The fortunes of the great aristocratic families, who fill the courts and fawn upon the King, are immensely enriched when they gain the King's favor and attention. Comely as a young king, Henry VIII is accustomed to garnering the flattery of the young women who serve as the Queen's attendants. The Boleyn/Howard family holds a prominent position in Henry's court in the early 1520's, as Katherine of Aragon becomes ever more desperate in her need to supply an heir and keep the King's affection.
The Howards and Boleyns have many young women available to the court, and when Henry first takes note of Mary Boleyn Carey, she is already married. It is acceptable behavior for the King to tryst with her as a paramour, which would be scandalous if she were not married. Mary's sister, Anne, recently returned from the French Court, is one of the clever minds pushing Mary to prominence. The third Boleyn, George, their brother, is also a pet of the Tudor Court, forming the family triumvirate that is to be part of the intrigue surrounding the eventual dissolution of marriage to Katherine of Aragon that will set a precedent and change history.
Eventually Mary is replaced in the King's favor by her sister Anne, and George and Mary are instructed to hold their positions, this time in support of the clever, if unlikable, Anne. For five long years Anne tempts and challenges Henry, until she herself is crowned Queen. Never beloved, Anne's temperament is equal to Henry's and she hasn't the wisdom or patience to turn the other cheek on dalliances as Katherine did. Eventually, Henry tires of Anne's scolding and constant demands, his attention newly captured by the seemingly docile and pure behavior of a simpering Jane Seymour. Anne must live with the precedent she's established, swept aside by the King in his desperate pursuit of another to provide a male heir.
Gregory's characters are incisive, the story masterfully told, the plots and counter-plots necessary for political viability fascinating to follow. No less complicated than modern day affairs, the degree of scheming is truly of Machiavellian design. Engaging and thought provoking, Gregory's beautifully crafted novel overflows with intrigue and ambition, with scheming characters who bet everything of the whims of a puerile King. The result is magnificent. Luan Gaines.
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