Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir @alisonweirbooks @randomhouse

anneboleyn

I think it’s safe to say that if you have a love of history, as well as a keen interest in royalty, there is a strong probability you’re fascinated with King Henry VIII, and his many wives. It’s also likely you remember the order of his wives thanks to this mnemonic device: Divorced (Katherine of Aragon), beheaded (Anne Boleyn), died (Jane Seymour), divorced (Anne of Cleves), beheaded (Catherine Howard), survived (Catherine Parr). Such is the case with me… my fascination with Henry VIII and his wives took root as soon as I first learned about him.

Through the years, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject—both fictional and factual—but I must confess that of all the wives, it’s the story of Anne Boleyn that most strongly captured my interest. Depending upon the writer of the book (or article), Anne Boleyn was either a conniving, manipulative woman who seduced the king and was guilty of adultery during their marriage, or a woman who genuinely loved her husband (and also enjoyed wielding the power that came with being Queen of England), who was wrongly accused and ultimately put to death so that the King might find a new Queen to provide him with the longed-for male heir to the throne. I, myself, am sympathetic towards Anne and like to think that her character lies somewhere in the middle—not completely good, but not completely bad, either. Sadly, much of the truth of her life has been lost over the centuries, so there’s no way to be completely sure of the type of woman she was; whether history has recorded her nature truly or falsely is something we can never know for certain. Perhaps it is for that reason Anne Boleyn is such an attractive subject to write about in novels, weaving known facts with speculations on what her life, and her motivations as Queen, were like.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is historical fiction at its finest. Weir’s vision of Anne’s life may differ with those of Boleyn enthusiasts, but I didn’t let my own preconceived notions about Anne interfere with my enjoyment of the book… and I enjoyed it immensely. I found it to be a wonderfully written novel, and I was reluctant to set it aside, but even I have to sleep sometimes.

Weir does a fine job, in this reader’s opinion, of making Anne neither sinner nor saint in totality. There are times Anne strays closer to one side or the other for a while, but this served to bring her to life in my mind, showing her to be a complex person prone to conflict of thought and feeling, rather than the caricature she could easily have become in the writings of a less skilled author.

For me, the most intense part of the novel was Anne’s impending death. I could feel her shock at the accusations against her, her despair when she realized Henry would not intervene and prevent her death, and, finally, her acceptance of the inevitable. Weir’s Anne goes to her execution gracefully, with a quiet dignity that is unshakeable right up to her final moments.  The death scene itself was not at all what I expected, but something more… it was unique (compared to other scenes I’ve read about Anne’s beheading) and made a sad ending even more heartbreaking.

I highly recommend novel this to Tudor enthusiasts. I think this is a novel you will enjoy getting lost in for a while.

(NB: King Henry VIII’s marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves didn’t actually end by divorce, but rather by annulment.)

I received an advance review copy of this novel courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Alison Weir

Title: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

Series: Six Tudor Queens #2

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: May 16th, 2017 by Ballantine Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…

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About the Author

Author Alison Weir
Author Alison Weir

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Marriage Game, A Dangerous Inheritance, Captive Queen, The Lady Elizabeth, and Innocent Traitor and numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.

Author photo via Goodreads. Author bio via publisher.

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite #Review @jenwaite4444 @PlumeBooks

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing cover

I’m not sure how long I had this ARC before I started reading it, but it was apparently long enough for me to forget it was a memoir. It happens sometimes, but I usually remember once I start reading. As I read it over the weekend, I was convinced I was reading an engrossing psychological thriller… until I read the acknowledgements at the end. That’s when I realized I was actually reading a memoir. All of this actually happened. The chill that went through me at this realization was far more intense than the ones I’d been having as I read the book.

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing is unique in that it is written in the style of a novel, simultaneously telling the story of the beginning of the relationship with her husband, and its devastating end, in “Before” and “After” segments.  Waite’s seemingly perfect marriage unravels shortly after the birth of her daughter, when she discovers her husband has been unfaithful—something he denies repeatedly, despite evidence to the contrary. In her search for the truth, she realizes her husband fits the definition of a psychopath and is incapable of truly loving anyone. Her marriage was built on a foundation of lies. For her daughter’s sake, Waite must find the strength to begin a new life.

The damage that can be done by someone with a dangerous personality disorder cannot be understated. Gaslighting is a particularly heinous manipulation that leaves the victim confused and disoriented, questioning their ability to remember events correctly. This is a single example of the many ways such a person can mentally torture their victims.

This powerful memoir is heartbreaking, often chilling, and incredibly hard to put down. It feels wrong to say I “enjoyed” reading it, given the pain and suffering the author went through, but I’m glad I read it. I think books such as this one are important because they shine a light on the destructive behaviors of abusers… perhaps the better equipped people are to recognize the signs, the lesser the chance they will be a potential victim? One can only hope.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Plume via Netgalley.

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Author: Jen Waite

Title: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal

Genre: Memoir

Publication Date: July 11th, 2017 by Plume

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

What do you do when you discover that the person you’ve built your life around never existed? When “it could never happen to me” does happen to you?

These are the questions facing Jen Waite when she begins to realize that her loving husband—the father of her infant daughter, her best friend, the love of her life—fits the textbook definition of psychopath. In a raw, first-person account, Waite recounts each heartbreaking discovery, every life-destroying lie, and reveals what happens once the dust finally settles on her demolished marriage.

After a disturbing email sparks Waite’s suspicion that her husband is having an affair, she tries to uncover the truth and rebuild trust in her marriage. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment from the last five years that isn’t part of the long-con of lies and manipulation. With a dual-timeline narrative structure, we see Waite’s romance bud, bloom, and wither simultaneously, making the heartbreak and disbelief even more affecting.

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About the Author

Author Jen Waite
Author Jen Waite

Jen Waite lives in Maine with her young daughter. She is applying to graduate school to become a licensed therapist, specializing in recovery from psychopathic relationships.

Author photo and bio via Amazon.

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey #Review @kristywharvey @GalleryBooks

Slightly South of Simple cover

I love reading women’s fiction, particularly those set in the Southern portion of the United States. So when I see a book that is both women’s fiction and Southern fiction, I’m immediately drawn to it in hopes of a good read… and that’s what I got with Slightly South of Simple: a very good read.

Harvey’s story of three sisters who—for various reasons—move back into their mother’s home in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia, is simply fantastic. The sisters have vastly different lifestyles and reasons for coming home. Caroline is a pregnant Manhattan socialite whose perfect life has been destroyed by her husband’s (excruciatingly public) affair and, with her daughter in tow, returns to the quaint seaside town seeking solace and distance from the vicious gossip about her marriage. Sloane is an military wife whose husband has been deployed again; she returns home along with her two sons in order to spend time with her mother and sisters. Emerson, the youngest, is an actress who comes home to work on the movie she’s starring in that could be her big break. Their mother, Ansley, is delighted to have them home, but feels overwhelmed when an old love comes back into her life; even more so when her mother moves in, needing Ansley to care for her as she recovers from an injury.

The story is told through Caroline and Ansley’s perspectives, with a fair portion of Ansley’s story being told in her memories of the past that slowly reveal secrets she’s kept from her daughters, and her fears that those secrets will come out. Ansley’s secrets were of particular interest to me, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. Honestly, Ansley’s memories could have been an entire novel in itself, in my opinion—I wanted to know every detail of her fascinating past! Caroline’s story—and her memories—were equally fascinating to me, and despite her having some less-than-desirable personality traits, I felt especially moved by the uncertainties she faced in her life. The characters of Sloane and Emerson weren’t quite as fleshed out as I would have liked, but I’m sure that will change as the series progresses and is told (I suspect) through each of their perspectives. This is the beginning of a series, after all… so while I noted that, it’s not something that can be held out as a point of criticism.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was sad to reach the end. I’m highly anticipating the release of book two, and I am eager to spend more time reading about these fascinating women!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey

Title: Slightly South of Simple

Series: Peachtree Bluff #1

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction

Published April 25th, 2017 by Gallery Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

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About the Author

Author Kristy Woodson Harvey
Author Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina. She blogs at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodonsharvey.com. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a Master’s in English from East Carolina University. She is a regular contributor for The Salisbury Post, Domino magazine and Houzz. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly #Review @mserinkelly @MinotaurBooks

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If I were to describe this book in a single word, the word would be breathtaking… an apt description, indeed, as this He Said/She Said is chock full of surprising plot twists that will, well, take your breath away.

The story centers on Kit and Laura, eclipse enthusiasts whose lives were turned upside down after Laura witnesses a rape in progress. Despite the attacker’s proclamations of innocence, he is arrested and—thanks to Laura’s testimony—found guilty and sent to prison. Laura initially befriends the victim, a woman named Beth, until a series of frightening events leave them fearing for their lives and sends them into hiding. 15 years later, the couple are married, expecting twins, and living under assumed names when the consequences of that night comes back to terrorize them once more. What really happened that long ago night? Someone is lying… but who?

He Said/She Said is a slow burn that gradually builds to a magnificent blaze that will leave you gasping aloud at one shocking reveal after another.  Written from the dual perspectives of Kit and Laura, in alternating timelines, readers gradually learn what happened in the past while witnessing the psychological effect it has on both of them in the present day.

To say these characters and events are complex almost feels like an understatement. Every single time I thought I had a handle on what was going on—even feeling smug a time or two thinking I had it all figured out—I was humbled by an unforeseen twist that was intense in its ramifications, and left me to puzzle it out all over again.

Hint: I never figured out one damned thing before it happened. It was a glorious failure that left me highly impressed with Kelly’s inventive writing and her ability to weave a completely unpredictable story.

This is a must-read for fans of psychological thrillers! Trust me… you won’t be sorry. And while you’re at it, add Erin Kelly to your Author Radar. With skills like these, she’s an author whose work you won’t want to miss out on.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Minotaur Books.

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Author: Erin Kelly

Title: He Said/She Said

Genre: Psychological Thriller

To Be Published: June 6th 2017 by Minotaur Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

“A tour de force – a gripping, twisting, furiously clever read that asks all the right questions, and keeps you guessing until the very end. I loved it.” –Ruth Ware, bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?

15 years later, Kit and Laura married are living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.

From Erin Kelly, queen of the killer twist, He Said/She Said is a gripping tale of the lies we tell to save ourselves, the truths we cannot admit, and how far we will go to make others believe our side of the story.

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About the Author

erin_kelly
Author Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex. She read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998.

She has written for newspapers including the The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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