Again, Hardwick is writing about 16th-century, pre-Elizabethan England, and, here, about some historical characters who surely are related to Eleanore Carey and her brother Harry, featured in The Crystal Dove (1983), since they must be kin to the Boleyn bunch whom we meet now. The Boleyns are a memorable lot, particularly Anne, mother of Elizabeth I. Anne's sister, Mary--like Anne the victim of unsympathetic parents--overcomes her natural diffidence and becomes (when she and Anne are sent by their ambitious father to join a royal entourage in France) first the mistress of a couple of French courtiers, then mistress of Francois I himself. From that king's bed to young Henry VIII's is a mere hop. And for Henry, Mary bears the living son that Catherine of Aragon can't produce. In the meantime, the wilier Anne holds out for marriage when she catches the royal eye. The result, of course, is a scrawny infant, Bess, and eventually Anne's head on the block. Before that climactic moment, however, the reader swims in historical detail. Mary's bastards (she bears two to Henry) no doubt are the forefathers of the Careys previously mentioned. Although it is the author's fancy to leap from third-person narration to first--by both Tom Wyatt, rebellious poet enamoured of Anne, and Henry Percy, similarly emotionally inclined--this stylistic device, wonderfully effective in Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII, is meaningless here. But then, this entire cast of characters, whom we know to have been vibrantly alive, are fictionally dim, heaving bosoms and all. A little flat, despite the material, but pleasant enough reading for devotees of the period.