At the Mercy of the Queen

Anne Clinard Barnhill, Author
Anne Clinard Barnhill. St. Martin’s/Griffin, $14.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-312-66213-4
Hardcover - 464 pages - 978-1-250-00519-9
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-1-4299-2554-9
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Margaret Shelton, cousin of the newly minted queen of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, is sent to court to serve Anne and add to her family’s ever growing influence with the mercurial monarch. Once there, Margaret meets Arthur Brandon, the bastard son of the duke of Suffolk, and despite getting off on the wrong foot initially, they fall in love and secretly marry. Meanwhile, Anne is having some serious problems—she promised Henry a son, but instead delivered daughter Elizabeth and has had two miscarriages. Henry’s performance problems means he is avoiding Anne’s bed, destroying any chance she has of having the son who would secure her position. When Jane Seymour catches Henry’s wandering eye, Anne hatches a worthy Tudor plan in which Margaret becomes Henry’s mistress: “if I can put one forth to the king who would be loyal to me, one who would speak kind words about me as they lay upon their pillows.... ” Margaret complies but it complicates her relationship with Arthur; she can’t marry him openly without the consent of the king who will never give it because Arthur is socially beneath her. When Anne is railroaded as an adulteress and executed, Margaret and her family flee the court with Margaret pregnant by Arthur but in need of a legitimate husband to act as father. The reign of Henry VIII has been explored at length in historical fiction, with Anne Boleyn filling many roles. Here, Anne is a complex woman who just wants a happy marriage, and through Margaret’s eyes readers develop a strong sympathy for the unfortunate queen. A fresh take on Henry’s court that even readers exhausted of Tudor historicals will find new and exciting. (Jan.)
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