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.
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?
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!!
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."