Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Queen and the Mistress

At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Summary: A sweeping tale of sexual seduction and intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, At the Mercy of the Queen is a rich and dramatic debut historical about Madge Shelton, cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.

At the innocent age of fifteen, Lady Margaret Shelton arrives at the court of Henry VIII and quickly becomes the confidante of her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn. But she soon finds herself drawn into the perilous web of Anne’s ambition.
Desperate to hold onto the king’s waning affection, Anne schemes to have him take her guileless young cousin as mistress, ensuring her husband’s new paramour will owe her loyalty to the queen. But Margaret has fallen deeply in love with a handsome young courtier. She is faced with a terrible dilemma: give herself to the king and betray the love of her life or refuse to become his mistress and jeopardize the life of the her cousin, Queen Anne. 

Review: An enjoyable tale of Anne Boleyn that had a sympathetic portrayal of the queen and a delightful love story.

Anne Boleyn can be a hard character to portray. It is easy to fall upon stereotypes when writing about the fallen queen. I really liked the Anne Boleyn of this book. She really did love Henry VIII and had trouble controlling her tongue even when it was detrimental to herself. Her love explains her anger at his mistresses and even can help explain why she tells Madge to become Henry's mistress (although I still find that hard to believe). Anne Boleyn's story is a tragic one and this book really helps to drive that home. 

The main focus of this story is Madge and how she falls in love with Arthur Brandon. The fact that Madge is cousin of the queen makes it a little easier to believe that she was a confident of Anne Boleyn, but it still doesn't sit well with me. I really enjoyed the love story between Madge and Arthur and thought it was sweet and believable. As mentioned in other reviews, there are some historical inaccuracies in this book, but for the majority (except for Thomas Wyatt) I was either not terribly bothered or didn't have enough knowledge to be bothered by them. 


I would recommend this book to fans of the Tudors, Anne Boleyn, or historical fiction about queens.

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