on August 16, 2008
I know most of the reviews here are positive, and I was almost afraid to post one of the few negative viewpoints, but if a review like this had been here when I bought the book, I might have saved my money. So for those who are like me, hope this helps.
I'm almost embarrassed I read this.
I mean, I'm no stranger to trashy Tudor fiction -- I have read everything Philipa Gregory has had to say on the subject, for instance. I'm certainly no stranger to actual Tudor history, having been fascinated by the dynamic Henry VIII for as long as I can remember.
This was, without a doubt, the worst, most lurid, and poorly-researched piece of fiction I have every read about the Tudors.
I was so excited by the idea of this book -- who ever tells this story from Jane Boleyn's perspective? -- that even though I requested that my local library order it, I then went out and bought it for myself so i wouldn't have to wait. I was really hoping the author could add some facets to a historical figure that is usually propped up like a cardboard villain.
Instead, I got cardboard villain from inside the head of cardboard villain. Her motivations were unclear even as she's explaining them.
But that's not all. There was a serious lack of accuracy in the book, from the usage of nicknames that were not extant at the time, incorrect time lines, alterations of famous speeches, placing historical figures in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a few brazen passages that couldn't have been mistakes. They must have been intentionally incorrect.
I would describe how absolutely pornographic this book was, but I'm afraid this isn't the venue for it. I've read coyer erotica. By the time I got to the ludicrous sex scene between Catherine Howard and Anna of Cleves (no really!), who kept shouting "Ya Liebchen!" (And don't get me started on the whole line about giving the "Flanders Mare" the ride of her life) it just got funny. I was reading passages aloud to my howling friends, tears streaming down our faces.
And yet, it might have gotten away with it all, or at least some of it, if the writing quality was any better than that of your average internet fan fiction. Really, I swear people did not constantly refer to each other as "Bluff King Hal," "The Rose Without a Thorn," "The Goggle-Eyed Whore," and so forth. It's as if the author was so proud of having unearthed these well-known nicknames, she had to use them as frequently as possible. And the dialect of Anna of Cleves (particularly in the aforementioned sex scene) was... oh there are no words. There were tense shifts, point of view shifts, and if anything else could be shifted, it probably was.
I'm just so terribly disappointed to see such and interesting subject treated so badly. Although it is non-fiction, and therefore less speculative and exploratory, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with Julia Fox's biography. (I know she appears in Gregory's Boleyn Inheritance, but she is not the sole focus of the novel.)
For the connoisseur of Tudor history, even the fluffier fiction sort, stay away. There are much better things out there that, even when they aren't 100% accurate, are at least better told.
on November 18, 2008
I don't usually review things, but I think you ought to know if you are considering buying this book that its grasp of history is almost nonexistent and absolutely drenched in outlandish erotica. I won't spoil it for you if you really want to read it, but just the gratuitous and ridiculously inaccurate sex scenes in this book alone make it virtually unreadable. I'll admit I have an addiction to Tudor-era historical fiction and nonfiction. I've read plenty of books on the subject and I'm usually game for artistic liberties taken by the authors in terms of plot and character but this book takes it way too far. In short: I finished it, but I really, really didn't want to.
on May 4, 2008
This is a repost of a review I wrote in relation to this book back in May. I have since revised some of my views on the book upon re-reading it, although my general opinion remains the same. Certainly, this novel is not for everyone; there are aspects of it which some readers will find confronting, and others may well be bothered by the inaccuracies and liberties taken (I have at least one Tudor enthusiast friend who would definitely hate it for both reasons). A number of the myths surrounding Anne and co. make an appearance - George's homo- or at least bisexuality; the infamous mole and beginning of a sixth finger; the physical appearance of the foetus Anne miscarried in 1536, to name just a few - for which there is no evidence at all, and all of which have been discounted by modern historians. But as a _novel_ it mostly works.
Brandy Purdy does very well portraying Jane Parker as an idealistic and socially awkward young woman in love with love, who as the years progress, slowly descends into bitterness, all-consuming hatred and madness. Almost immediately after she is introduced to her sisters-in-law to be, she develops an unhealthy obsession with Anne Boleyn and her attributes, and (after Jane's marriage to George Boleyn fails to live up to her fantasies) an irrational hatred of Anne for possessing them. Jane is a thoroughly unsympathetic character (much like the real Lady Rochford seems to have been) but Purdy's characterisation of her still allowed me to feel some element of pity and understanding of her. I like the first person narrative although as other reviewers have commented, Jane's ability to skulk around corners, hide in cupboards and be just in the right place at the right time to witness some of the more crucial events sometimes stretched credulity (her voyeurism was a trifle disturbing too, though seemed in character).
Although we see Anne and George through Jane's jaundiced eyes, they are not, thankfully, rendered one-dimensional. Purdy's take on Henry's courtship of Anne, and her decision to hold out for marriage, is an interesting one, and plausible in the context of the story. Her depiction of Jane and George's unhappy marriage managed to evoke sympathy for both parties.
Some of the other protagonists though - especially the men accused with Anne and George Boleyn - are less well-drawn, and others I did not particularly like: Norris and Brereton come across as almost interchangeable, and I have to admit, I found the whole "Evergreen Gallants" concept a bit naff; Weston is almost the stereotypical "flamboyant anything-sexual" and Smeaton a rather sad, painfully immature, socially inept teenager with a pathetic adolescent crush (I found it hard to believe that such a drippy boy would even have been noticed by King or Queen, let alone elevated to groom of the privy chamber as his real life counterpart was, regardless of the extent of his musical talent; nor could I imagine him surviving in the maelstrom of court for more than five minutes, let alone 6 or 7 years). While these men are remembered principally for the way they died, and not a great deal is known about them, I would find it refreshing to see more detailed, distinctive characterisations in fiction.
There are a number of "what the ..." moments [POTENTIAL SPOILERS] - one reviewer has alluded to Jane's interlude with Cromwell, for example. That actually did not bother me - a complete invention, it however made sense in the context of the story. The homoerotic overtones of George's friendship with Weston had an element of credibility, and overall the friendship between them was rather touching. However, I did not understand the point of the George/Smeaton affair: this seemed to be a nod to Retha Warnicke's "Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn," but was unnecessary to further the narrative (and I emphasise that Warnicke's theories in respect of George Boleyn's sexuality were not supported by compelling evidence and therefore are not accepted by other historians). I did not think the depiction of their interaction - as witnessed by Jane! - worked at all. While it was an original way of leading into that famous "you must not look to have me speak to you as if you were a nobleman" conversation, the idea that a young boy - regardless of how immature he might be - would pursue his male, and higher-ranking, lover in public, in front of said lover's wife among others, at a time when homosexual acts were punishable by death, required too much suspension of disbelief.
As another reviewer has stated, the final third of the novel, dealing with Katherine Howard's downfall, is not quite as strong as the part that focuses on Anne Boleyn, and Jane's motives in facilitating Katherine's rendez-vous with Thomas Culpepper are never made clear. I did like Anne of Cleves' cameo appearance, apart from THAT scene between her and Katherine Howard, which, while there were poignant aspects to it, was frankly weird and could easily have been cut - or at least, written in a more subtle way. Of course, all permutations of sexuality have existed since human beings have existed, but I found that scene, between those characters, to be completely gratuitous. I also agree with another reviewer's comment about the clichéd German accent!
Katherine herself - here portrayed as desperate for affection, rather than sex, but who because of her less than ideal background is unable to differentiate between the two - emerges as more interesting and sympathetic than the flighty bimbo that she is often portrayed as, and I found myself warming to her. Her description to Jane of how she became sucked into the goings-on in the maids' chamber at Lambeth is quite gut wrenching and sad.
One final comment: while I know it's not compulsory, I would have appreciated an "Author's Note" or Afterward, setting out what materials Purdy used for her research (she clearly read Warnicke as one of her secondary sources, though I would hope she also consulted Ives); acknowledging liberties taken and deliberate diversions from the historical record, any errors and the like; and suggestions for further reading. It always interests me to see what sources an author has used, and I respect any fiction writer who publicly states, "I know this did not really happen, but I included this in my novel for dramatic purposes."
Brandy Purdy has a gift for lyrical and evocative writing, and it is her style which enabled me to overlook the problems I perceived. Like "The Confession of Piers Gaveston," this was a compelling read, despite its shortcomings, though I didn't find "Vengeance" quite as assured. However this author has amazing potential and I look forward to reading more. 3.5 stars.
on November 7, 2008
I don't even know where to begin..
First off, to me, this is the most ridiculous portrait (yes, I know it's somewhat 'fictional' writing), but please!
The majority of this story has Jane 'dashing' everywhere to spy on just about everyone.
Where she finds the time for all of this escapes me.
She even manages to 'dash' ahead of King Henry and Queen Anne to beat them to their bedroom so she can 'dash' inside of a cupboard to watch them have sex. BTW, the 'door' to the cupboard she's hiding in is made of lattice.
Then we get to the part about the 'sex' between two queens.
The book takes many many liberties that I've not seen in quite awhile with the charactors.
Jane's 'madness' scenes are so 'rearranged' here that it is laughable.
I bought this book to see if what other readers were seeing.
I must say that anyone that takes this authors rendition with any
seriousness has NOT read many books on the Tudors.
If that's the case, some will enjoy it.
But to those who have read a fair amount of Tudor history, fiction or not, will see that this is totally off the charts with any clarity.
This is one book that I will happily send off to another to read, but only after warning them to read with a grain of salt!
I realize Jane was a fairly despicable person, but come on!
No wonder George did'nt spend much time with her,according to this author,she was far too busy dashing around spying, be it through keyholes or cupboards!
My advice...dash off to a better book about Jane than this one...
on May 19, 2008
Lady Jane Rochford is not an easy character to choose as a protagonist. Not much is known about her other than her marriage to George Boleyn and her betrayls of her husband and two of Henry VIII's queens. The author does a fair job of telling the stories of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard through Jane's eyes, but the characters were superficial and I felt like something was missing throughout the story. The book seems to move too fast and we only get an overview of many important events. Actual historical facts are interspersed with fiction - like any other Tudor fiction novel - however, I don't particularly like the author's portrayls of many of the major characters. This is not a critique, only my opinion, as much of the personalities of these historical characters must be imagined, and no one can say one is more accurate than another.
All in all, this book is worth a try for any avid Tudor fiction reader. It provides some entertainment, as well as another perspective to compare, even if unfavorably, in your mind with other works.
on March 20, 2008
"Vengence Is Mine" was truly an page turner. I had read some books on King Henry VIII, but most all were in relation to his 2nd wife, Lady Anne Boleyn. This story about Lady Jane Rochford showed life around the royals in a whole different light. It told the story of just how close George Boleyn was to his sister, Anne, the reasons behind Lady Jane's jealousy and why she did, in fact, finally destroy them. The novel gave insight on the backstabbing lifestyle of those who were part of Court.
Having been to The Tower of London, Brandy's descriptions brought the vivid pictures back to life for me. Seeing where George and Anne were seperately kept, while waiting for the end to come.. wandering through the area where it is believed that King Henry's two young uncles were kept under lock and key until they disappeared. Seeing the area where the chopping block set - the same block where George, Anne and finally Jane all ended their lives.
I find Brandy a terrific author who can bring words into focus. I have read two of her novels now - and hope to read more in the near future! Thanks to her, I have begun to read other books (fiction and non-ficton) about more of the people who were connected to the Tudor period.
I was fully prepared to not like this book.....I had heard about some, *ahem*, creative love scenes involving two of ol' Henry VIII's wives and a rather large jar of honey. Let's just say we were dubious at best.
To my surprise, the novel isn't terrible. Really, it isn't.
Most of the story revolves around Anne Boleyn, second and soon to be headless wife to Henry VIII, as told by her notorious sister-in-law, Lady Jane Rochford. Towards the end of the novel, after Anne goes to meet her maker, Lady Jane relates the shorter reigns of Henry's subsequent wives, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, finally ending the story with the beheading of fifth wife, Katherine Howard - a time when Lady Jane meets her own untimely end on the chopping block as well.
Ms. Purdy, it should be noted, is a mighty fine writer.....the words flow easily across the page and the narrative is, for the most part, quite sensible. In short, she shows enormous promise as a historical fiction author.
Of course, I did have a few quibbles. Jane Rochford was a tad one-dimensional and singular in her hatred and desire to give her sister-in-law her comeuppance. And although Jane was indeed a lady-in-waiting for many of Henry's wives, one wonders how the woman managed to witness so many private conversations and sexual couplings throughout her royal stay.
Along the same vein, the novel was just a tad disjointed with over two-thirds being devoted to Anne Boleyn's rise and fall, with only two short parts towards the end devoted to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. Although Lady Jane wasn't at court during Seymour's short stint as queen, she was present for Anne and Katherine's reign and though their queenly time was comparatively short, it left the reader feeling rushed, as if there could have been more to the story.
There were also constant references to these women's historical nicknames....if Anne Boleyn was referred to as the "Goggle-eyed whore" once, she must have been referenced so at least fifty times. Ditto for Katherine Howard, the "rose without a thorn." Throw in a few references to the "Flander's mare" (Anne of Cleves), and you have yourself a veritable festival of royal nicknames.
You're wondering about the kinky love scenes, aren't you? Yes, for the record, there is a interlude between Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and a jar of honey. Thankfully, most of the scene occurs behind the curtains of a royal bed and most is left to our imagination. I, for the record, thought the scene was cute and silently applauded Purdy for throwing in a little fun conjecture.
Presumably, now that Kensington has picked up the book (to be released January 26, by the way, under the title The Boleyn Wife), a new editor will have had their way with the novel, so the criticisms you read here may well not apply to this new version.
All in all, the book is publisher-worthy, no doubt about it. Don't expect a Sharon Kay Penman or a Higginbotham novel here, rather think Philippa Gregory. But as we said, this writer shows promise and may well develop into a mighty fine historical fiction author. Time will certainly tell.
on May 4, 2008
The book is very good until the last the last section: Katherine (as in Howard). Here the description of sexual events is too graphic and the motivation of the First Person narrator not sufficient to carry the events, sexual and otherwise. The author uses some excellent rhetorical devices in some places, only to fall to clichés in others.
on January 5, 2010
I have read many, many books - both fiction and straight history - about Tudor England and am always ready to review the same historical facts from different points of view. Jane Rochford, wife of Anne Boleyn's brother George, is a familiar figure in these works as the treacherous lady-in-waiting who played a major role in the downfalls and deaths of both Anne Boleyn and later Queen Katherine Howard. Ms. Purdy adds absolutely nothing new to what I already knew about Lady Rochford, either factually or psychologically. The first section of the book about Boleyn is the lengthier, with only a few chapters at the end devoted to silly little Katherine Howard's self-sabotage, and with very minor "interlude" pages involving interim queens Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves. As to this latter lady, Purdy has concocted an absolutely outlandish scene of sexual titillation between her and Katherine Howard. It is absurd inventions of this sort that reduce Purdy's otherwise ordinary retelling of this story to laughable make believe. The characters and "plot" are fascinating enough to not have to be spiced up for the prurient interests of some readers, especially at the expense of historical accuracy. Totally average read.
on June 29, 2008
I love Tudor history and appreciate even fictional historical interpretations, but I'm sorry to say that this novel just crosses the line. The book is almost pornographic in nature, and is quite disrespectful in its portrayals of ALL involved. To boot, it is poorly written and edited. If you're looking for a terrific account of Lady Rochford, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard, try Philipa Gregory's "The Boleyn Inheritance"- it's fantastic.