I finished reading The Boleyn Inheritance on Saturday night. I found it hard to put down.
I’ll try to explain briefly what the story is about. Rotting on his throne, Henry the 8th has formed an alliance with Cleves by agreeing to marry the innocent, young Anne: the second Anne, the first being Anne Boleyn beheaded for treason, adultery and other crimes. Anne of Cleves is anxious to leave her oppressive mother and brother, unaware of the dangerous situation awaiting her in the Tudor Court. Spies and plots are everywhere and she is unequipped to deal with them. The Duke of Norfolk, puppet master of the Howard family and King, has sent his spy, Jane Boleyn, to watch for any opportunity to break up this marriage and throw another “Howard girl” under the feet of the lustful King. He doesn’t have long to wait. Anne is not pleasing to the king with her frumpy gowns and lack of charm. His eye falls on Katherine Howard, a pretty, empty headed fourteen year old child. The Duke uses the three women ruthlessly for his own gain, making promises and threats to position himself as the most powerful man in England.
The novel is narrated by the three women. We get to see their own points of view, their ambitions, fears and doubts. Anne is seen as a fool, but through her eyes we see how everyone has underestimated her. Jane, the sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn, is haunted by the memory of her disgraced family and her part in their destruction. Katherine is a silly thing but she knows just the right things to say to the deluded king.
Gregory paints Henry as an self-absorbed fool. Although he claims that he can see all things through God’s will, he is so easily distracted by flattery he cannot see he is being conned. His courtiers who use him are also in fear of his unpredictable temper and love of the axeman. He has become a paranoid madman.
The Duke of Norfolk is a truly evil villain and I shudder to think that he was a real person. If I was a Howard mother with a daughter, I’d send to a nunnery before he could get his hands on her. They are all disposable to the Duke. You would think the Howards had children just to throw them at the king. I’d like to see Gregory write a novel from the Duke’s point-of-view. I’d love to see her take on why he was so awful.
Even though The Boleyn Inheritance is over 500 pages, it’s a quick read. It’s suspenseful to the end, where we find out what the inheritance really is. Having read the whole Tudor series, I’d rate it second to The Other Boleyn Girl but way ahead of The Constant Princess and The Virgin’s Lover.
Definitely a must read for Gregory fans.