At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard-Barnhill

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “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 on to 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 and 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 jeopardise the life of her cousin, Queen Anne.”

REVIEW: This book has been on my shelf for some time and I was really looking forward to reading it. Although I enjoyed the book, I did hold some issues with parts – while I was hugely impressed with Barnhill’s efforts at historical accuracy (the romance between Madge and Arthur Brandon is perhaps a little far-fetched, but it adds a new dimension to the story without taking away anything from the actual facts), I did find that the writing often seemed quite simple, perhaps even a little stilted, with some parts seeming rather rushed; for example, any political elements were dealt with swiftly, and I was upset by the fact that Barnhill did not deal with the deaths of George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, Francis Weston, Henry Norris and William Brereton for any longer than a sentence – I felt that some detail was needed in order to portray these executions with the sensitivity they deserve. While on such a subject, I was also disappointed with how George Boleyn was portrayed – this may be because I’m rather biased towards him and am currently writing a biography of him myself, but I felt that his character could have played a much more integral role in the story. I did, however, truly enjoy Barnhill’s portrayal of Anne Boleyn. She showed Anne’s ambition, shrewdness and volatile temper, of course, but she also illustrates Anne’s fears, her vulnerability, and most importantly her charitable and educational efforts, which are often overlooked. Madge was also a likeable, if somewhat shallow, character, and I found myself feeling quite fond of her by the end of the book! Although this may not be the best Tudor historical fiction I have ever read, I would definitely recommend it to fans of Tudor history, simply for this refreshing and sensitive take on Anne Boleyn and her personality.

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