Book Reviews of The Last Boleyn

The Last Boleyn
The Last Boleyn
Author: Karen Harper
ISBN-13: 9780739464052
ISBN-10: 0739464051
Publication Date: 1983
Pages: 592
Edition: Book Club Edition
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.

4.1 stars, based on 22 ratings
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

13 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Understand a few things: this is not history. It's not even very good historical fiction as there are errors in descriptions and names of characters in the book. They are minor, but annoying, as basic research would have caught the inaccuracies.

In this story, Harper explores Mary Boleyn (referred to throughout the book as "Golden Mary") and her relationships with the King of France, King Henry VIII, her husband Will Carey, and with William Stafford. There is a lot of wiggle room in the Mary Boleyn story, since there are just enough records to act as a skeleton, but not enough that we know for certain what all of the players in the drama thought or felt.

This could've been just an amusing romp if Harper's writing style didn't veer into the realm of romance novels. There are full breasts everywhere, and in one scene Mary twines her arms around Henry VIII's "bull neck". More annoyingly, William Stafford is nicknamed "Staff" (a Freudian slip if there ever was one, as Staff is the upright-mucho-virile-romance-novel-take-charge-all-knowing-male guy in the book). Also, "Staff" constantly refers to Mary as "lass" and is amused when she shows a temper.

Harper has her female characters arching their graceful necks several times (once, for no apparent reason, towards a window). Out of sheer curiosity, I tried to emulate the neck-arching. The doctor tells me that with a neck brace, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications, I should make a full recovery.

If you want a bon-bon to enjoy while sipping hot cocoa on a winter afternoon, this isn't a bad one. But the inaccuracies, slips, and writing style may have you laughing uproariously and at inappropriate moments.
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 67 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I could not finish this. I really feel like I have too many other books I might enjoy more than finishing it; and besides, I already know how the story goes. Historically, at least.

I will have to agree with the previous reviewer. This is far more of the "bodice-ripper" type book than interests me. I also found the constant references to full breasts (was no one small then?), creamy breasts, heaving breasts, brawny thighs, powerful loins, muscular backs stretching fabric taut and most of all, and codpeices just ridiculous and repetitive. Oh, the codpieces. I kid you not, she describes two different Kings as wearing 1) "his very large embroidered codpiece" and 2) "his flagrant, massive codpiece". Really? So not only is everyone built like the guys in "300" but they are incredibly well hung. Well, yay for Mary!

Anyway, not my type of read. Don't get me wrong, I like historical fiction, but this was kindof the wrong angle for me. Maybe if I hadn't read Phillipa Gregory first?
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 29 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Excellent read! I have never read anything from mary boleyn's point of view. Very well researched and written. Tells mary's story from childhood, to her time in France, up until her sisters Anne death. Highly recommended!!
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 75 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Really unique and interesting fictional account of the life of Mary Boleyn, Anne's sister, who was, briefly, Henry VIII's mistress. If you are not familiar with Tudor history, you may not know that this is a SIGNIFICANTLY embroidered tale. That said, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the book, which is well-written and easily maintains interest. I was sorely disappointed when it was over. It is VERY focused on Mary and her life, to the exclusion of George & Anne, so don't expect them to play a large role.

I was much pleased with this piece of historical fiction and hope that Ms. Harper will write more in the non-mystery categories.
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 179 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A very goos story, very different from "The Other Boleyn Girl". At times I thought it a bit repetitive in its descriptions and within the characterizations. It could also have been shorter, as it simply didn't hold the way TOBG does, although the plotline is riveting and the characters fascinating. There were parts that read more like a cliche'd bodice ripper than historical fiction, and those scenes varied little from each other.
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 48 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
It was a pleasure to read this book shortly after reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. First, it was much more historically accurate, even to birth order. Historians might disagree as to whether Anne or Mary was older, but all agree that George was the baby of the family. Further, this book (unlike Gregory's) includes the period of Mary Boleyn's life when she was the mistress(? if you want to give that much dignity to the way he treated her) of Francis I of France. But enough about Gregory and more about Harper.

This is the perfect book to read if you wish to know more about Mary Boleyn. It provides a believable empathetic characterization of not only the protagonist, but of the many other people whose lives intersected with hers. It portrays the agonizing choices left to women who lived during a time when kings had virtually complete control over their subjects; and men had basically the same dominating force over the women in their families. Any woman - from the Queen down to the lowest commoner - who tried to usurp this societal order most often paid for their efforts with their lives.

These facts are presented in a manner which clearly illustrates the potential miseries of such a society; but the viewpoints expressed not only by the characters but also the author offer no anachronistic insights or opinions as to the possibility of changing such a system. If and when a woman chose to fight the limitations of her role, her struggle was solely for her own benefit. As unpleasant this may or may not be to the reader, this is a truthful portrayal of how life was at the dawn of the Renaissance. The Boleyn girls received an exceptional education only because of the aspirations of their father. Thomas Boleyn was a willing contributor to the social aspirations of his forefathers and he raised his children according to the lifestyles of the highest nobility.

This was the first of Harper's books that I had read and was definitely not the last. I was so impressed by the accuracy and readability of this book that I sought out more of her work. Some of these books (including this one, I believe) had fallen out of print only to be brought out of retirement in the wake of Gregory's sensational success with TOBG. Oops! I said I wouldn't write more about her and I did. Ah well, score one for the "anxiety of influence."
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 91 more book reviews
This is one of the most "factual" historical fiction books I have ever read.....The story of Mary Boleyn, sister to Anne, and how she was used by her father and two kings.....
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 8 more book reviews
Really good book if you like historical novels. It is a really quick read that will keep you intrigued.
reviewed The Last Boleyn on
I have been reading a lot of books by Karen Harper recently and I have to admit to thoroughly enjoying each and every one. What a gifted author she is! "The Last Boleyn" was originally titled "Passion's Reign" and I am not at all sure that I would have chosen to read it with that title. I have that ingrained aversion to lusty title's that shelving Harlequin novels in a book store left me with !

"The Last Boleyn" is the tale of Mary Tudor - five years a mistress to Henry VIII before Anne; faithful wife and mother after Henry. Although I had perhaps heard this before I had not registered the fact that the family name had, in fact, been 'Bullen' prior to Anne's Franophile-ization of her family name to the more readily familiar 'Boleyn'. Mary Bullen inherited her mother's more delicate blonde coloring - heritage of her lofty Howard lineage. I have always been of the impression that 'father' Boleyn was a power hungry, ladder climbing syncophant in the court of Henry VIII....a man who would pander his female children to his best advantage. Nothing I have read over the years has really change that opinion - even taking the vagaries of that time period into account.

Mary was sent to the French court at an early age - as lady-in-waiting to Henry's sister Mary during her short lived marriage to the aging French King. Upon the King's death Mary remains at the French Court attendant upon Mary and beguiled by the new French King Francois I. Anne Boleyn joins Mary at the French court for a time until Mary returns to England as a teenager - and becomes an integral part of the Court of Henry VIII. The book chronicles Mary's marriage to the cold, calculating William Carey - a husband who accepts the King's advances towards Mary as a way to accrue fame and fortune for himself. During her marriage to William Carey Mary has son and, although she always claimed that he was William Carey's son - there has always been speculation that her son was, in fact, the progeny of Henry VIII .Mary is, ultimately, drawn to the jaded courtier William Stafford - a man whom she will ultimately marry in secret after the death of William Carey.

The odd thing about Mary Boleyn's story is that she was always derided by her family for not asking Henry for more - for not expecting more from him as his mistress. Anne was the rapacious sister . Oddly enough though it is Mary, and not Anne, who ultimately lives to a goodly age and retires from Courtlife with both her head and her happiness intact - thank largely, I am led to believe thanks to the love of Will Staford.

In contrast, this novel with that of Phillipa Gregory's book "The Other Boleyn Girl" - which is also narrated from Mary's point of view. I enjoyed both of these book tremendously, but I think that in some ways I prefer Karen Harper's work. I think that Ms. Harper follows the history very closely and she also managed to keep me turning the pages of this book late into the night. Best bet - read both books because I think that the story of Mary Boleyn is truly a very good one !
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 418 more book reviews
What a brilliant way to learn history The Boleyn family history is truly an extraordinary story. This is a fictional tale but so much of the story is based on true history --- you actually feel like you're living right along with Mary thru her awesome story the culture, corruption, the lies, the mystery - the way of life just radiates the whole story! It got me from the very first chapter and I was sorry to put it down on the last page! To have to live in a time like this had to almost unbearable if you were ever given the chance to think about it! Unimaginable!
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 19 more book reviews
good mystery with a good history background!
reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 212 more book reviews
What a lovely little tale of the Boleyn family! There are comparisons to Philippa Gregorys The Other Boleyn Girl, as the concept behind the two books is the same the Boleyn story from Marys side. I liked this one infinitely more than the Gregory story, and Im so glad I took the time to read it.

The book starts out when Mary is about 12, not long before she is sent to live in the French court to serve Mary Tudor as the Queen of France while she is married to King Louis. We get to see Mary as she grows from a naive youngster into a beautiful young woman who is soon catching the eye of many members of the court. In the background, we get to see Annes story as well, starting out with her somewhat worship of her older sister and through her exciting, and ultimately tragic life.

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reviewed The Last Boleyn on + 54 more book reviews
This book was very interesting. We all know about Anne Boleyn but her sister had a life that was every bit as exciting. Against her wishes she was the mistress of two kings and married off when Henry VIII was tired of her. At the end she was able to make her own future and ultimately, the last family member to survive. By the author who wrote "The First Princess of Wales" another book I highly recommend.