Apr 17, 2011

Book Review: Rivals in the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan


Rivals in the Tudor Court (Tudor Court 2) by D.L. Bogdan
Kensington Paperback April 26, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0758242006
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 4
The death toll in Henry VIII's England can be counted in the thousands. No one was more aware of this than Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk. Relying on his indomitable force of will, cleverness, and sheer good fortune, Thomas Howard manages to be one of the king's only intimates to survive an unforgettable reign of terror. This impeccably researched companion piece to "Secrets of the Tudor Court" chronicles the ambitious duke's life, loves, and remarkable capacity to endure. Before he was the king's uncle, before he was his nieces' ultimate betrayer, Thomas Howard was a hostage at the court of Henry VII while his father was imprisoned in the dreaded Tower of London. There he would marry the queen's sister, his forever princess Anne Plantagenet. While he founded a dynasty, his career as soldier and sailor brought him acclaim and the trust of the Tudors. But when unspeakable tragedy robs him of family and fortune, Thomas must begin again. Abandoning notions of love, Thomas seeks out an advantageous match with the fiery Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of the duke of Buckingham. Clever, willful, and uncompromising in principle, the young duchess falls victim to a love she cannot deny. When Thomas takes on a mistress, the vulnerable Bess Holland, Duchess Elizabeth prepares to fight for all she holds dear. Only then does she learn she faces a force darker than anything she could ever have imagined, an obsessive love that neither she nor Bess can rival.
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was a key player both behind the scenes and not-so-behind the scenes during Henry VIII's reign. Tudor fans recognize his name as the one responsible for putting his two nieces under the King's nose, ripe for the plucking. After Henry tired of mistresses Mary Boleyn and Bessie Blount, Thomas saw that Henry had eyes for Mary Boleyn's sister, Anne. And of course the rest is history.. Anne becomes queen, fails to give Henry the male heir and is summarily executed on trumped up charges of adultery. Another niece becomes available, Kitty Howard, who moves on become another Queen Catherine to King Henry.

But who was this man, the formidable Thomas Norfolk? Behind the political movements and shrewd judgement, he is one powerful noble who managed to escape the axe, although he came close and was saved by Henry's death alone. In D.L. Bogdan's previous book, Secrets of the Tudor Court, Thomas's daughter Mary Howard was the focus of the story but the story held frightening glimpses of Thomas himself, who is better known simply as Norfolk.

Why did he seem to be so cruel to his family? He beat his wife, his children, and paid his servants to do it some more. Not a very likable creature indeed, and D.L. Bogdan take us back to Thomas's beginning as a child struggling to make up for his short stature. His desire to be the best soldier earns him recognition, and Queen Catherine of Aragon favors him as well as King Henry does. He always wants more though, and he brings his family down whomever stands in his way.

Bogdan brings us the story of Thomas as he becomes more and more powerful, while also looking at the women in his life. We are treated to a never before seen look at Thomas Howard as he is undeniably happy with his first wife Anne Plantagenet until tragedy strikes again and again. The hardened man takes another wife with Elizabeth Stafford and we hope that perhaps he can come full circle, but he becomes more and more hateful, especially as he takes on a mistress, Bess Holland. We get the point of views of Thomas, his wife Elizabeth, and his mistress Bess, as they all struggle to maintain their wicked triangle of love and hate in Thomas's cruel world. With the intermingling of their lives, Bogdan presents a page turning story of loyalty, treachery and ambition giving us the Tudor flair that fans love.