Historically based, page-turning story of Mary Boleyn, sister of the infamous Anne, decapitated by Henry VIII: here, as much a tale of love and lust as it is a saga about an ambitious family who used their kin as negotiable assets.
Rich with period detail, the story is told by Mary, the younger sister, who is married off at 13 to William Carey, a courtier at Henry’s court. Mary serves Queen Katherine, mother of the future Queen Mary, and begins her tale when her sister Anne, stylish and beautiful, returns from France to join Mary at court. The sisters’ ambitious parents and their uncle, the future Duke of Norfolk, are determined to acquire power and influence, as well as titles and estates, from the king, even if it means that Mary must become his mistress. Their son George is made to work on his sisters’ behalf and to live a life not of his choosing (he’s homosexual and loves a fellow courtier). Mary bears the king a son, but Anne soon after uses all her wiles to make Henry divorce the Queen and marry her. The Boleyns, more ruthlessly functional than dysfunctional, continue to plot and push to achieve their ends. Mary recounts the king’s wish for a male heir; his break with the Pope; Anne’s skillful if criminal plotting that leads to the divorce and her marriage to Henry; the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth; and Anne’s desperate attempts to bear a son. Meanwhile, she herself, widowed after her first husband dies from the plague, finds love with Sir William Stafford—the only strand of the story with possibilities for future happiness.
Absorbing tale of a Renaissance family determined to climb as high as they can, whatever the cost.