Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir (Review)

Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

Blurb

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

Review

I will be honest I was not looking forward to this book as I have always felt really sorry for Anna of Kleve and thought this story would be hard to read. Poor Anna arranged to marry a much older man who is obese, and who hasn’t looked after himself and really does not have the best reputation with his past wives. She must have been terrified when she first met the King.

Anna has led a sheltered life controlled by her mother. She has not been allowed to learn music and her education has been limited because she has only been allowed to learn what is needed for a woman whose duty is to marry and be a good wife. This was always going to be a problem for Henry who liked his women to know music and be educated and then poor Anna could never live up to the portrait that had been painted of her. Henry had fallen in love with the portrait and was disappointed by Anna in real life.

Weir had embellished the story of Anna slightly which I can understand why because of what Henry had supposedly said but I am not sure I was fully onboard with it. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Weir had made Anna a beautiful character, although she was horrified by Henry to start with she endeavoured to be the best wife she could be and when sadly the marriage was dissolved she endeavoured to be the best friend she could be to Henry and his children.

I loved Anna’s character, she was full of love and kindness and always wanted to do the best she could for everyone although she did have a bit of a wine problem and I will be honest I had a good giggle whenever she was drinking wine in the book. It would be a good drinking game to be honest, every time you read that Anna has a glass of wine you take a sip of your drink. Although Anna is left a good settlement I can’t help but wonder if she was been swindled out of her money.

This book is a beautiful story but it did pull at the heart strings and I did avoid reading it sometimes when I knew what was coming up. Another triumph by Weir but I have only given the book 4 out of 5 Dragons because I did not entirely agree with the one storyline.

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About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

 

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The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Blurb

Composed at the rosy-fingered dawn of world literature almost three millennia ago, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

This fresh, authoritative translation captures the beauty of this ancient poem as well as the drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, none more so than the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this version as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, Emily Wilson’s Odyssey sings with a voice that echoes Homer’s music; matching the number of lines in the Greek original, the poem sails along at Homer’s swift, smooth pace.

A fascinating, informative introduction explores the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the poem’s major themes, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this is an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of readers.

Review

The Odyssey is one of history’s greatest stories and you can see why. It has monsters, fighting, adventure, gods, violence and much more. It does not stay still for a moment and  Wilson’s translation keeps the story fluid and easy to read.

The introduction by Wilson was fantastic and I could not put it down. I will admit sometimes I struggle with introductions to books mainly because sometimes the people who write them always come across as rather stuck up and they love to use extremely long words which are just not necessary. Wilson however writes an amazingly informative introduction that is interesting and keeps you hooked on every word. It was a joy to read and left me excited to start the epic poem. I also enjoyed the translator’s notes as it really showed how Wilson translated the poem and why she did certain things.

The poem was equally as good and again I could not put it down. It is a tale well known and has been translated by many different people through the years and many versions have been published. This translation in my opinion was stunning. It kept the flow of the poem and was almost song like to read which fit well as they think originally it would have been told orally.

Odysseus has a seriously rough deal. He spent 10 years at war in Troy and then he can’t get home. His journey is filled with monsters, women who want him as husband, and the loss of his men. Odysseus is cunning though and uses his skills at lying to get him out of problems with a little help from certain gods.

I highly recommend this book to people with a classical background and to people who have never read a classical book and want to try one. It is such a good read and one I will happily read again. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir (Review)

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

The woman haunted by the fate of her predecessor.

Eleven days after the death of Anne Boleyn, Jane is dressing for her wedding to the King. She has witnessed at first hand how courtly play can quickly turn to danger and knows she must bear a son … or face ruin.

This new Queen must therefore step out from the shadows cast by Katherine and Anne. In doing so, can she expose a gentler side to the brutal King?

Jane Seymour. The third of Henry’s Queens. Her story.

Review

I will be honest straight away this is my favourite book so far from the Six Tudor Queens series by Weir and possibly the best book I have read so far this year. I could not put this book down and absolutely loved it!

The first thing I love about this book and the previous two is how the books entwine and you get to see the same scene but from different Queens’ perspectives. I love the different perspectives seen and the different feelings expressed about the same situation. This also shows the back stabbing nature of the court and how lethal it can be just dabbling in idle gossip.

Weir shows Jane Seymour as a wonderful character in this book and the way I always like to think of Jane Seymour. Jane is a timid, good natured creature, who has a deep faith and worries for her soul. Some people think Jane is the boring queen but I think she was a wonderful breath of fresh air after Anne Boleyn. Jane is a complete opposite of Anne Boleyn and that is what attracts Henry to her and although she doesn’t argue with him she has a deep inner strength. She gets the Princess Mary back to court and always tries to get Henry to do the right thing.

The description of Jane’s family home and family life before she goes to court is wonderfully detailed and a joy to read. I also really liked the characters of Jane’s brothers and her mother.

However, in this book poor Jane is haunted by a shadowy figure and every time she sees this figure tragedy follows. Is it a vision of Jane’s creating or real? We do not know but it is clear that Jane feels a deep sense of guilt over the death of Anne Boleyn.

I absolutely loved this book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the author’s notes at the end. I always enjoy reading about how Weir created the book. I highly recommend this book and the series so far. They contain love, intrigue, religion, drama, history and much more. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

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Reviews of previous books

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

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The Chateau of Briis: A Lesson in Love by Alison Weir (E-Short Review)

The Chateau of Briis: A Lesson in Love by Alison Weir

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

1515 – Dressed in wine-coloured satin, with her dark hair worn loose, a young Anne Boleyn attends a great ball at the French court. The palace is exquisitely decorated for the occasion, and the hall is full with lords and ladies – the dancing has begun. Anne adores watching the game of courtly love play out before her eyes, though she is not expecting to be thrown into it herself. But moments later, a charming young man named Philippe du Moulin approaches to ask for her hand in the dance. And before she can resist, so begins Anne’s first lesson in love.

Review

Another short story from the Six Tudor Queens series and I must admit I really enjoyed this one. It was somewhat more satisfying than The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today as that just left me feeling a bit frustrated with the story.

This is a wonderful little story but it was a little emotional rollercoaster. Anne Boleyn has her first lesson in love in this story and although it is only something Weir has made up it would explain a great deal about Anne Boleyn’s character. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her at times.

This little glimpse into Anne’s life in the French court is wonderful and full of detail. I throughly enjoyed it but again found it was very short, just a few extra pages and I would have been happier but it is a perfect little novella to read between Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession and Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen. I have given this story 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today by Alison Weir (E-Short Review)

The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today by Alison Weir

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

Jo, historian and long-term admirer of Anne Boleyn, takes a group on a guided tour of the Tower of London, to walk in the shoes of her Tudor heroine. But as she becomes enthralled by the historical accuracy of her tour guide and the dramatic setting that she has come to love, something spectral is lurking in the shadows . . .

Review

I am sure I have read this little story before but I don’t know where from as I have never owned it. I do not mind though as I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this little story again.

I have always been fascinated by the history of the Tower of London and have often thought it is probably the home to many ghosts so this little story is right up my street.

This little story centres around a tour group who Jo is in charge of and she books a special tour guide to take them all around the Tower. This tour guide is dressed up like Anne Boleyn and looks incredible, everyone is impressed. As the tour progresses though a spectral figure is spotted in another group.

I really enjoyed this story but it was just too short! Seven pages just wasn’t enough. I was begging Weir to make it longer but sadly no. I loved the detail in this story, the detail of the Anne Boleyn lookalike tour guide’s dress was fantastically described and had me hooked. I can sadly only give this short story 3 out of 5 Dragons because it was just too short for me.

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Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir (Review)

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

The young woman who changed the course of history.

Fresh from the palaces of Burgundy and France, Anne draws attention at the English court, embracing the play of courtly love.

But when the King commands, nothing is ever a game.

Anne has a spirit worthy of a crown – and the crown is what she seeks. At any price.

Review

The life of Anne Boleyn is well known and one that has always had me fascinated. I will be  honest I know I shouldn’t like Anne Boleyn because of what happened to poor Katherine of Aragon but I don’t think anyone can pin that all on Anne Boleyn because Henry VIII would have divorced Katherine in the end as he was quite determined to have a son.

The moment I started reading this book I could not put it down and I absolutely loved what Weir did with the story of Anne Boleyn and I ended up seeing Anne in a very different light. Anne Boleyn was a well educated and very refined young woman. Her experiences in the courts of Burgundy and France set her up wonderfully to be a star in the English court and of course the King could not help but notice her.

Anne was the victim of ambition, her family’s ambition and her own. Weir showed Anne determined to keep her virtue intact but wanting the crown more than anything. Anne could see she could help make changes in the church, she could help the people if she was queen. However, things were also against her.

I really felt sorry for Anne in this book, she thought she could make changes but instead things were twisted against her and she had no way of surviving. The other element I enjoyed was how Weir showed Anne’s relationship with her daughter Elizabeth and it was different to what I expected but made a lot of sense.

At the end of this book I will be honest I cried my eyes out and it really left me feeling quite cold at the end. I knew the outcome obviously but how Weir ended the book was astonishing and very haunting, it is something I will not forget.

Weir really triumphed with this book and I will admit it is one of my favourite reads for this year and I can’t wait to read the next one. I highly recommend this book to all historical fiction fans and give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you)

 

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The Blackened Heart by Alison Weir (E-Short Review)

The Blackened Heart by Alison Weir

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

Margery Otwell, a self-made gentleman’s young daughter, gets her first taste of courtly life when she takes up a position as chamberer to Lady Peche of Lullingstone Castle. Dances, music, feasting – and a seduction – follow, and Margery learns the rules of courtly love the hard way.

Saved from disgrace by the kindly Sir John Peche, Margery finds herself at court waiting on Queen Katherine. Little does Margery know that she is already a pawn in a game of power, irrevocably bound to the fall of the lady she will come to love as her mistress, Queen and friend.

Review

My first thought about this E-Short was what a wonderful connection between the two main books about Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, it really helped bring the two books together.

I loved the character of Margery Otwell and really felt for her. She loved, she suffered but she always had hope in heart. Margery was lucky and because of Sir Peche she began serving Queen Katherine and in Queen Katherine she found a true friend who she would defend with her life.

This story really left me thinking and the story stayed with me for many days after reading it. For something so short it really was a moving narrative. Not much is known about Margery Otwell other than she was a lady who served Queen Katherine and Weir created a wonderful story for her which linked the reports about the black mass found on Queen Katherine’s heart at her autopsy. I give this story 4 out of 5 Dragons and I thoroughly wish it had been longer.

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Arthur: Prince of the Roses by Alison Weir (E-Short Review)

Arthur: Prince of the Roses by Alison Weir

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About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

Arthur, the first Tudor prince, is raised to believe that he will inherit a kingdom destined to be his through an ancient royal bloodline. He is the second Arthur, named for the legendary hero-king of Camelot.

To be a worthy ruler, he must excel at everything – and show no weakness. But Arthur is not strong, and the hopes of England weigh heavy on his slight shoulders. And, all the while, his little brother Harry, the favoured, golden son, is waiting in the wings.

Review

I will be honest I was very excited to find that there were e-shorts to accompany Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series, so I immediately downloaded the first two and read them.

This e-short is about Arthur and is written from his point of view. Arthur has a lot to live up to and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He was named after the great Arthur of Camelot who is legendary and his story inspires everyone, a lot for a young boy to think about growing up. He couldn’t help but feel pressurised without the knowledge of also been the oldest son and next in line to the English throne. Everything was stacked up against him.

I really liked how Weir had got into the head of Arthur. He was only young when he died and hardly lived life and Weir perfectly put this across. Weir showed a young boy who knew he would never be as good as his little brother and just wanted to be with his mother which wasn’t allowed.

This story really made me feel for Arthur and want to read a little more about him, in fact if Weir decided to do a full length story about him I would happily read it. I was disappointed with how short it was. I gave this e-short 3 out of 5 Dragons just because I found it too short and wanted that bit more. This was only 99p from Amazon which made it even better!

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The Queen’s Rival by Anne O’Brien (ARC Review)

The Queen’s Rival by Anne O’Brien

About the author

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Sunday Times bestselling author Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history.

Today she has sold over 250,000 copies of her books in the UK and lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. The area provides endless inspiration for her novels about the forgotten women of history.

Blurb

One family united by blood. Torn apart by war…

England, 1459: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, is embroiled in a plot to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne. But when the Yorkists are defeated at the Battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own.

Cecily can only watch as her lands are torn apart and divided up by the ruthless Queen Marguerite. From the towers of her prison in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit – one that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King Edward IV.

This is a story of heartbreak, ambition and treachery, of one woman’s quest to claim the throne during the violence and tragedy of the Wars of the Roses.

Review

I will be honest when I started to read this book I was a little put off by the story having been written in the form of letters and I found it hard to get into the style of the book to begin with. However, once I got used to the style I really started to enjoy the book and loved seeing a different side to such well known names from history.

Cecily Neville is a strong woman who is not afraid of a fight and does not stand down easily. She is proud and determined to get the very best for her family. I loved Cecily’s strength through this book and even at times she faced alarming things like her husband leaving her and three small children to face an army ransack her home and town she stood firm, she did not hide but made her children watch and learn the dangers of an army. She never gave up even when weighed down in grief and kept strong for her family.

My favourite letters in this book were between Cecily and her two sisters, I must admit they did leave me giggling at times. Sisterly love at its finest with side notes of snide remarks. I also loved the letters from Cecily’s sons to her because you can tell at times they are really fed up of their mother’s interference and constant nagging letters.

I enjoyed this book and found it interesting how O’Brien chose to write the story in the form of letters and documents. It made me wonder if O’Brien was trying to make her book a little different from all the other Historical fiction that is out there. I recommend this book to all Historical fiction fans and I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

Thank you to NetGally and HQ for providing me with an advanced copy of this book.

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Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir (Review)

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon The True Queen

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

At sixteen years old, Catalina is alone among strangers. Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And Catalina can find no comfort in any of it. She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother. She cannot trust even those assigned to protect her. The first of henry’s queens. Her story.

Review

I have been collecting the series of the Six Tudor Queens since they were first published and finally I have started to read them. Thankfully so far I have not been disappointed.

I have always been fascinated by the Tudors and I have fond memories of my big sister teaching me about Henry VIII and his six wives. Elizabeth I is my favourite Tudor and I am fascinated by her history. Due to this I could not resist a historical fiction novel by Alison Weir.

I love Katherine of Aragon. She was a queen who knew how to rule and her leadership won a war against Scotland. Henry would have done much better if he had followed her advice but sadly she was another woman who was ignored because she was a woman.

This novel is fantastic at portraying the life of Katherine and I love how most of the letters that are contained in the book are genuine letters, although the language has been modernised to suit a modern novel. The other element I love is that it contains songs that Henry VIII composed and performed because as we know he was a very accomplished composer.

To start with I could not get enough of this book and I couldn’t put it down but as it drew to the inevitable I had to keep having a break because I felt so sorry for poor Katherine. She was the perfect wife, who did everything that was expected of her and more apart from producing a male heir and for that she was punished most severely and unjustly.

Katherine was unbelievably strong and never stood down from her principles and the rights of her daughter Mary. She could have so easily stood down and possibly have had an easier life, but then she would have lost everything she stood for and a woman of Katherine’s character would never have lived with the thought of giving up.

This book was beautifully written and the detail included was excellent. I also liked the characters that Weir created for the ladies in waiting and maids because no real knowledge about those characters are known so that was pure Weir. Maria was an absolute favourite of mine. She was a woman of fire and spirit.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am very excited to start the next one in the series about Anne Boleyn who in my opinion helped change the course of history, although I don’t think she was a very nice person. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction fans and just Tudor lovers. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. It did not get the full 5 sadly because I did have to take a few breaks from it.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you)

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