Series: The Boleyn Trilogy #1
Published by Ballantine Books on May 14th 2013
Laura Andersen brings us the first book in an enthralling trilogy set in the dramatic, turbulent, world - altering years of Tudor England. What if Anne did not miscarry her son in January 1536, but instead gave birth to a healthy royal boy? Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory and Allison Weir.
Henry IX, known as William, is a 17-year - old king struggling at the restraints of the regency and anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics plotting at home, Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. Against an undercurrent of secret documents, conflicting intelligence operations, and private murder, William fights a foreign war and domestic rebellion with equal resolve. But when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession menaces a new generation of Tudors. Battlefields and council chambers, trials and executions, the blindness of first love and the betrayal of true friendship...How far will William go to get what he wants? Who will pay the price for a king's revenge? And what twists of fate will set Elizabeth on the path to her destiny as England's queen?
This book was not what I thought it would be. To be honest I was half dreading picking it up expecting a stuffy, slow, overly involved historical novel. I was so wrong! The only way I can best sum this up is –
Gossip Girl meets The Tudors
and I loved it!
The tagline is compelling for a History graduate like myself – What if Anne Boleyn did not miscarry her son? What if she had never been beheaded and Henry VIII didn’t succumb to the sweet charms of Jane Seymour? The world was rocked when King Henry cast aside his devoted wife Catherine and pursued his lust and love for the French-trained feminine wiles of Anne. The Catholic Church was torn apart and the Anglican Church came to power destroying families, allies and friends. It’s a subject I’ve spent many hours musing over in particular the effect it had on my own country’s future and fight for independence so the idea that Anne survives and we get a glimpse into an alternate future that still ends with one of Britain’s greatest Queen’s on the throne, Elizabeth I proved irresistible and after my initial hesitation I was eager to get stuck in.
Interestingly enough Anne does not feature in a central role in the book. Instead she is an ever-present shadow, her influence is always there but the story focuses on her children and their friends. There is a very heavy historical slant obviously and it was the most frustrating aspect at times. The Royal lineage, the courtiers and their subjects is complicated to keep track of even for someone with prior knowledge but I would implore you to stick it out because eventually they all come together and the focus stays on the vital few.
The story is told from four POV’s William (the King), Elizabeth I, Dominic and Minuette their childhood friends. Thankfully this didn’t prove confusing and each voice was unique. Minuette also tells her story through journal entries which was on of my favourite parts.
The main plot is one of mystery, murder and shadowy intrigue. As Mary I, daughter of Catherine of Aragon resists the Royal decree to abandon the Catholic Church and toe the line, tension builds between the Catholic and Protestant factions. As William reaches majority and becomes the King in power as well as name, rumours of his illegitimacy and incestuous origins begin to build. The foursome take it upon themselves to uncover the plot to destroy the Tudor/Boleyn dynasty while dealing with other royal intricacies such as a tenuous peace agreement with France, affairs and arranged marriages.
I liked all four of the MC’s. My favourite was Elizabeth, as Andersen states that in the trilogy she will still take the crown despite her brother’s existence so I was curious as to her character and nature and was happy to see hints of the steely queen who guided her nation to greatness come through. William, the typical young King, heady with power, shows more and more the similarities between him and his father as he mistakes Henry VIII’s bullish nature to pursue his base wants and desires as something to be admired. Dominic, his steadfast friend, faithful to a fault, finds himself caught between his brotherly love and fealty to his King and his burgeoning love for his friend Minuette who also captures the interest of the King as both men see their tomboyish childhood pal grow up to be a fair maiden. Yes… there is “the love triangle”. Fortunately it is merely hinted at until about 60% in and it never really heats up until close to the end. There were a few moments that infuriated me as yes I have already picked my team but it did end in a satisfactory way that has me aching for the next book because I anticipate many deliciously awkward and butterfly inducing moments.
Overall, The Boleyn King had it all for me in a great historical summer read. Friendship, controversy, smoochies, coy glances and a good dollop of intrigue. I can’t wait to see where Andersen takes us next.