On Amazon UK
How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.
In a Nutshell: the story of Jane Seymour, 3rd wife of Henry VIII. Book 1 of 2 book series, The Seymour Saga.
A light piece of historical fiction that, on the whole, I liked. I was tentative at first, being very much 'Team Boleyn' as far as the six wives are concerned, but I was pleased to note that Jane Seymour was not portrayed as the meek angel of many a historical novel or TV drama, but every bit as calculating as her predecessor in her mission to capture the heart of Henry VIII; she was used as a tool by her ambitious family in exactly the same way.
The book is written in alternative third person POVs: that of Jane herself, and Thomas Cromwell. I liked that the author showed the downfall of Anne Boleyn to be a fiction carefully constructed by Cromwell, who knew that Henry needed to get rid of her so he could marry another who might give him a son, but that he could not afford to have another abandoned ex-wife who refused to disappear. Thus, a story had to be concocted to justify the murder of Anne. I also liked the explanation of the dissolution of the monasteries; it is clear, concise, and makes for a good understanding of the whys, hows and consequences. Janet Wertman writes factual detail in a fashion that is both easy to read and entertaining; thus, this book would be an excellent choice for someone who doesn't know much about the era; for instance, she even explains what a monarch's yearly Progress is. Now and again I was a little too aware of the research being translated into the narration, but on the whole it was executed well.
The author is American and, alas, I did come across some American English in dialogue, along with historical inconsistency and modern phraseology. Examples:
- 'Snuck' - the British English past tense of the verb 'sneak' is 'sneaked'.
- 'Snicker' - British English is 'snigger'.
- 'Gift' used as a verb and 'caring' used as a general adjective to describe someone - these have only crept into British English in more recent years.
- A reference to mashed potatoes - potatoes were not introduced into this country until some fifty years later, by Sir Walter Raleigh.
- The phrase 'in for a penny, in for a pound' - the first recorded use of this phrase was in a play, in the late 17th century.
- 'teenagers' - not in use until the latter half of the 20th century.
- Henry said, 'You center me, Jane'. So American and 21st century that it might as well have 'Gee' at the beginning and 'lol' at the end!
Despite these 'dodgy' areas, though, I did enjoy reading it. The writing flows, Ms Wertman tells a story in a compelling fashion, and I believed in the characters; these three factors alone are much of what this writing thing is about, after all. With assistance from a more experienced editor (possibly an English one?), I imagine her work would get better and better. To sum up, I would say this is light fiction for the newer reader of the genre; perhaps lovers of programmes like Showtime's The Tudors series, or who enjoy an introduction to the period, rather than the serious history addict - avid readers of this genre are notoriously picky!