Anna of Kleve : Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

Author : Alison Weir
Title : Anna of Kleve : Queen of Secrets
Series : Six Tudor Queens #4
Pages : 485
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : May 2, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed.

Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived. 

| MY THOUGHTS |

The Six Tudor Queens series continues with the fourth of Henry VIII’s wives, Anna of Kleve. This is one I’d been looking forward to, happy to move even further away from the Great Matter, and also because I didn’t know much about Anna herself.

Anna hailed from Germany and to all intents and purposes seemed to have lived quite the sheltered life under the watchful eye of her mother. Until the day Henry VIII, King of England, decides he needs another wife and preferably another heir. With Spain and France joining forces against him, an alliance with the Duke of Kleve would be quite an advantage. Henry asks his court painter for a portrait of Anna. He likes what he sees. Until Anna finally arrives in England. Despite the marriage going ahead, it quickly becomes clear Henry isn’t happy and when Henry isn’t happy, heads roll. But will it be Anna’s?

There is quite the controversial storyline running through Anna of Kleve. As always, Alison Weir takes facts and builds her story around those. In this case, the reasons Henry listed for his marriage to Anna to remain unconsummated. By that time, he was nearing 50, massively overweight and unfit, and quite possibly impotent. But of course, that’s not something he would ever have admitted. In his attempts to have his marriage to Anna annulled, Henry shows a side of himself we’ve not really seen before. At times he managed to come across as likeable even.

Now imagine Anna. A young woman sent off to England to marry a King. She spoke no English, knew nothing of the culture or customs but did know the stories about what happened to Henry’s previous wives. How incredibly frightening is that? Unable to please Henry, through no fault of her own, her life at the court must have been spent in sheer fear and anxiety.

I mentioned the controversial path Alison Weir takes with this story. Up to a certain point, I was quite willing to follow it. It explained a lot, it made sense while keeping Henry’s words in the back of my mind. But as the years went on, I must admit that that particular fictional part of the story lost me a little bit. I’m being deliberately vague here because I want the readers to experience this for themselves. If you do read this novel, and you definitely should, I’d be incredibly interested in knowing your thoughts.

I absolutely adore the Six Tudor Queens series and boy, do those hardcovers look amazing on my bookshelf. As always, Alison Weir’s research is immaculate and her descriptions are fabulously vivid. From the various palaces and their furnishings to the food served to the gorgeous clothes, she brings this era to life like no other. While I enjoyed Anna of Kleve, it wasn’t my favourite of the series though. It’s a bit hard to explain but for the first time in this series, I really felt like I was reading fiction. Which it is for the most part, of course, but some of it just didn’t quite work for me. Nevertheless, putting those misgivings aside, Anna of Kleve is another fantastic addition to this series and I can’t wait for the next one.

Anna of Kleve : Queen of Secrets is available to buy in ebook and hardcover.

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

This Week in Books (May 8)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has begun work as the acting coroner of Teifi Valley with solicitor’s clerk John Davies as his assistant.

When a faceless body is found on an isolated beach, Harry must lead the inquest. But his dogged pursuit of the truth begins to ruffle feathers. Especially when he decides to work alongside a local doctor with a dubious reputation and experimental theories considered radical and dangerous.

Refusing to accept easy answers might not only jeopardise Harry’s chance to be elected coroner permanently but could, it seems, implicate his own family in a crime.

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed.

Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived. 

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Renée Ballard is working the night beat again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself and it brings a deep tug of empathy and anger.

Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.

Not entirely sure why all the books I’m reading lately are so long. These are all over 400 pages, one even 485. It’s not that I mind. I like big books (and I can not lie) but it makes staying ahead of my schedule just that little bit harder. 😄

What are you reading this week? Let me know! Happy reading! xx

Jane Seymour : The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir @AlisonWeirBooks @headlinepg

37912964

Author : Alison Weir
Title : Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen
Series : Six Tudor Queens
Pages : 502
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : May 3, 2018

aboutthebook

The woman haunted by the fate of her predecessor.

Eleven days after the death of Anne Boleyn, Jane is dressing for her wedding to the King.

She has witnessed at first hand how courtly play can quickly turn to danger and knows she must bear a son . . . or face ruin.

This new Queen must therefore step out from the shadows cast by Katherine and Anne. In doing so, can she expose a gentler side to the brutal King?

mythoughts

The third book in the Six Tudor Queens series obviously features Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour. I must admit I knew very little about her going in. Apart from the facts, of course. Third wife, the only one to give Henry a male heir and the fact that she was apparently so beloved by Henry that he decided to be buried alongside her.

I’m not entirely sure I now know much more about her as far as historical facts are concerned, to be honest, but I do thoroughly enjoy the way she’s portrayed in this novel. It seems, unlike the previous wives, Jane left little or nothing of note. No journals or letters, for instance, that thorough research would normally be based on. This means there were quite a few gaps that Alison Weir needed to fill but true to form, she manages to do that in an entirely plausible and credible way.

Considering Jane Seymour’s rather short life, this is one long book though never boring. We are offered a glimpse into Jane’s early life, growing up in a big and happy family, surrounded by one or two ambitious brothers who themselves will play a huge part in history. In those early days however, Jane is determined to become a nun. How very different things would have been if that had come to pass.

As it is, she finds her way to court, as a maid-in-waiting to the first (and true 😄) Queen Katherine when Henry’s pursuit of Anne Boleyn has already started. The Great Matter, as it’s known, would always play a massive part in the first three books in this series as events overlap, but Jane is very much on the fringes of it all. However, her fierce loyalty to Queen Katherine and her faith will shape the future.

Was Jane naive? Did she really fall in love or was she merely as ambitious as her brothers? Who knows? Alison Weir paints an interesting picture of a devout and intelligent young lady who carefully weights up her options, who believes she might possibly be able to make a difference and restore what Anne Boleyn tore apart.

Interestingly, we also see a rather different side to Henry VIII. Not quite the self-centred, unforgiving, bullying “man-child” who throws temper tantrums when things don’t go his way. Not towards Jane anyway. I do believe he genuinely loved Jane Seymour but I can’t help thinking what would have happened if she hadn’t borne him a son.

It’s quite obvious to me that my fascination with the Tudor era and the six wives of Henry VIII will never go away. In my most humble opinion, nobody brings this era to life as magnificently as Alison Weir does. The meticulous research, the absolutely wonderful eye for detail, it all jumps from the pages and never fails to completely absorb me.

The Six Tudor Queens is an exquisite series and this third book is a truly wonderful addition. I can’t wait for the next one, which is obviously about Ann of Cleves, if you know your history. I’m quite happy to leave the Great Matter behind and learn more about the other wives. If you’re a Tudor fan, I have no doubt you will love this but I also feel there’s a lot here to please any historical fiction reader.

Do also make sure you read the incredibly interesting author’s notes!

Jane Seymour : The Haunted Queen is available to buy!

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