Title: The Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIII
Author: Diane Haeger
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
From the back cover:
Mary Tudor, the headstrong younger sister of the ruthless King Henry VIII, has always been her brother’s favorite – but now she is also an important political bargaining chip. When she is promised to elderly, ailing King Louis of France, heartbroken Mary accepts her fate, but not before extracting a promise from her brother: When the old king dies, her next marriage shall be solely of her choosing. For Mary has a forbidden passion, and she is determined to forge her own destiny, through her own cunning, courage, and passionate boldness.
The Secret Bride is a trimphant tale of one extraordinary woman who meant to stay true to her heart and live her life just as her royal brother did – by her own rules.
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I enjoyed the portrayal of the late days of Henry VII’s reign – the death of Prince Arthur, the furor over the fate of Katherine of Aragon, and her eventual marriage to Henry VIII. Much has been written on Henry VIII, but little of it on the early days. So I enjoyed the different focus; rather than honing in on the scandals of his reign, the author portrays Henry’s sweeter, gentler days.
However, there were too many problems with this book to make it good. First of all, there simply wasn’t enough material to make the novel compelling. It seems Mary Tudor didn’t lead the most exciting of lives before her marriage to Louis, and while there is nothing wrong with that, the marriage doesn’t occur until halfway through the book. So the reader is left with Mary’s cavorting with a certain gentleman. It is sweet to watch Mary fall in love, but the book is supposed to be historical fiction, not historical romance. I do wonder why the author didn’t choose to make the book 200 pages, rather than 400 – it would have made it a much more interesting read.
Also, I have a issue with how much the description of the book revealed. As I mentioned, Mary’s marriage to Louis isn’t until halfway through the book. There is some surprise at this arrangement as well, as it was not her original engagement. Therefore, I am puzzled as to why her marriage to Louis would be revealed so cavalierly in the description. As I said, there isn’t much going on in this book – a little excitement and surprise would have been welcome.
While I can’t recommend this book, it is interesting to note that Mary Tudor was the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey, the woman who was the Queen of England for three days before she was put into the Tower of London and then executed by Queen Mary. If you are looking for a good historical fiction read, I would recommend Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey. It is a much more interesting read.