My Lady Viper By E. Knight

Synopsis:
When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner’s ax on a cold spring morning in 1536, Anne Seymour knows her family faces peril. As alliances shift and conspiracies multiply, the Seymours plot to establish their place in the treacherous court of King Henry VIII, where a courtier’s fate is decided by the whims of a hot-tempered and fickle monarch.

Lady Anne’s own sister-in-law, Jane Seymour, soon takes Anne Boleyn’s place as queen. But if Jane cannot give King Henry a son, history portends that she, too, will be executed or set aside—and her family with her. In desperation, Lady Anne throws herself into the intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined to ensure the success of the new queen’s marriage and the elevation of the Seymour family to a more powerful position. Soon her machinations earn her a reputation as a viper in a den of rabbits. In a game of betrayal and favor, will her family’s rise be worth the loss of her soul?

I don’t know about you, but I hope the first person trend in historical fiction will disappear soon. It’s been over done. And I’m really tired of it. It’s too restricting. I’m an omniscient reader. I want to know everything that’s going on in the world a writer has created for me, what every character does, thinks, and feels. The first person narrator can tell me only what she experiences and what she thinks other believe and feel. It’s hard for me to get into that.

I know that first person narration is supposed to let readers better identify and empathise with the protagonist. But that only works when the protagonist is strong, well-rounded, and intriguing. Anne Stanhope Seymour, sister-in-law of Queen Jane Seymour and aunt-by-marriage of her son Edward, is simply not an interesting enough character to keep the reader glued to listen to her story.

I hoped it wold be different. I love reading historical fiction novels told by characters that are usually relegated to the sidelines. They often offer a different perspective on well-known historical events. Anne, as wife of Edward Seymour and a relative by marriage of the Tudors, was at the heart of the court and its intrigues. Her family faced all sorts of perils.

She’s supposed to throw herself deep into these intrigues, but in truth, she doesn’t do much, apart from pointing pretty women in the King’s direction, hoping he’ll either bed or marry them. The rest of the time she’s busy seeking revenge on the people who badly abused her (we are told she plays a part in their downfall but how exactly is never revealed – so much for intrigue) and pining over her loves for her husband and her lover. Problem is, she never falls hard for either of them, so even the romance aspect of the novel is pretty lukewarm.

In the end, even though Anne Stanhope Seymour is the protagonist of the novel, to the reader she still feels more like a bystander. That’s why I would have much preferred the third person narration. There is so much going on in this story but, because Anne tells it, we only get a glimpse of it. And it’s probably not even the most interesting glimpse either.

Having said that, the writing is beautiful. It’s what kept me coming back to this book. Knight has a wonderful way with words. The world she conjures up is so vivid. She just needs to let her heroines take a more active role in their own stories.

I know that would result in historical inaccuracies. Tudor women were usually pawns with no will of her own. At least they were not allowed to express any will of their own. But My Lady Viper, like all historical novels, already has its fair share of inaccuracies. Might as well have added one or two more to make the story more engaging.

Summary:
Beautifully written, My Lady Viper suffers from the use of the first person narration. The protagonist, Lady Stanhope Seymour, is just not interesting enough to pull it off.

Available at: Amazon.com and Amazon UK

Rating: 3.5/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Book Review: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

Divorced, beheaded, died; Divorced, beheaded, survived. The Betrayed Wife, The Temptress, The Good Wife, The Ugly Sister, The Bad Girl and The Mother Figure. The six women who have married Henry VIII and helped shape the events of the era are known to us only by the way they died and by the stereotypes that have been attached to them throughout time. In this biography of Catherine of Aragorn, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr, historian Antonia Fraser has decided to to look at the women behind the stereotypes, bringing to life their true personalities.

And she does an excellent job at that. The political, religious and social aspects of the time remain in the background here. They’re explained to make us understand in what society and environment they lived and died in, but the main focus is on these six amazing women. Although Fraser sympathizes with them (and how could you not to?), she portrays them in an honest way, pointing out their good qualities without hiding or downplaying their flaws. We also get to know what kind of clothes they liked to wear, what pets they kept, what their interests were, what they were passionate about, what made them tick and what their motives were to act the way they did..

Henry VIII obviously has a main part in the book too. Fraser tries to bring to life his true personality and the portrayal that comes out is not very flattering. The book is extremity well-written and chock full of information, yet apart from a few rare dry patches, it flows really easily and is a joy to read. It’s a solid, strong book that will give you a better understanding of who these 6 women were as individuals. They were victims, but not willing victims. They lived in a time where women had no rights, yet they were intelligent, courageous and spirited women who tried to have some control over their lives and make, in the small ways open to them, their own decisions, although not all of them were wise enough to know when to stop. Overall, I would recommend it anyone interested in the Tudor era.

Summary:
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser is an informative and enjoyable biography about the women who married the second Tudor monarch. Fraser goes beyond the stereotypes to bring to life the individual personality of each woman, their good qualities and flaws, their tastes and their reasons for acting the way they did.. A must read for every Tudor fan.

Available at: Amazon UK, Amazon US and Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4/5

Historical Reads: Jane The Meek And Mild One?

Author Claire Ridgway has written a very interesting post about Jane Seymour. Was she really the good, innocent and boring woman she’s portrayed to be?

Bound to Obey and Serve – Jane the Meek and Mild?

It is clear from Jane’s motto that she wanted to be the submissive wife and queen, in contrast to the “Most Happy” Anne Boleyn who had a “sunshine and showers” relationship with Henry, one of passion and rages. Antonia Fraser describes her as “naturally sweet-natured” and writes of her main characteristics being “virtue and common good sense”. Fraser goes on to say that “Jane was exactly the kind of female praised by the contemporary handbooks to correct conduct; just as Anne Boleyn had been the sort they warned against,”. However, Alison Weir points out that “Beneath her outward show of humility, there was steel, even though it was confined to the domestic sphere only” – she may have been mild-mannered but she was capable of being strict with her household and also capable of standing up to her husband at times, although her common sense told her when to shut up, i.e. she listened to Henry when he threatened her, by reminding her of what had happened to wife number two, and learned to be submissive to her husband and master. Where Anne would have told Henry just what she thought, Jane curbed her tongue and accepted her place as the dutiful wife, but then she did have the benefit of knowing what Henry was capable of! Henry was bad-tempered and had mood swings and Jane was sensible enough to realise that he needed humouring and needed his ego massaging – where Anne could be impatient, Jane was soothing.

Henry’s True Love

Henry VIII called Jane his true love and true wife, he chose Jane’s image to be portrayed as his wife and queen in the Whitehall Family Portrait, even though he was married to Catherine Parr at the time, and he chose to be laid to rest next to Jane, so it is hard to argue with that and say that she was not Henry’s true love. However, he was only involved with Jane for around 18 months, if that, so the relationship cannot be compared with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which lasted for nearly 24 years, and his relationship with Anne Boleyn, which lasted about 10 years. Henry did not have time to get tired of Jane and the fact that she died after giving him the precious gift of a son probably made Henry look back on their relationship with rather rose tinted spectacles! There is no doubt, however, that he loved and respected her and his behaviour after her death, locking himself away from the world, shows that he really was grief-stricken.

To read the entire article, click here.