Thursday, June 17, 2010
2nd Book Review for the Tudor Mania Challange at the Burton Review
Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson
Summary: Between Two Queens follows Anne "Nan" Bassett as she struggles to maintain her position as Maid of Honor to the ever changing rotation of queens in Henry VIII's court. As Nan's family falls from the King's favor for accusations of treason she remains in his favor, but his motivations are unclear. Nan finds herself the object of Henry's attention while he is between queens, but her past haunts her and threatens to destroy all of her ambitions if she is not careful.
My thoughts: DISCLAIMER***I read the 'Authors Note' at the end of the book when I finished reading it last night and I think it has tainted my opinion of the story***. I was intrigued to read this book because I wanted a different character in which to view the Tudor Court through. I had not heard of Anne Bassett before despite the historical documentation that proves her presence in Henry's Court. I read the book over the last 3 days and if I'm being honest, I was a little bored. I kept reading hoping that at some point the excitement level would pick up, but it was anti-climatic at every chance it had. Maybe that is why I have not heard of Anne Bassett before, her story was lack-luster when compared to many other women present in Henry VIII's Court.
The story starts with brief character introductions to Anne Bassett, her older sister Catherine "Cat", and their fathers servitor, Edward "Ned" Corbett. Nan and Cat arrive in England to 'audition' to be a Maid of Honor in Queen Jane's court. Nan was obviously chosen and her sister is sent to live with some prominent family in England. (This book drops so many names that it was very hard to follow even for the avid Tudor reader). Henry shows his interest in Nan upon her becoming a Maid of Honor, but as I said, it was very anti-climatic and nothing comes of it at that time.
When Queen Jane dies shortly after giving birth Nan is displaced from court having no queen to be Maid of Honor to. SPOILER ALERT***During that time Nan and Ned have a 'fling' of sorts which results in an unwanted pregnancy. Nan, with the help of her maid and a midwife are able to hide the pregnancy and birth from everyone including Ned. The midwife also sets up an adoption for the bastard child later named Jamie. Despite the risk, Nan visits Jamie numerous times. Jamie and the adopted family later die of plague. This was the most interesting plot point and it is a shame because the author admits that this part of the story, including the baby Jamie, adoptive family, the midwife, and Nan's maid were completely products of her imagination.
The story continues as Henry moves onto his 4th and 5th wives while the majority of Nan's family is accused of treason and imprisoned or kept under house arrest. Nan's point of view doesn't give any new insight on life at Tudor Court...nor does it reveal any new secrets. Nan is given partial credit for helping Henry VIII find his 6th wife, Kathryn Parr.
The book ends with Nan's marriage, which was also anti-climatic and occurs 17 years after her arrival in England. By that time she is 33 years old, which everyone knows is really old for first marriages back then. The author rushes to wrap up the conclusion of the book and quite frankly has left me disappointed.
I do not feel that I have any new information regarding the Tudor Court and it's inner workings. Nor was I able to connect emotionally to any character, so I felt very distant from the story. I like to "cheer on" or develop a strong hate for at least one character in the books I choose, but the author never develops the characters enough for the reader to decide whether to love/hate them.
The author admittedly leaves out many of the details of the plot on Calais saying, "I did choose to omit a number of details of the Botolph conspiracy simply because they made the scheme too preposterous for a modern reader to believe". Yet the reader is suppose to believe that a women with a position at court was able to hide a full pregnancy and birth?
I am not sure what would have helped this story. Nan's life was either not that exciting to begin with OR the author failed to convey it to it's full potential. If I use the Burton Review rating scale to rate this book, I' have to give it a '1'. I'd like to give the author, Kate Emerson, a second chance by reading another book from the Secrets of the Tudor Court series, but I need time recover from the disappointment of Between Two Queens.
What I'm reading next: Tudor Queens of England by Davis Loades (non-fiction)