Is a so-called "historical novel," or rather a hysterical novel, by one Emily Purdy who calls herself Brandy Purdy in the US and calls this novel "The Boleyn Wife." It is the tale of Lady Jane Rochford, who was some sort of lady-in-waiting, camp follower, or suchlike in the court of King Henry VIII during that period when it was like a real life soap opera except with people getting their heads cut off.
Unfortunately, the market for historical novels set in this period is so overstuffed that most of them are dire, especially when written by Americans as this is.
Minor historical figure observes made up shit to try to shift some units.
A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind, please?
The first thing I noted about this novel was that almost the very first line of dialogue in it begins "Forsooth!" Because everyone said that, and "zounds!" and "verily" and "hey nonny nonny" and "methinks" back then, didn't they? Needless to say, this sets the bar for the quality of the dialogue in this novel (hint: trite and wooden with overuse of the above phrases to hammer home that yes, Virginia, this is the 16th century.)
Lady Rochford, the protagonist, allegedly gave this novel as the speech to someone or other, yes, all 420 pages of it, or so we are expected to believe, on the eve of her joint execution with Catherine Howard. She's a minor figure who apparently ratted on Anne Boleyn and resulted in her getting her head cut off and allegedly is some sort of historical hate figure as the snitch who got in the way of Henry and Anne's otherwise fairytale love. She narrates this novel as some sort of lady in waiting, first to Anne Boleyn, then to Jane Seymour, then to Anne of Cleves, then to Catherine Howard before she herself gets her head cut off (a common affliction in them days). So we know how it all goes, right? Henry falls in love with Anne at first sight but it's actually more like some sort of lust resulting in him writing "Greensleeves" and 17 hot-blooded love letters about her "duckies," then she cheats on him, divorced beheaded died, divorced beheaded survived. All from the point of view of a convenient bystander who has her own little to-dos as well.
Okay, so The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Anne of the Thousand Days already covered this. So The Tudor Wife brings nothing new to the table. This just makes it, well, mediocre. But The Tudor Wife is not mediocre. It is bad. And it is so bad that it's truly horrible, as in Star Wars Holiday Special appalling. Here's why.
Firstly, the prose. Wooden. And trite. Large amounts of wordage is spent describing people unnecessarily. Whatever happened to "show, don't tell." The opening chapter is spent unfavourably comparing and contrasting the narrator's looks to the bewitching dark eyes and long, dark curls of Anne Boleyn. This goes on for pages, how Anne is some sort of lusty seductress who has every man in the royal courts of Europe falling at her feet whereas Lady Jane couldn't pull a rotten tooth out of a dead horse's head. Okay. We get it. Anne Boleyn is hot. This is about as far as her characterisation goes.
It also is about it as far as everyone else's characterisation goes. Henry VIII himself - Fat, syphilitic and grouchy. Anne Boleyn - hot. Jane Seymour - the dutiful good wife and lost lenore. Anne of Cleves - ugly, genuinely repulsive, the Flanders Mare. Catherine Howard - irrepressible sex rocket who shags anything with a pulse, including Anne of Cleves.
Whoa! Did you just say what I thought you said?! I hear you ask.
Yes. Yes. There is a scene where Catherine Howard and Anne of Cleves engage in some hardcore honey-fuelled lesbionics. This is despite, when Anne of Cleves was first introduced, much stock was taken of her lank, greasy-upon-greasy hair, slack belly, ungainly face, and breasts far removed from the "pritty Duckys that I trust soon to kysse" that Anne Boleyn was possessed of and which Henry admired in his 17 hot blooded love letters to her. However, and conveniently, she gets a makeover before munching Catherine Howard's rug. But despite this, one still pictures repulsive!greasy!Anne of Cleves engaging in this inauspicious conduct.
RIP My Boner.
Here's an excerpt from that scene. Don't worry. The prose remains this hopeless throughout the rest of the novel.
"At dawn's first light they staggered out of bed, yawning, sticky from head to toe, hair a tangled, matted mess, reeking of honey, sex, and sweat.
Katherine imperiously demanded a bath.
"I have done what Henry could never do!" she crowed triumphantly. "I have ridden the Flanders Mare!"
"Ja, Liebchen," Anna embraced her and nuzzled her neck. "Und it was the greatest ride of mein life!"
Excuse me, I think I need to go off into a corner and have a little cry. This is terrible.
it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts
The thing is, I don't object to honey-fuelled lesbionics per se, however, it would help if firstly, this episode has any significance to the plot. Even if it were just thrown in as fanservice, then I could still get behind it if it wasn't just so horribly written and images of Anne of Cleves when she was first introduced didn't get inserted into my brain constantly.
Speaking of which, there is a lot of annoying failure to do the research exhibited in this novel. Anne of Cleves was probably not all that ugly, to be fair, and in any event, there is a school of thought the whole reason why Henry contemplated marrying her in the first place was not because he saw her Holbein-painted profile image but to cosy up to a fellow Protestant nation; it was a political marriage and even after the divorce he ensured she was well looked after and adopted her as his sister. The "Flanders mare" thing was just an excuse to ditch her in favour of another pretty girl half his age (Catherine Howard) to slap bellies with. Furthermore, Anne was perfectly aware of this and reportedly was very smart and politically astute, and not the ugly, stupid ingenue described in this novel.
There's no evidence that Anne of Cleves was a lesbian either even though she never remarried. Ditto Catherine Howard. There's also no evidence that Jane Rochford, the narrator, ever encountered Thomas Wyatt, Thomas Cromwell, or similar, and certainly not amorously.
This, together with various other historical brainfarts, shows a shocking lack of research in the novel. True, Henry never asks Anne Boleyn, "Honey, fix me a sandwich" as apocryphally another similar novel about this period has, but it's still pretty dire. To cover this up the author throws various historical trivia such as Anne Boleyn having six fingers and supernumary nipples and being nicknamed "The Goggle Eyed Whore" by detractors. The rest of us aren't fooled. Sorry.
In conclusion: 'Sdeath! Methinks this novel doth seriously insert things into its mouth and inhale with its nostrils being closed up, verily, in the manner of a Dyson carpet-dust removing implement. It is a novel loathsome to the eye, dangerous to the brain, curling to the lip, and whose prose resembleth that emitted from the very Stygian bowels of the pit that is bottomless. (Translation: This sucks like a Dyson. Run screaming from any shop that sells it.)