The Tudor Legacy Novels

The Virgin’s Daughter is the first volume in Laura Andersen’s Tudor Legacy Trilogy, opening about twenty years after the conclusion of The Boleyn Reckoning, the last of the Boleyn King trilogy. Elizabeth is Queen of England, and her daughter, Princess Anne Isabella of Wales, is eighteen years old. Elizabeth wants nothing more than to dissolve her twenty-year marriage to King Phillip of Spain. Phillip’s only other legitimate child, the unstable Don Carlos, has died, leaving Anne as the heir to both the Protestant English and the Catholic Spanish thrones. He needs another heir. Meanwhile, yet another plot to free Mary Queen of Scots from her imprisonment in England is brewing.

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The central figure in The Virgin’s Daughter is not Anne (known to her close friends as Anabel), but her friend Lucette Courtenay, sent by spy master Francis Walsingham to visit family friends in France. Lucette knew the LeClerc brothers, Nicolas and Julien, when they visited her family in England some twelve years past, when Lucette was only ten and the boys teenagers. Now they are all adults, and both Nicolas and Julien are hiding terrible secrets. But are either—or both—of them plotting against Elizabeth?

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Most of the characters in this book are familiar from the earlier trilogy, and I recommend reading the series in order. I deliberately left a long gap between reading the first and second trilogies, because I knew I’d get sucked into Andersen’s almost-like-the-history-books-but-not-quite world, and indeed I did. I’ve already opened the next book, The Virgin’s Spy. But what better time than “Stay Home, Stay Safe” to dive into Andersen’s richly imagined and intricately plotted Tudor time line?

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The Virgin’s Spy centers on Stephen Courtenay, Lucette’s brother, who is sent to Ireland to infiltrate the Kavanaugh Clan, one of the many groups rebelling against English rule. The leader of the clan has recently died, leaving his niece, Ailis, in charge. And Ailis has her own reasons for hating the English in general and seeking revenge against one Englishman in particular. Stephen’s experiences in Ireland will change him forever.

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Meanwhile plans for Anabel’s eventual political marriage are swirling. Will she marry King James of Scotland, several years her junior, or the pock-marked but charming Duc d’Anjou, heir to the French throne? She knows she will have to make a political marriage, but her heart lies elsewhere. And for the first time we get a glimpse of the continent, as the Courtenays visit Spain, delivering gifts for King Philip’s new heirs—and picking up intelligence along the way.

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In The Virgin’s War, the long-simmering tensions between England and Spain boil over into the naval invasion we remember as the Spanish Armada, changed in Andersen’s history by the presence of Princess Anne in the English north country, where she courts the Catholic nobles for support. Has she broken with her mother over religion and her possible allegiance to her Spanish father, or is something else going on?

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All the characters we have come to know are back, Tudor and Courtenay alike, Princess Anne and Pippa Courtenay taking center stage. Amid the political maneuvering, romances are kindled and resolved, battles are fought, hearts are broken and sometimes mended. Loose ends are tied off, some more neatly than others.

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The action moves all over England and even into Scotland, where we meet King James, who has become a surprisingly canny king at the age of twenty. Throughout we see Queen Elizabeth fighting to preserve a country threatening to split over religious lines and to unite her people in opposition to foreign interference.

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I’ve loved the whole six-book series. Andersen’s research and imagination are equally impressive. One can’t help but wonder what changes in the world might have resulted if the Tudor line had continued. Maybe Laura Andersen will take another guess at it someday.

The Reign of King Henry IX

Laura Andersen’s The Boleyn King set the stage for the reign of Henry IX, son of Henry VIII and his queen (and eventual widow) Anne Boleyn.

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The Boleyn Deceit brings on more alternate Tudor history. Political intrigue, star-crossed The Boleyn Deceitlovers, military action, enough characters to be confusing at times, thoroughly enjoyable. This volume veers a bit farther from our history, of course, and I found myself hopping onto Wikipedia from time to time to check on the real lives of the historical characters. As this is the middle volume in a trilogy, the cliff-hanger ending was not a surprise, and thanks to the immediate availability of ebooks, it took only a moment to grab the third book.

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The Boleyn Reckoning continues the reign of Henry IX, still known as Will to his sister Elizabeth and their close friends Minuette Wyatt and Dominic Courtenay. But the relationships between the four are changing rapidly, and not for the better. Meanwhile tensions rise with both France and Spain, people move in and out (the lucky ones) of the dread Tower of London (some innocent, some guilty), and William becomes more like his father—and more unpredictable—as time goes by.

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I don’t want to give away any of Andersen’s plot twists. I love being surprised by books. The Boleyn ReckoningBut in this case I’d accidentally stumbled over spoilers myself. I read the beginning of The Virgin’s Daughter, the first volume of Andersen’s Elizabethan trilogy, before realizing it was really the fourth book in the series. So I knew the fates of several characters ten years later. I’m not going to share the details, but instead of “spoiling” anything, that knowledge raised the suspense and kept me racing through The Boleyn Reckoning.

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The main action of The Virgin’s Daughter picks up some twenty years after The Boleyn Reckoning. I fought its efforts to drag me back into Andersen’s glittering and all-too-believable alternate Tudor world (it wasn’t easy). I’m going to save the second trilogy for a while—I’m afraid I’ll race right through it.

 

The Boleyn King

What might have happened if Anne Boleyn had borne a healthy son? That’s the premise of Laura Andersen’s The Boleyn King. As the novel opens, Henry IX is turning 17. He has been King for several years, since the death of his father, but he has one more year to wait before Lord Rochford (his uncle George Boleyn) steps down as Regent. Known as William to those closest to him (his older sister Elizabeth, his cousin and confidante Dominic Courtenay, and Minuette Wyatt, an orphan born on the same day as Will was and raised in Queen Anne’s court), the young King is eager to rule on his own.

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The story centers on the lives of these four young people as they navigate the excitement and danger of the Royal Court. They deal with political intrigue, gossip, illicit affairs, and even a questionable death. Beyond the concerns of everyday life, there is war with France, tension with Spain (will Elizabeth marry King Phillip?), and diplomatic jousting on the rest of the continent.

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The Boleyn KingIn this version of Tudor England, Anne remains Queen Mother (and a controversial figure), and four of Henry VIII’s famous marriages never happened. Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, is long dead, but her daughter Mary (demoted from Princess to Lady and removed from the line of succession) lives on, doing her best to incite a Catholic rebellion. Lady Jane Grey is alive and well, suggested as a suitable wife for Henry. (I always thought poor Jane, with her nine days as Queen, got the worst deal of the period.)

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I love alternate history, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Boleyn King, but I have to say it reads as historical rather than speculative fiction, perhaps because the change in history occurs less than twenty years before the beginning of the novel. This leaves Andersen free to write her vision of the Tudor period without worrying too much about what’s going on in the rest of the world.

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The Boleyn King has a very different feel from Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories, set in a twentieth century Britain fair removed from the “hinge” that changed its history, in which Richard I stayed home and enjoyed a long and successful reign, and the Plantagenet line still rules Britain, or S. M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers, in which a twenty-first century British royal family rules from India, driven there by a nineteen century meteorite fall that destroyed much of Europe and derailed the Industrial Revolution.

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I know enough about the Tudor period to enjoy Andersen’s imaginings and not enough to troll for historical errors. Now, of course, I have to know what comes next, in the rest of the Boleyn trilogy (The Boleyn Deceit and The Boleyn Reckoning) and in the Tudor Legacy trilogy about the reign of Elizabeth (The Virgin’s Daughter, The Virgin’s Spy, and The Virgin’s War).

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Sigh. This is what happens when I download those interesting loss-leader titles from the daily ebook emails. Next thing I know I have another series to pursue, and even more books in my Amazon cloud.

 

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