I bought this book last week in WHSmith, they were doing 2 for 1 on most of their books and being the history geek that I am I jumped at the chance to get this one. It’s by Emily Purdy, a historical novelist I haven’t come across before, but it was a book I had fancied reading.
It covers the reign of five of Henry VIII’s wives, starting with the sainted Catherine of Aragon and ending with the unfortunate child bride Katherine Howard and is written from the perspective of Lady Jane Parker, who went on to become the Viscountess Rochford. Born a Lady, thanks to her father being a well respected Baron, shy and plain Jane Parker felt out of place in the glamorous court of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon when she was sent there as a lady in waiting to the Queen as a teenager. She meets the handsome and very charming George Boleyn and is delighted when her father agrees to their marriage, after much begging on her part.
From the moment she met George Boleyn, Jane was besotted with the handsome 20 year old that was soon to become her husband. A perfect match, George was from a well respected family with a desperate ambition and Jane was the sole heiress to a fortune and title. In Jane’s eyes these things were irrelevant, she loved George, plain and simple. She was desperate to be a good wife, desperate to please him and show him how much she cared, but something was to come between them. This something was George’s sister Anne Boleyn. No woman could ever compare to George’s beloved Anne and he was incredibly close to her, so close that he quite literally drove poor Jane mad with jealousy! George simply didn’t have time for his wife, he was far too preoccupied with his sister, even before she became Queen, and once she did it was even worse, he barely even spoke to his wife and when he did it was often an insult.
The book follows the messy divorce of the King & Catherine of Aragon, the marriage to Anne Boley and her death, accused of incest with her brother and treason with several other men, all of whom Jane Parker was said to have incriminated by her testimony to the vicious and conniving Cromwell. It goes on to show the desperation she felt when her husband had the chance to save himself, yet chose not to live if he couldn’t do so without his beloved sister and the way Jane was tortured by ghosts from that day until her dying breath. You also get to see Jane finally find someone to mother, something she had always dreamed of, the very young and seemingly very troubled and promiscuous Queen Katherine Howard. She later found to her detriment that the young Queen did not love her and was actually the cause of her demise. Some may say it was justice that she was executed because she had made a false testimony against her sister in law and her husband which lead to their execution, others may see her as a wronged woman. Whatever she was, this is a story that will have you desperate to keep reading until the end and one I would highly recommend.