Title: The Queen's Rival Author: Diane Haeger Published: New American Library, 1 March 2011 Where I Got It: The publisher sent me an ARC
[No, I'm not back. I received this book 3 months ago, read the book that night and wrote this review the next day. I wanted to post the review closer to the initial release day....so here it is!]
It's official - Diane Haeger is one of my favorite authors. I love her ongoing series about Henry VIII's court, andThe Queen's Rivalwas no disappointment. I read it in less than 24 hours.
This book explores the life of Bessie Blount, one of Henry's very first mistresses. Though not much is known about Bessie's early life, we follow her through her years as a maid-of-honor to Queen Katherine of Aragon, her affair with Henry, and the birth of their illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Little Henry is the only bastard that the king ever acknowledged as his own. Barely at the age of ten, young Henry was bestowed as the Duke of Richmond - he was later seriously contended to become the king's heir to the throne. Bessie's and the king's affair comes to an end when the child is very young, mainly due to two new girls at court: the Boleyn sisters. Mary Boleyn is just a brief dalliance, but Anne is a tempting, alluring, and lustful object for the king to conquer - but we all know how that story ends. The book concludes with the death of teenaged Henry Fitzroy. The grief that his two parents feel is heartbreaking; Bessie, because she lost her dear firstborn son and reminders of happier days with the king, and Henry because he has lost his one and only living son, and possible heir. Diane Haeger always picks very interesting figures to write about (I lovedThe Secret Bride, about Henry's sister Mary). Bessie Blount was very prominent in her days at court, days that are often forgotten when Anne Boleyn and more notorious women later come into play. It was refreshing to read a book that took place around Henry VIII but did NOT focus on one of his wives. I also liked this look at the younger (20ish) Henry VIII; I've read too much about him where he's just the old, fat ailing King. Here, he was a man with whom every woman at court was in love with. Bessie was a character I like very much. She is portrayed as a very clever girl, if not a little too lovesick sometimes. She certainly led a very interesting life. I also read elsewhere that Bessie later briefly served Anne of Cleves - can you imagine how awkward that would be?? 4.5 stars to a well written and very interesting book. DEFINITELY recommended to all lovers of the Tudors and romantic historical fiction. Go out and buy it the second it comes out! It'll be worth it. A big thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC - it was much appreciated!