Historical fiction novels about Henry VIII and his many wives always catch my eye, and I typically enjoy them. When I came across this book on Netgalley, I was excited about it and couldn’t wait to get started.
Unfortunately, this book left me feeling frustrated and horribly disappointed. Any excitement I initially felt about reading this book dwindled away, and it took me an entire week to hit the 60% mark. I set it aside and read a different book, attempting to convince myself that I would return to Thorns and finish it after I was done with Wunderland. I ended up reading five more books, instead.
I’ve finally admitted to myself that I have zero desire to read anymore of this book, and DNF’d it at 60% with a sigh of relief.
What made me dislike this book so much I refused to finish it?
Most of the dialogue between characters is stilted, pointless, and frustrating to read. More often than not, it’s unclear who is saying something, because no indication is giving of who is speaking, making it very difficult to follow along without becoming confused.
‘So, tell me Lady Hall…may I call you Mary?’ ‘That is my Christian name, sir.’ ‘Marry, I shall call you Mary.’ ‘Merry, if you like.’ ‘You have wit, Mary. I like that in a woman.’ ‘Do you, sir? Most men prefer us witless, I thought.’ ‘I assure you only witless men prefer witless women.’ ‘You are saying then that Master Hall, my husband, is witless.’ Cranmer smiled. He poured himself some wine and sipped. ‘I assure you, I make no such insinuation about your husband.’ ‘Oh, but it is true, sir.’
You don’t mind if I record notes?’ ‘As long as you record accordingly.’ ‘I shall write only in accordance to what you say.’ ‘Then I am in full accord of your recording.’
The passages above come from a tedious conversation in chapter two that goes on for fifteen pages. I probably should have stopped reading there, but I was convinced the story would improve.
Non-linear storytelling and shifting perspectives.
Listen, I don’t mind when storylines take place in both the past and the present. Flashback sequences (or chapters) are an effective way of telling a story and maintaining a certain level of suspense at the same time. I also don’t mind stories with more than one character’s perspective. I greatly appreciate each of the aforementioned things when they are well executed. In my opinion, that was not the case with this book.
The first third of the book focuses on events leading to Katherine Howard’s execution, making me think the focus was solely on this particular queen of Henry’s. The title itself is a reminder that Henry supposedly called her his “rose without a thorn”… so it was quite jarring when his other wives were brought into the spotlight.
I may be in the minority, but I think the story would have been much better if it were told in linear fashion. Starting with Wife #5, having to go both forward and backward from there AND switching perspectives from one character to another felt a bit chaotic to me.
When I read the paragraph in the book about the previous King Henrys, it felt off, somehow, but I couldn’t figure out why at the time. Kudos to reviewer Maja – BibliophiliaDK ✨ whose review on Goodreads made me realize why it felt wrong. Thank you for solving the mystery!
I’m glad I gave this book a chance, because getting inside Henry’s head and seeing how he may have felt about his wives was a fantastic idea. It failed to captivate my imagination, sadly, and I ultimately gave up on it. That being the case, I do not recommend this book based on my lack of satisfaction with it.
Author: Thomas Crockett
Title: Thorns in a Realm of Roses: The Henry Queens
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: April 26, 2019 by Top Hat Books
Rating: 1 star
About the Book
England, 1541. King Henry receives an anonymous letter suggesting that his fifth wife, the young Katherine Howard, whom he had called a rose without a thorn, may have led an unchaste life before they married. In the rose gardens of Hampton Court Palace, Henry feels the illusion of youth and virility slip away; he faces an uncertain future. Must he dispatch yet another wife? Old, overweight and increasingly infirm, could he find love and marry again to further secure the Tudor line? Written with literary invention, Thorns in a Realm of Roses spans the final years in Henry’s reign. Peeling back the layers of life at Court, it examines the hearts and minds of Henry, his often misbegotten queens, neglected daughter Mary and his many loyal, though wary, advisors as they all struggle to survive in a world embroiled in political and religious upheaval ruled by a petulant King.