The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

(The Tudor Court, #3)
Drama, Historical

Three Women Who Share One Fate: The Boleyn Inheritance

Anne of Cleves
She runs from her tiny country, her hateful mother, and her abusive brother to a throne whose last three occupants are dead. King Henry VIII, her new husband, instantly dislikes her. Without friends, family, or even an understanding of the language being spoken around her, she must literally save her neck in a court ruled by a deadly game of politics and the terror of an unpredictable and vengeful king. Her Boleyn Inheritance: accusations and false witnesses.

Katherine Howard
She catches the king's eye within moments of arriving at court, setting in motion the dreadful machine of politics, intrigue, and treason that she does not understand. She only knows that she is beautiful, that men desire her, that she is young and in love -- but not with the diseased old man who made her queen, beds her night after night, and killed her cousin Anne. Her Boleyn Inheritance: the threat of the axe.

Jane Rochford
She is the Boleyn girl whose testimony sent her husband and sister-in-law to their deaths. She is the trusted friend of two threatened queens, the perfectly loyal spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and a canny survivor in the murderous court of a most dangerous king. Throughout Europe, her name is a byword for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust. Her Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune and a title, in exchange for her soul.

The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration, and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror. Once again, Philippa Gregory has brought a vanished world to life - the whisper of a silk skirt on a stone stair, the yellow glow of candlelight illuminating a hastily written note, the murmurs of the crowd gathering on Tower Green below the newly built scaffold. In The Boleyn Inheritance Gregory is at her intelligent and page-turning best.

 “It is no small thing, this, for a woman: freedom.”

Frankly this book was fascinating. I don't read historical novels so this was a new genre for me. Sure, some of it was invented of course, the author only has so much to go on, but I think she did pretty well with her own inventions blending with historical facts. Thanks to the back of the book, and if you know anything about the history of it at all, you know who will marry who and what will eventually happen. Still, it was not repetitive and the plot was well-paced. Gregory does a good job creating suspense with events when many know what will happen anyway. The blend of religious growths and cycles, political maneuvering, and the inner workings of the kingdom and select group created a dynamic, engrossing story.
I took a brief break from reading it last night to do some research on the wives of Henry VIII, as it spurred my curiosity for what really went down.

At first when reading the book I was annoyed by the often changing of viewpoints, but this became easier in time. All the characters were fascinating in their own ways, and my heart felt more for Anne. They all shared traits, but differences as well, connected to each other in various ways, responsibilities, and betrayals. 

I have no idea if Henry was as stated in the book at that time - I imagine much of it is likely. I have to consider too that with how sick he was in the book, and how this was backed up by research when I did it, that it must have played a large part in his growing madness, moodiness, and severe actions. To have your leg slowly rotting for years and the painful things they had to do to it, the gout and chronic constipation, the rotting teeth (yech!), and all the ongoing politics constantly surrounding the kingdom, it's less of a surprise.

There is violence in the book but it's more mentally disturbing than visceral, and there's not much of it. The ending is dramatic and well played, leaving a hollow feeling but sticking as close to the source material as you should.

Again not something I usually read, so I'm delighted it was so engrossing, well-written in a lovely literary style, engaging with plot twists, bizarre hidden layers of people involved, and surprises.

   Book Quotes:

“I have learned the power of surviving.” 

“If it has to be done at all, it must be done with grace.”  

“He is a young man with a future of power and opportunity and we are young women destined to be either wives and mothers at the very best, or spinster parasites at the worst.”

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