Shy, plain Lady Jane Parker feels out of place in Henry VIII's courtly world of glamour and intrigue--until she meets the handsome George Boleyn. Overjoyed when their fathers arrange a match, her dreams of a loving union are waylaid when she meets George's sister, Anne. For George is completely devoted to his sister, and cold and indifferent to his bride. As Anne acquires a wide circle of admirers, including King Henry, Jane's resentment grows. But if becoming Henry's queen makes Anne the most powerful woman in England, it also makes her highly vulnerable. And as Henry, desperate for a male heir, begins to tire of his mercurial wife, the stage is set for the ultimate betrayal...
Encompassing the reigns of five of Henry's queens, THE BOLEYN WIFE is an unforgettable story of ambition, lust, and jealousy, of the power of love to change the course of history, and of the terrible price of revenge.
Book Description from http://brandypurdy.com
When I first started blogging in September 2009 The Boleyn Wife was one of the first books I spotted on other blogs. There were a lot of early reviews that I read and it sounded like a book I really wanted to read. I am also an avid fan of Anne Boleyn so that was a selling point right there. At this point I had not read a lot about Jane Boleyn other than the fact that I really did not like her. I found her to be a whinny, vindictive and all around nasty person, but I still wanted to read The Boleyn Wife. Note* this review may have some spoilers..
Brandy Purdy got in touch with me via Twitter and graciously offered me an ARC of the book and I jumped at the chance. I am really glad that I did.
The Boleyn Wife takes place over five reigns of Henry VIII’s wives. The story is told in Lady Jane Boleyn’s, nee Rochford, voice starting with her last days in the tower. She awaits her fate after being charged with treason along with Katherine Howard who was sentenced to death for adultery. She speaks of her young years, of her father, Lord Morley, and Sir Thomas Boleyn and how they want a match between their children Jane Rochford and George Boleyn. Jane was sole heiress to her fathers fortune and George was the only Boleyn son. Jane was already in love with George when first she came to Henry’s court.
The same could not be said of her feelings toward George’s sister Anne. Jane despised Anne almost from the beginning, beside Anne she felt homely, clumsy, shy. She said she was not as accomplished as Anne, didn’t dance or sing as well. She also noticed right away George’s attentions were always taken up with Anne. It took 3 years before she became part of the Boleyn family, and not very well liked at that.
As time goes on, Jane’s animosity and immense dislike of Anne grows into hate as her husband George cares not at all about Jane and spends all his time with Anne and her admirers, Sir Francis Weston, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Thomas Wyatt ,Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton.
During this time King Henry VIII is pursuing Anne and trying to get his marriage annulled from Catherine of Aragon . Henry desperately wants a legitimate male heir to follow him on the throne. Catherine suffers many miscarriages and is not able to have a male living child. They do have a daughter though, Mary. Henry eventually gets his way, his divorce and his Anne.
Henry and Anne’s marriage is very tumultuous and Anne is not able to have a male heir either. They do have a daughter together, Elizabeth, but Henry is adamant that he needs a son. During this time Jane’s hatred keeps growing as she is constantly pushed aside by her husband for Anne. She starts to spy on Anne and sees George and Anne and all their friends having fun, dancing and singing and being happy while she becomes more despondent and unhappy. George literally wants nothing to do with Jane so there are no children. Jane believes that her husband and Anne are having an incestuous relationship.
As Henry falls out of love with Anne, Jane is ready to seek her revenge on George and Anne. She has become a nagging wife and George wants nothing to do with her. Queen Anne has another miscarriage and Henry is done with her.
Jane at this time is befriended by Thomas Cromwell, who also despises Anne and has his own political agenda and uses Jane to discredit Anne and her followers. As a result George and his friends are charged with treason against the King and George is also charged with incest with Anne and is sentenced to death. Anne is eventually charged with treason and incest with her brother and also sentenced to death.
We all know what happens after that. Henry is free to marry again and he chooses Jane Seymour, a very lovely woman who is also a pawn of her family. The are married for a short time. Jane dies after giving birth to a sickly son, Edward. After she dies Henry marries again this time to Anne of Cleeves who does not speak English very well and he finds her unattractive so he sends her off to live as his ‘sister’ so he can marry again.
Jane remains at court as a lady in waiting to these queens and Henry does marry again to Katherine Howard, Jane becomes close to ‘Kat” and aides her in her adulterous relationship with Thomas Culpepper. Katherine was raised in a very liberal way and had quite a few dalliances with men when she lived with her grandmother. Then she met Thomas Culpepper and they were madly in love with each other. Unfortunately Katherine’s past does catch up with her in the guise of a childhood friend that she had had a relationship with. Once Henry finds all this out, he imprisons Jane and Katherine, Katherine for adultery and Jane for aiding and abetting Katherine and Thomas’s relationship.
Through all this I think that Jane thought she was trying to do good after she had been the catalyst that caused Anne and George to be executed and I think that she actually felt a lot guilt in this. Not for Anne because she still hated her until the day she died but she felt if it hadn’t been for Anne, George would have loved her and things would have been good between them.
I feel that all the women portrayed in this book were at the whim and mercy of the men around them. This was a time when women hardly mattered in the scheme of things and all they really were there for was to have children and if they were rich they would enrich the men's coffers. I think that these women were all strong in their own way. I did come to have some sympathy for Jane, circumstances seemed to be against her and she was so in love with her husband that she was driven to the point of madness, anger and revenge.
I enjoyed this story very much and it was very well written and researched. As I have said before, I am not a historian and I am not bothered whether a story is historically correct or not. I liked this story as another perspective of life in the Tudor court.
Did I say that this ARC was signed by Brandy?? Yes it was so this one will stay in my bookcase and you will all have to wait to get your copy…it will be worth the wait.
The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy will be published in the USA on January 26, 2010 by Kensington Books, and in the UK on April 1, 2010 by Avon/Harper under the title of The Tudor Wife by Emily Purdy.
As I stated before, The Boleyn Wife ARC was sent to me from the author for review.