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How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie Amber's Book Review Team, of which I am a member, but I would have bought it anyway because I've enjoyed the other books I've read by this author, especially Jasper.
Genre: Tudor historical fiction
Like many people, I have an unquenchable thirst for good fiction about the Plantagenet and Tudor period. I wondered if Mary Tudor's story in itself would be enough to sustain a novel, but was pleased to see that it added to my knowledge of the Tudor period and I liked the way the author used her story to produce another, interesting perspective on that of Henry VIII, as Mary fretted over the troubles with France and watched the fortunes of her friend Queen Catherine plummet.
There are some clever ideas in this tale of Henry's sister, such as placing the thirteen-year-old Anne Boleyn as her maid, on the night of her wedding to King Louis of France. Whether she really was or not I don't know, and neither does it matter, though we are given the information that Anne became one of the ladies of Mary's bedchamber. That the reader knows more about what was happening at court than the protagonist is a smart move, as we turn the pages in anticipation of her finding out; as an aristocratic woman of her time, Mary's life was, of course, subject to the machinations of the men who controlled her. Later, when kept away from court at Brandon's seat in Suffolk, she knew only what she heard from others, which included very little of her own husband's infidelities.
As is usual with Tony Riches' books, it is clear that much research has been undertaken without it ever seeming research-heavy, a skill I always admire.
Given that the story is of a whole life, and a not uneventful one, this is not a very long book and at times I felt that more detail might have made it more absorbing, for instance in the development of Mary's first, brief marriage to King Louis of France, of Charles Brandon's feeling towards her, of the discovery of her husband's infidelity, and the loss of her first son. I didn't feel I knew Mary until half way through, and at times it seemed the story was being somewhat raced through as new characters emerged, older ones died off until, had I not known a great deal about this time, I might have forgotten who was who; on the other hand, it is written as Mary would have seen it—and novels of Tudor history are always hampered by the fact that everyone is called Anne, Mary, Catherine, Charles, Henry and Thomas!
I did enjoy it and read it in two sittings; I just felt that, on occasion, the story required extra depth to make me feel really involved with the main character and less as though I was reading a catalogue of factual happenings. It's as well-written as all Mr Riches' books, though, and that I read it so quickly shows that I found it a page-turner.
Mary's death at the end was beautifully executed. I do love a good ending. I'd definitely recommend this book as an addition to the library of fellow Tudor addicts.