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.