What might have happened if Anne Boleyn had indeed borne a son to King Henry VIII?
Just 18 years old, William has ascended to the throne, taking the title Henry IX. Publically, he faces the threat of war, as well as the challenge of placating Protestant-Catholic tensions, prompting him to keep his older half sister Mary under house arrest. Privately, he is torn between a betrothal to the young princess of France, an alliance that might ease religious tensions at home, and his love for Minuette, a young woman taken in as a royal ward but without political capital. Elaborately threaded with historical details—including astrological charts by John Dee, intrigues orchestrated within his own court, and political maneuvers betwixt England, France and Spain—the second in Andersen’s (The Boleyn King, 2013) Boleyn family saga will appeal to fans of historical fiction. Yet, the romances suffer from implausible dialogue and flat characterization. Tempted by the very married Robert Dudley, as well as the hints of power suggested by John Dee’s private astrological reading, Elizabeth is reduced to a woman blinded by her own tightly tamped-down emotions. Speaking like 21st-century high school students, William and Dominic vie for Minuette’s affections. Exuberant William pursues Minuette despite his advisers’ cautions. Serious Dominic serves as William’s closest adviser, the only man who will speak the unvarnished truth to an unpredictable sovereign. He and Minuette despair of betraying their best friend yet cannot deny their true love, stealing kisses and spare moments behind William’s back. Meanwhile, Minuette plays amateur sleuth, dangerously toying with ambitious men as she tries to discover who murdered Alyce de Clare. Tensions rise as the love triangle becomes increasingly untenable and evidence points toward a traitor in the court.
Although the romance rings hollow, this is an intriguing re-imagining of Tudor England and the treacheries of court life.