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May 1, 2010

Book Review: Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan *Tudor Mania Challenge!!*

Secrets of The Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington; Original edition (April 27, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0758241993
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a half Stars

When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King's fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him. . .

Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she's been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life--and the course of history.
This is another great read to add to your Tudor fiction library. It is full of the Tudor speculation and gossip that Tudor fans have come to enjoy and love, but this is not told in an over the top fashion. It is fast paced and intriguing, as the Tudor courts and the events of the demise of Henry VIII's wives are merely a backdrop for Mary Howard's story. Although an avid fan of Tudor history, this particular story is new to me, as I have never registered the fact that the shrewd and cunning Thomas Howard, known to many as simply Norfolk, had a daughter named Mary Howard.

The story begins with Mary Howard's vicious birth, and it is vicious because Norfolk is busy beating up Mary's mother Elizabeth Stafford when she is in labor. The entire novel is full of Norfolk abusing the women in his life. His wife, his daughter, and then being the one main force behind both of his niece's Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard wedding Henry, and eventually their demise. Mary Howard grows up under the thumb of her father, and she finds some comfort with her brother Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, until she realizes he is a chip off the old block. Initially, though, her brother and she enjoyed sharing poems with other literate members of the court. Through all the events of the wives of Henry, Mary is watching and trembling with fear throughout, but it is told with her fresh point of view and made me really care for Mary. It was a sad life for Mary, being unloved, until she finally is wedded to the admirable Henry Fitzroy, who was none other that the king's own illegitimate son. Just when Mary thinks she will be able to have a life of her own and have babies, which is her deepest wish, her father decides that although they can marry each other, they cannot actually be together till he deems fit.

Mary watches her mother being beaten by Norfolk, and eventually the abuse moves towards Mary as well. These were hard scenes to get through, and displayed a lot of madness and cruelty of Norfolk. Mary is used as eyes and ears for Norfolk at court, and she witnesses the political machinations behind all the evil that occurs at the Tudor Court. It was not all Henry VIII's doing, it had a lot of Thomas Howard's hands in it. This is not a depiction that is any way favorable on Thomas Howard by any stretch of the imagination, but makes one wonder what really went on behind the closed doors of the Tudor courts. Along with the relationship with her family, we are also subject to Mary's friendships with her father's long-standing mistress Bess Holland, and with friends at court such as Margaret Douglas who was a niece of Henry VIII constantly in the middle of court issues.

This was an impressive debut for Bogdan, covering a lot of material within the myriads of rumors and gossip of the courts, and I enjoyed it immensely. This is a wonderful addition to my Tudor fiction library, though not for those who would prefer more fact than fiction with regards specifically to the Tudors and the mention of some of the rumors that have since been believed as false. The reason they were included is because the author felt it would add to the atmosphere of the Tudor courts, since most of the rumors were believed to be fact at the time. The novel covers the reign of the queens Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr, ending with Edward VI on the throne. As a complete and total Tudor junkie, I found that it was full of suspense, drama, and garnered my admiration for Lady Mary Howard, making me want to look for more information on this young woman who was witness to much of the turmoil of the Tudor courts, and daughter to the creator of many of the secrets of the Tudor courts.

This was my first read specifically for the Tudor Mania Reading Challenge which starts today. See the Challenge post and learn how you can win a book of your choice. Arleigh of and I read this at the same time and we were emailing each other back and forth about a lot of the events in the book. It is a great group read! Her review is here, as part of the Tudor Mania Challenge, so be sure to look for that.

Also, please visit the recent interview I posted with this author, which includes a giveaway for the Autographed finished copy of this book. If you like Tudor fiction, this is an absolute must read for you.