Laura Andersen brings us the first book in an enthralling trilogy set in the dramatic, turbulent, world-altering years of Tudor England. What if Anne did not miscarry her son in January 1536, but instead gave birth to a healthy royal boy? Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Allison Weir.
Henry IX, known as William, is a 17-year-old king struggling at the restraints of the regency and anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics plotting at home, Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. Against an undercurrent of secret documents, conflicting intelligence operations, and private murder, William fights a foreign war and domestic rebellion with equal resolve. But when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession menaces a new generation of Tudors. Battlefields and council chambers, trials and executions, the blindness of first love and the betrayal of true friendship…How far will William go to get what he wants? Who will pay the price for a king’s revenge? And what twists of fate will set Elizabeth on the path to her destiny as England’s queen?
What if one important historical event hadn’t happened, or had turned out differently. What would the world look like then? These are fun things to speculate about, and this is exactly what The Boleyn King is all about. The story starts off on the premise that Anne Boleyn didn’t miscarry her second child, but had a healthy son instead. Because of this Henry VIII never had her executed and he remained married to her until his death. Their son Henry IX, who goes by William, became King at the tender age of 10, and this book follows his story starting when William is 17 years old. His uncle George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, is Lord Protector of the realm until William comes of age.
Life as a boy King is sometimes hard on William and he is wary of people in general. The only people he really trusts are his sister Elizabeth, his best friend Dominic, and Minuette, Elizabeth’s lady in waiting who happened to have been born on the same day as William.
This story is extremely well written and well researched, which you can tell by the in-depth way in which certain historical aspects have been changed. Many things in this alternate reality, if you will, are different, though certain historical aspects haven’t changed. The tension between the Catholic and Protestant nations of Europe is still there, England is facing difficulties with France and Spain, and Mary Queen of Scots is starting to pose a threat as well. And then there are difficulties within the Kingdom as well. Mary Tudor, who still considers her father’s marriage to Anne Boleyn to be invalid, refuses to make an appearance at court and goes out of her way not to be in the vicinity of Queen Anne, who she refers to as ‘that woman’.
The story switches between narrator quite often, though most of it is told from either Minuette’s or Elizabeth’s perspective, and a few times from Dominic’s perspective as well. Although the reader is never notified of this switch in the narrative it is always easy enough to pick up on, because the writing is very clear. Even though the novel is supposedly about William, it actually focuses a lot more on courtly life and the people closest to him. A great deal of the novel is focues on Minuette and her position at court, and also on Elizabeth and the role she will play in the ruling of the Kingdom.
Even though the story often doesn’t focus directly on the way ruling a Kingdom at such a young age affects William, it does show how he has to deal with a multitude of conflicts both at home and abroad. He goes to war against France which ends in a triumph, and he even manages to win some of the cities back that were lost during the reign of his father. But at the same time he discovers a secret plot, with the help of Minuette, aiming to put Mary on the throne by claiming that William was born from an incestuous relationship between his mother and her brother George, and is therefore not the legitimate heir to the throne. And on top of that he also finds himself caught in a love triangle when both he and his best friend Dominic fall in love with Minuette.
The story ends at rather a strange moment when William proposes marriage to Minuette, but this is because it is the first part of a trilogy. So it ends on a real cliffhanger, which leaves the reader wanting more. I am definitely eagerly awaiting the second instalment!
This book was extremely difficult to put down and I finished most if it in one sitting. It’s a story that will appeal to any fan of historical fiction, and especially to people with a fondness for Tudor history.