Anne, she is really a victim in a cruel male-ruled world. Anne doesn’t look the other way and pretend the injustice doesn’t exist - she instead takes it all in and learns from it, sympathizing with her sister but also being mindful to use her wits to protect herself.

    The descriptions of the French court, King Francois, and the events of the Field of Cloth of Gold are wonderful and fascinating. Overall, an intriguing book I found difficult to put down.

  20. Review #10
    The Queen's Fool (Tudor Court Series #4)
    by Philippa Gregory


  21. Just read Diarmaid MacCulloch's "The Boy King ... Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation". Excellent study of the religious aspects, but not for newbies to Tudor history and the religious changes.

    Esther Sorkin

  22. Review of The Lady of the Rivers, by Philippa Gregory is now up on my blog:



  23. Review #11
    The Virgin's Lover (Tudor Court Series #5)
    by Philippa Gregory


  24. Okay, I gotta say I was looking for something kind of steamy considering the title of this book, but I was quite intrigued nonetheless :)

    "The King's Pleasure," by Norah Lofts, begins as Queen Isabella rides a mule along with the Spanish army as they move to winter quarters. She does this by choice, while pregnant with her forth child, Katherine. The strength and stubborn nature of the mother is clearly passed on to her child; a family where males do not thrive, but females withstand and survive. My favorite part of the story is of course the coming of age Henry, who saves Katherine from an uncertain life as his brother's widow despite his father's warning to let her go. Nothing steamy, but very romantic as Henry becomes a noble King who appears to truly love, respect and admire his wife; Katherine is completely enamored by and faithful to him. She remains a loyal wife even as he challenges the validity of their marriage, threatens her, and eventually sends her away. The terrible waiting for the answer to the question put to Rome about their marriage is agonizing, and she realizes she would have given in if she didn't have a child to be thinking about (but what is happening to her Mary as the agony proceeds for years?). Katherine is an impressive person of character and, like Thomas More, is willing to die for what she believes is true. She loved Henry through it all. She believed she did everything she could for her daughter and her husband. How could anyone not admire her?

    The amazing pains taken to absolve this one marriage is probably the most intriguing part of the Tudor story to me -- such a powerful King, yet he cannot get something that seems so easily procured today, and he goes about it in an almost innocent, and chivalrous way -- if he had gotten an answer from the Pope right away, would he have dropped the challenge and cherished his wife?

  25. Review of D.L. Bogdan's Secrets of the Tudor Court is now available on my blog

    Wonderful debut novel...


  26. Review of The Sixth Wife by Suzannah Dunn is now up on my blog...



  27. Review of The Queen's Sorrow by Suzannah Dunn is now up on my blog:



  28. Hi there! Reviewed Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle. You can find the review at www.luxuryreading.com (here is the direct link: http://luxuryreading.com/bloodbetweenqueens/).

  29. Review #12
    The Agincourt Bride(Catherine De Vois #1)
    by Joanna Hickson, 2013



  30. Reviewed "Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony" by Lee Miller.


  31. Review #13
    The Rose Without a Thorn
    Jean Plaidy (1993)

    This is a fast read.


  32. Hi! I didn't see the post for the May reviews yet so I wanted to go ahead and post the link to my review of Roses Have Thorns here: http://luxuryreading.com/roseshavethorns/.


  33. Hey there, These are May reviews, but wanting to make sure they got in.
    Review #14 Mary Queen of France (Tudor Saga #9) Jean Plaidy (Read 5/1/13) Review

    Review #15 Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir (Read 5/3/13)

    Review #16 Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir (Read 5/5/13)

    Take Care.

  34. I joined in May, not sure if a Tudor book I read in April will count, but will link it up just in case.
    Thank you.


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