Review of the “Je Anne Boleyn” series by Sandra Vasoli

October 23, 2016 in News, QAB Book Reviews, The Anne Boleyn Society by James Peacock

by James Peacock

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VasoliBooks

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The story of Anne Boleyn has admittedly been “done to death” when it comes historical fiction. There are a ton of books out of there featuring Anne in some way or another. I must admit that before I read Struck with the Dart of Love: Je Anne Boleyn, Book One, there was a part of me that was apprehensive. Not long after I started reading the novel, however, I learned my apprehensions were needless.

Both Je Anne Boleyn novels are told from the viewpoint of Anne Boleyn. For me, Sandra Vasoli truly “gets” Anne. She understands the different sides of Anne’s personality: her charm, her intelligence, her wit, her courage, her passion, her ambition — even her jealousy and insecurities. Sandy doesn’t fall into the trap that so many fictional authors do by presenting Anne Boleyn as a “perfect saint”, instead crafting Anne’s true humanity.

The plot begins when Henry VIII first notices Anne (Vol I) and ends with her journey to the scaffold (Vol II). Henry is portrayed a lot more sympathetically than I have read in many other accountings, his relationship with Anne one of equal partners. I personally like how Sandy uniquely portrayed Anne and Henry’s relationship, as most authors portray one or the other as ruling the roost. In many ways, the similarities between Henry and Anne can be viewed as both a strength of their relationship, as well as it’s undoing. All too often, the easy (and in my opinion “lazy”) story is that their relationship cooled after Elizabeth’s birth. This is not the case here! Of course, there are occasional rows throughout (as we know there were), but this is presented as them being a typical married couple.

The story touches upon Anne’s education at the court of Margaret of Austria, her service to Queen Claude of France, and her relationship and admiration for one of the finest figures of the French Renaissance and one of the large players in the Reformation, Marguerite of Navarre.

A wonderful side to Anne’s personality is shown, one that those who have studied her life (such as myself) know about, but all too often gets ignored — namely Anne’s compassion and her charity! This is something that gets a strong focus throughout the books. We see Anne’s devotion to religion, as well as her support of William Tyndale, a man considered a heretic for his challenging of the Roman Catholic Church. Anne  is always portrayed in a caring capacity, such as the kindness she displayed towards one of her servants dying of the sweating sickness epidemic (Vol I). We also gain a glimpse of “the family orientated” Anne. Upset at the rumored whispers that surround her sister Mary, Anne enjoyed a sweet relationship with her mother, as well as a close relationship with her brother — a rapport that was ultimately twisted against them.

That doesn’t mean that the difficult relationship between Anne and her stepdaughter Mary is washed over at all, nor her eventual banishment from court of her sister Mary for marrying a man below her rank. Anne’s pleasure in the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey is also highlighted. We also see many times where Anne tries to guard her tongue and control her temper.

Another special point of both novels is the descriptions throughout of the various locations, such as the palaces, castles, abbeys, and manor homes that Anne and Henry visited. This brings the story to life and will make you feel you are in the story visualising these places. The mention of the “Bayne Tower” at Hampton Court Palace and the bath and sophisticated water system Henry had placed there are a real treat for readers and very informative. Sadly these rooms no longer survive, but you can see the outer building which is now a cafe.

Other highlights include the 1532 trip to Calais and subsequent secret wedding, the coronation, the devotion that Anne has towards her daughter (which admittedly we already know), the personal tragedy of 1534, the 1535 Reformation progress, and of course the tragic end, which shows the great courage that Anne Boleyn possessed.

Sandy clearly understands perfectly the trials and tribulations Anne endured, envisioning her views of how Anne must have felt. As I said previously, Sandy Vasoli truly “gets” Anne Boleyn 100%, presenting her – in what is my own opinion – in the best way Anne has ever been presented in any historical drama, whether that be in movies, television, and other fictional books — even my all time favorite Anne of the Thousand Days. I cannot begin to describe how many times I felt myself going “YES” inside my head while I read it, as I believed parts were just so “spot on”.

These books present Anne as she was: intelligent, charismatic, witty, religious, charitable, passionate, while also occasionally temperamental, hot-headed and sharp-tongued. If you love historical fiction, you will love these as they are easy to read and digest, are beautifully written. You will learn many interesting things about Anne Boleyn, as it is incredibly factual as well.

I long for the day when the Je Anne Boleyn books get turned into a television series or movie.

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ABOUT JAMES PEACOCK

James Peacock

James Peacock

James Peacock is 29 years old and lives in a suburb in Greater London. Originally training and working in Youth and Community, in 2013 he decided to follow in his lifelong passion for history with a particular interest in Anne Boleyn. He currently works at a historical site heavily associated with Anne Boleyn. (See the picture… hint, hint.) In 2014, he set up ‘The Anne Boleyn Society’ which exists to promote and bring awareness to the role that Anne Boleyn contributed to England’s history and her role in the reformation. The Anne Boleyn Society can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@Society_Anne) and Instagram (@society_anne). James also writes articles for queenanneboleyn.com. Visit his blog here at QAB. CLICK HERE!

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QAB Book Review: “The Private Lives of The Tudors” by Tracy Borman

August 26, 2016 in QAB Book Reviews, The Anne Boleyn Society by James Peacock

 

by James Peacock

Editor’s Note: James Peacock is the founder of The Anne Boleyn Society. Visit James on facebook at The Anne Boleyn Society.

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ThePrivateLivesofTheTudors

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The Tudor Dynasty ruled over England for approximately one hundred and eighteen years, a relatively short time when compared to the Plantagenets or the Stuarts rule over Scotland. Still, people with little interest in history are drawn to this period, largely thanks to Showtime’s series The Tudors (2007-2010) and countless Hollywood movies set during the era. Also, this period has something for everyone, including drama, battles, romance, politics — the list is endless. People just can’t get enough of the story of Henry VIII and his six wives or Elizabeth I and her endless suitors, not to mention that inspiring Tilbury speech.

In her latest book The Private Lives of the Tudors, Dr. Tracy Borman takes on a new angle in examining these fascinating people by looking at the private lives of the monarchs and their consorts behind the closed doors of their sumptuous Palaces. Many stereotypes labelled on these people, such as Henry VII being a boring old miser, Edward VI being a puppet King, Mary I being a dried up spinster incapable of fun, and many others are debunked with evidence stating the contrary. Readers will come away from this seeing most – if not all – of these people in a new light.

The book is not intended to be a biography, but more a glimpse into life at the Tudor court, everything from the fashion to diet to hobbies and much more is examined. For example, Henry VII spent excessive amounts of money on rich clothing — a revelation to many. Also enlightening is what we still exists today of items belonging to each of the monarchs and what they can tell us about them as people. My personal favourites were the mementos Elizabeth I kept of her mother Anne Boleyn, as well as the documents and letters Edward VI kept that referenced his mother Jane Seymour.

What is so special about this book is it succeeds in bringing to life the Tudors as real people. It is often not easy to read many history books, and I feel that they often come off as one-dimensional. Instead, Dr. Borman succeeds bringing us as close to the real people that lived so long ago as we possibly can. They come life with real emotions and that is all to Tracy Borman’s credit.

It was also interesting to read more about the set up of meals at court, the number of dishes brought out, and how someone’s status would determine how many courses guests would receive. Other interesting topics include the discussion of clothes and how they would determine someone’s status and wealth, as well as the changing of the fashions over the period. Also of particular interest was the topic of the set up of the Private Apartments, how far people of certain status would get, and what the duties for the vast number of staff attending the monarchs and their consorts consisted off.

Prepare to have the way you view these people challenged, as you learn more about the monarchs behind the glittering crowns and jewels, learn of their struggles to hold onto absolute power through portraiture intended to keep the mystique around the monarchy, whilst also having the personal touch. The only downside is you will definitely wish the book went on for longer.

History lovers and those who find most history books quite dry will easily enjoy this unique look at Tudor History thanks to Dr. Tracy Borman’s easy to read and engaging writing. It truly is a book for everyone — a truly informative and thoroughly enjoyable read.

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Dr. Tracy Borman

Dr. Tracy Borman

Dr. Tracy Borman Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth’s Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where she was awarded a Ph.D in 1997.

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To Purchase One of Dr. Tracy Borman’s Outstanding History Books,

Click the Link Below!

HISTORY BOOKS BY DR. TRACY BORMAN

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QAB Book Review: “Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen” by Alison Weir

May 5, 2016 in Alison Weir Book Reviews & Interviews, News, QAB Book Reviews by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

Katherine of Aragon The True Queen

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Let’s face it “Team Anne Boleyn”, Catalina de Aragón, daughter of the great Isabel de Castilla and Ferdinand de Aragón, first female Ambassador to a sovereign nation in European history, regent of England who led the nation to victory over Scotland in the Battle of Flodden, mother of England’s first Queen Regnant, Princess of Wales, and Queen of England was arguably world history’s greatest Queen Consort.

Think about this for one moment. With the young, chivalrous King Henry VIII playing war games in minor skirmishes with the French, the heavily pregnant Queen Catalina, known affectionately by the English as Queen Katherine, along with the elderly Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, not only successfully defended a Scottish invasion, but also crippled Scotland irrevocably through insuring the battleground deaths of King James IV and most of the Scottish nobility. It is no wonder, then, that years later Thomas Cromwell would obverse quite astutely, “Nature wronged her in not making her a man. But for her sex, she would have surpassed all the heroes of history.”

Right there Cromwell laid bare the truth of the matter — “But for her sex…” This was the 16th century after all. Despite Queen Katherine’s drive, piety, talent, sense of adventure, abundant leadership skills, obvious intellectual brilliance, and rich royal heritage, her fate lay at the feet of men — powerful men such as King Ferdinand of Aragon; King Henry VII of England; Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales; King Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor; Thomas Cardinal Wolsey; Pope Leo X; Pope Clement VII; Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; and most poignantly, the love of her life, King Henry VIII. Unable to produce the male heir thought urgent to preserve the Tudor Dynasty, Katherine of Aragon was damned, stripped of her crown and banished in her final years to a life of depravity and isolation.

Alison Weir begins her Six Tudor Queens novel series by expertly authoring the life story of Catalina de Aragón in her brilliant novel Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen. Easily her strongest historical fiction work to date, Alison crafts with historical astuteness Queen Katherine of Aragon’s life from her arrival in England in 1501 to her death, sensitively portraying Katherine’s maturity from an anxious and homesick princess to a determined, focused and strong queen. Fortunately for the historian but often handicapping to a fiction writer, Queen Katherine of Aragon is very well documented, her own letters as well as the writings of others detailing her opinions and feelings. Alison does an outstanding job allowing her exhaustive research through the years to guide her rich character development of Queen Katherine, filling in what is not known with plausible authenticity. If you are looking for “alternative history”, this book is not for you. There are no surprises or controversial plot moves — the largest liberty taken the use of Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador, to move the plot along to transition historical events.

Character development in general throughout the novel shows a real progress in fiction writing on Alison’s part. I enjoyed her portrayals of King Henry VII; Maria de Salinas, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby; Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and particularly lesser known historical figures, such as Dona Elvira, Philip I of Castile, Juana la Loca, and Fray Diego. King Henry VIII is also delightfully crafted. We see him grow from boisterous child to chivalrous prince to romantic lover to beloved king, and finally to the tyrant so famously immortalized by Hans Holbein. The hallmark strength of this novel, however, is the outstanding crafting of Katherine of Aragon’s relationships with others, particularly those with her parents, two husbands, close friends, mentors, closest servants, and adversaries.

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen is a true tour de forse. Finely crafted, this novel is wonderful historical fiction and an outstanding introduction to the Six Tudor Queens novel series.

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TO PURCHASE Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen
CLICK THE LINK BELOW!!!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alison Weir

Alison Weir

 Alison Weir is the United Kingdom’s most popular and best selling female historian. Alison’s first published work, Britain’s Royal Families, introduced the world to the now recognized genre of  “popular history”, and her sales tell the story. Readers purchased more than 2.7 million books, over 1,000,000 in the United Kingdom, and more than 1,700,000 books in the United States. Rich in detailed research, Alison’s engaging prose captured the interest and imaginations of countless people, instilling a love of history that influenced the career paths of historical fiction writers, historians, and teachers, while also greatly increasing knowledge of medieval English history among people throughout the world. Alison also is a highly accomplished and New York Times best-selling historical fiction novelist. For more information on Alison Weir, visit her website at ALISON WEIR: UK HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR.

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My Top Five Books of 2015, by James Peacock

January 3, 2016 in News, QAB Book Reviews, The Anne Boleyn Society, The Tudor Thomases by James Peacock

by James Peacock, Founder of The Anne Boleyn Society

 

quill birds (252x300)I love a good book, and as those who know me well can vouch, I am rarely seen without a book either with me or near me. In 2015, I read many fantastic books, so in this article I thought I would share my “top five”. I would like to emphasise that it was certainly hard to narrow it down to just five, so I will give some honourable mentions at the end.

Here are my top five books of 2015!

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Elizabeth & Mary

1)  Elizabeth and Mary, Cousins Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn

Many books have been written about Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots, but Jane Dunn looks at both queens from a new perspective focusing on their relationship with one another. Elizabeth and Mary not only had the difficulty of living in a man’s world, they also ruled in one. What’s more, they ruled in neighbouring kingdoms. Both were disappointments upon birth to their fathers due to their gender, and both found themselves judged, every action scrutinised.

Dunn takes on a refreshing and impartial look at the two Queens, highlighting their merits and their faults. First, she points out that their early lives had a great shaping in how they would rule as monarchs. What is more interesting in my opinion is Dunn also highlights how each Queen won and lost in her battle for prominence. Mary succeeded in her goal of making herself a martyr upon her death. Mary’s death, however, also was also the prelude to Elizabeth’s finest hour —  emerging as ‘Gloriana’ upon her sound defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Was Mary the winner between the Queens in the end? Her son James succeeded to the throne of England upon Elizabeth’s death in 1603- and her descendants have continued to rule since. Still, it was a Protestant England James Stuart inherited, an Anglican faith that flourished through the influence of Elizabeth through the ages.

The book itself is packed with information, sources and notes, giving people an impartial look at both Queens.

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Elizabeth and leicester

2) Elizabeth & Leicester by Sarah Gristwood 

Like Elizabeth & Mary, this book focuses entirely on the relationship between Elizabeth I and her favourite ‘bonnie sweet Robin’ and ‘my eyes’ – Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The relationship between these two continues to fascinate in the centuries after their deaths, with numerous TV portrayals and novels. In this book of over 500 pages, Sarah Gristwood examines the close bond between the Virgin Queen and her Master of Horse. It was a relationship in which unusually a woman held all the power, a relationship that was also “the scandal of Europe”, many lurid tales being told in the Catholic courts.

Gristwood starts by examining the early lives of Elizabeth and Dudley, highlighting how their similar childhood experiences helped form their strong bond. Both lost a parent to execution. Both were imprisoned in the Tower during the reign of Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary I. Both experienced favour at court- and then banishment. Thus, it is understandable that they understood each other like no one else could.

Gristwood also gives a more favourable view of Robert Dudley than many historians. Tainted by the reputations of his father and grandfather, Gristwood further examines Dudley’s military accomplishments, as well as his passion for the Protestant faith. She also presents a theory of the mysterious death of Dudley’s first wife, Amy Robsart that few other historians have considered! Additionally, there are chapters on Dudley’s illegitimate son, also called Robert Dudley, as well as Arthur Dudley, who claimed to be the son of Elizabeth and Leicester.

The pages are not packed with sources and notes, but Gristwood does examine every source written about Elizabeth and Leicester. She accomplished this before presenting her own theories and does so in such an incredible way that readers will not feel patronised or bogged down with sources. Instead readers are able to come to their own conclusions.

Alison Weir herself says of this book, “It is quite simply one of the most enthralling history books I’ve ever read”. I agree.

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George Boleyn Tudor Poet, Courtier Diplomat

3) George Boleyn, Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat by Claire Ridgway and Clare Cherry 

George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, younger brother to both Mary Boleyn and Anne Boleyn, is a someone whose story is often told as a side character to his sisters in historical accounts, novels, plays and television.

Most commonly depicted as close ally and beloved brother to Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII of England, and mother of Queen Elizabeth I, very little beyond his devotion to his sister and perceived hatred of his wife is generally highlighted. When so, it is typically in relation to stories highlighting his less famous, but certainly infamous, sister, Mary Boleyn Carey Stafford.

In this biography however, Claire Ridgway, creator of the successful The Anne Boleyn Files site, and her friend, Clare Cherry, a solicitor who has been researching about the life of George Boleyn for many years, set out to uncover just who this enigmatic man was. For the first time, George Boleyn steps right out of the shadows of his sisters and into the limelight himself.

Usually I must admit, I am a tremendously slow reader, taking weeks to finish a book. However with this book, I finished it in less then two weeks, finding the pace of writing, dialogue and style in which the book has been laid out incredibly absorbing to read.

The authors make no excuses for George’s less than remarkable qualities, but they do point out – with strong evidence to back it up – how George’s rise was not only down to his sisters position, but also his own intelligence and charm. George, in many ways, was a calming influence over his more hot-tempered sister Anne. Thus, many of the Boleyn enemies – Cavendish, Chapuys and others – grudgingly acknowledged George’s more remarkable attributes.

The book charts the background of the Boleyns, possibilities about George’s upbringing, and his rise and fall from power. Additionally, it dispels the myths around his marriage to Jane Parker. It also looks at the possible descendants of George Boleyn in Ireland, and whether George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, in the reign of George’s niece Elizabeth I, was an illegitimate son of George.

This biography has succeeds in taking George Boleyn right of the shadows of his sisters, and shows him for the intelligent and charismatic man that he is. It does not set out to make him a saint, but it does show how George Boleyn was an important figure in his own right in English history.

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Anne Boleyns Letter From The Tower

4) Anne Boleyn’s Letter from the Tower: A New Assessment by Sandra Vasoli

“To the King from the Lady in the Tower” — the famous letter has caused debate – and not to mention has puzzled historians – ever since it was first discovered. The letter is dated 6th May 1536, yet did Anne write it? And if so, why call herself ‘The Lady in the Tower’? And if it wasn’t written by Anne, then who wrote it?

Sandi delves into the subject straight away. In fact, as the book is only just over 60 pages long, she wastes no time in getting to the point. Sandi examines the letter paragraph by paragraph, its tone and style of writing. Sandi points out that the grammar and and style of speech is familiar to early-mid 1500’s. She goes on to trace how the original letter could have been passed from Cromwell to Ralph Sadler, then to William Cecil, then to William Camden, before finally ending up with Robert Cotton.

The original letter was badly damaged by a house fire in 1730s. Copies of the letter survive, however. Perhaps Cromwell kept it from the King so he would not change his mind over Anne’s fate. Sandi also gives a possible timeline for the famous letter. Without wanting to give too much away and spoil it for those that haven’t read it, you will come away from reading this convinced that the letter is genuine. Quite a few recent historians believe the letter to be a forgery. Some don’t even mention it in their work. But Sandi’s new and convincing assessment and incredible detective work shines a new light on this letter and will convince many of its authenticity.

During her research for this book and her second novel, the follow-up to her recent Je Anne Boleyn: Struck with the Dart of Love, Sandi uncovered some fascinating new evidence of King Henry VIII’s deathbed regret over the fate of Anne Boleyn. “The King acknowledges with great grief at his death the injuries he had done to the Lady Anne Boleyn and her daughter” is written on a sheet of disconnected recordings about Anne’s death, followed by several lines written in French. Sandi discovered this startling new evidence, originally written by André Thevet, a former Franciscan monk who was “in no way partial” to predetermined views on Anne.

André  Thevet visited, and most likely lived in the Greenwich Franciscan Friar, a friary located in the building adjoining Greenwich Palace. It is interesting that Thevet, an opponent of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, records Henry’s grief and remorse for what happened to Anne. Even more astonishingly, Thevet does not record Henry’s grief over others that he ordered to be put to death. An interesting discovery, this certainly adds an interesting dimension to the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

I recommend, urge, even beg, anyone with even a slight interest in history, to read this book. It is not at all long (just over 60 pages), packed with notes and sources, excellently researched — and is more like sitting down to a cup of tea (or something stronger if that is your preference), enjoying a chat with Sandi.

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Thomas Cranmer by Beth von Staats

5) Thomas Cranmer: In a Nutshell by Beth von Staats

Now I know what some of you may be thinking…  I am only adding this because Beth is the administrator of this website. Well I can tell you that is certainly not the case, and anyone that has read Beth’s excellent mini-biography on Archbishop Thomas Cranmer will agree with me that it is an excellent book.  Having read articles by Beth von Staats before on various subjects, I knew I was in for a good read. I was right.

This short book on Cranmer is so absorbing I very much doubt anyone will be able to put it down until they have finished it. There is the only problem.  You won’t want it to end. I’ve learnt so much about England’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury through this book, my respect for the Archbishop Cranmer has gone up – and it was already high to begin with. In this short biography, Beth manages to get the key points across very well. You really get to know Cranmer the man, as much as you learn about Cranmer the Archbishop and politician. I found Beth’s writing of Cranmer’s final years very moving. Cranmer is known a great Protestant martyr  – a title I believe he completely deserves after reading this book.

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My honourable mentions go to: Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell by Sarah Bryson; The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII” by Suzannah Lipscomb; “The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway; Katherine The Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr by Linda Porter; Sisters to the King: The Tulmultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France by Maria Perry; Katherine Howard: A New History by Conor Byrne; Tudor Wales by Nathen Amin; Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood, The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femme Fatales who changed History by Elizabeth Norton, and The Anne Boleyn Papers by Elizabeth Norton.

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QAB Book Review: “Cecily Neville, Mother of Kings” by Amy Licence

April 21, 2015 in QAB Book Reviews by Mary Rose Tudor UK Z

By Marisa Levy

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Cecily Neville and Richard Plantagenet

Cecily Neville and Richard Plantagenet

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Thou shalt, where thou livest, year by year

The most part of thy time spend

In making of a glorious legend

Of good women, maidens and wives

That were true in loving and all their lives.

— Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women —

Used in Amy Licence’s biography: Cecily Neville

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Now that Richard III has been laid to rest, I thought this would be the perfect time to review the only biography about the mother of Edward IV and Richard III, Amy Licence’s biography Cecily Neville, Mother of Kings.  I recently started to study the War of Roses, which I found to be a fascinating, yet complicated era in English History. So many Nevilles, Buckinghams, Percys, and Yorks. Amy Licence’s genealogical tables helped make sense of these dynastic families. I became intrigued by Cecily Neville during my studies. Cecily, a woman known as the Rose of Raby and Proud Cis, her claim to be “queen by right'” was born in 1415 and died in 1495. She died during the reign of Henry VII, the king who killed her son and married her granddaughter. During her long life span, she witnessed victories and suffered great personal losses. It has taken Amy Licence to let this fascinating women’s story be told.

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

In Amy Licence’s introduction, she explains the difficulty of researching Cecily Neville:

” Writing a biography on Cecily Neville has been rather like striking a series of matches in the dark. There are moments when she steps forward and claims the historical limelight, when rumors question the paternity of her son Edward, or the moment she hears of his victory following the battle of Towton. But her voice is muted. A couple of letters survive and her household ordinances outline her routine in old age; more faintly still, she can be glimpsed inside the Great Hall at Raby Castle, or among ruins at Fortheringhay or Berkhamsted. Most often she is omitted altogether from records, even at times she must have been suffering or celebrating the most. A large proportion of her life lies amid the darkness of lost records and burned letters.”

Amy Licence’s research is excellent. Since only a few letters survive, a lot of conjectures and speculation must be made. Cecily seemed to have a successful and loving relationship with her husband Richard, Duke of York. She traveled with him as often as possible and ran his estates diligently when he was away. From the 13 children born to them, their marriage was intimate until her husband’s death. The rumors of Cecily having an affair with a common archer, who fathered Edward IV, contradicts the way she led her life. I also find it impossible for a man as proud as Richard Plantagenet to allow Edward to be his heir if their was any hint of impropriety. Richard, Duke of York, does not strike me like a man to be cuckolded.

King Edward IV

King Edward IV

I found this book to be very informative about the War of Roses, as well as giving us a glimpse into Cecily’s life. I believe a novice or expert alike would find this book to be an excellent read. My favorite chapters were the ones about Cecily’s relationship with her sons. How could she unite Edward and George again? The pain she must have endured with George’s execution and Edward’s death is stunning. Amy License makes us think about the humanity of this proud and noble woman. Did she feel that Richard would provide more stability for England instead of  her grandsons? Did her heart go out to Edward’s children? How did she feel about her granddaughter marrying the man who killed her youngest son in battle? While we can not judge through the eyes of the twenty-first century, we can’t help but wonder how this woman dealt with and endured so much tragedy. As a mother, I can only sympathize with her anguish of the loss of her children. Cecily called herself “queen by rite”, but she was the mother of two kings, the grandmother of a queen, and the great grandmother of King Henry VIII.

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Amy Licence

Amy Licence

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Amy Licence is an English historian of medieval women, powerful and common, Queens consorts and monarchs, rich and poor — particularly women living in the late 15th and 16th centuries. Topics of special interest include gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. Amy also has an enviable expertise and interest in the Wars of the Roses. Besides Amy’s non-fiction historical books, she also is a prolific journalist, regularly contributing the New Statesman and The Huffington Post. For more information on Amy’s varied interests, check out her pinboard on Pininterest at http://www.pinterest.com/amylicence/.

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To Purchase Cecily Neville, Mother of Kings

CLICK THE LINK BELOW!!

Cecily Neville, Mother of Kings

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QAB Book Review: “The Tapestry” by Nancy Bilyeau

March 24, 2015 in QAB Book Reviews by Beth von Staats

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TheTapestry

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Exquisite in detail, painstaking in craftsmanship, and blinding bright in color, the immense and glittering woolen with gold and silver thread tapestries collected by King Henry VIII were the most treasured and luxurious art form of the Tudor Era. While Hans Holbein the Younger was paid a mere 40£ a year for his genius in portraiture, King Henry, eighth of his name, gladly paid thousands of pounds for each of his exhaustive inventory of tapestries, one and all telling the story of Henry’s identification with historic, religious and mythical figures, one and all taking the breath away from his wives, mistresses, ministers, courtiers and subjects of his realm. Among those in awe of King Henry VIII’s tapestry collection was Joanna Stafford, lead protagonist of Nancy Bilyeau’s third in a trilogy of brilliant novels The Tapestry.

As established in Nancy Bilyeau’s previous novels The Crown and The Chalice, Joanna Stafford, niece of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was a prelate nun at Dartford Priory. Displaced like many clerical men and women in the era by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Nancy’s third novel, The Tapestry, brilliantly continues to draw the reader into Joanna’s incredible life journey, and in doing so, crafts a downright bone-chilling thriller of a woman stalked, hunted by mysterious forces out to kill her – not only for what she had done, but also most pointedly for what she left undone. A clear shift from The Crown and The Chalice, both novels depicting Joanna Stafford chasing her destiny, The Tapestry instead takes the reader on a fast paced thrill ride of Joanna being chased, her very survival reliant on her courage, intuition and wits, as well as those of her cherished friends, some fictional, others familiar.

As the novel opens, Joanna Stafford immediately encounters a major dilemma. She receives a letter from Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal. Called to court to craft a tapestry for King Henry VIII himself, Joanna’s quiet and peaceful life is disrupted. Once she leaves her beloved town of Dartford, Joanne quickly becomes the quarry of her unknown enemies. Boom! Just like that, in less words mind you, the action filled plot unfolds. As also true in The Crown and The Chalice, the plot is nothing short of master class story telling, blending the lives of expertly developed fictional characters and well known historical figures. Descriptive detail is spot on historically accurate, demonstrating exhaustive research and an outstanding aptitude for the era. Far more so than the previous two novels, historical figures of the era, such as Hans Holbein, Thomas Culpepper, Henry Howard and others I will leave unsaid, step up to take center stage. Unforced and plot driven, Nancy’s characterizations of people so well known to many Tudorphiles do not disappoint.

Beyond the clear merits of all three novels, each read on its own a delightful journey, I personally enjoyed witnessing Nancy Bilyeau’s craftsmanship as a novelist develop with each new work she completes. The Tapestry shows her enhanced attention to capturing the emotion and humanity of not only Joanna Stafford and her friends, but also the historical figures they encounter. Through this enhanced focus, Joanna now sees not only the evils of those she opposes, but also their personal challenges, weaknesses and basic human decency. This shows most pronounced in her characterizations of Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII, both written with the complexities they possessed – power and cruelty, brilliance and manipulation, empathy and compassion.

The Tapestry is truly an outstanding novel that deserves to “break out” as a blockbuster historical fiction New York Times best-seller read. Step aside and bend a knee, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex. Lay down for a moment your novels, plays and mini-series success. Joanna Stafford is in the house.

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Nancy Bilyeau 3

Nancy Bilyeau, who lives in New York City, is the executive editor of DuJour magazine. A prolific award nominated and short list placing screen play writer, Nancy also previously worked on the staffs of InStyleRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal.  A lover of medieval English history, Nancy’s debut novel, The Crown released in 2012 and her follow-up novel, The Chalice in 2013. Her novels combine historical fiction and thrillers, detailing the exploits of Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun living during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers appreciates Nancy’s support of the website from it’s early inception, and we are proud that she is our first contributing published author. For more information, visit Nancy’s website at http://www.nancybilyeau.com/index.php.

The Tapestry releases today in the United States and will release in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia on April 24, 2015.

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY IN THE USA

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The Tapestry

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TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY IN THE UK

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The Tapestry

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QAB Book Review: THE WORLD OF RICHARD III, by Kristie Dean

February 9, 2015 in 2015 King Richard III Tribute, QAB Book Reviews by Beth von Staats

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Kristie Dean book

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For all English History lovers, especially loyal Ricardians, these are exciting and “controversial” times! With the discovery of King Richard III’s body buried under a Leicester parking lot in September 2012 and subsequent planned reinternment services in Leicester in March 2015, hearty debate over King Richard III’s legacy, as well as where he should be honored and buried and a host of other related topics kept English History lovers, historians, politicians, and Plantagenet descendants debating spiritedly for over two years now.

Whether viewed as a tragic and heroic king or child murderer, King Richard III is “big news”. And why not?  He was the last English monarch killed in battle and the last Plantagenet king, after all. That at least should trump King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell — and come March 2015, Wolf Hall  mini-series or not, King Richard III certainly will. Bend a knee my lord Cromwell, Earl of Essex. His Grace has entered the cathedral. King Richard III rules now.

I confess. Shoot me. I am a Tudorphile and have been for years. My focus of interest has always been the men around the monarchs — Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Wyatt, Thomas Boleyn, Thomas Norfolk and Thomas Tallis. Let’s just say I have an unusual attraction to “all things Thomas”. So, when Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall released, I immediately digested the book whole. When she and the novel went viral and Thomas Cromwell’s legacy was reevaluated in a more positive light, I was in “nerd heaven”.

So yes, as hard as it is for me to accept, I get it. There are people out there that love the history of the Plantagenets and the Lancasters as much as I love the Tudors — and people who love the history of the Wars of the Roses as much as I love the history of the Henrican and Protestant Reformations. Now I do think these people are all a bit odd with their endless debating about who killed the Princes in the Tower and where King Richard III’s bones should rest, but it is what it is. They are obsessed. I am obsessed. We are kindred spirits.

Meet Kristie Dean, the obsessed historian. Forget the “car park story”. This woman has loved “all things Wars of the Roses” for as long as most people have loved their favorite sports team, their favorite beverage of choice, their own mothers. We all have a friend like Kristie — you know, the sports fanatic who travels all over the country to see his favorite team, the friend that collects every single piece of “royalty souvenir” she can find, and the friend with 500 dolls or 200 autographed soccer or rugby balls.

What is Kristie’s obsession? In her love for the history of King Richard III, she traveled extensively, following his life story through the places his lived, visited or battled upon. Now that sounds like a pretty expensive hobby to me, but the delightful result is this. Kristie is releasing a book through Amberley Publishing, a mixture of travel guide and historical accounting. Through her “nerd heaven”, we all will have an outstanding resource both for travelers and people like me, people who are interested in an introductory history of England’s last Plantagenet king. After all, I owe it to Thomas More. The Patron Saint of politicians and statesmen never finished his biography, so I was curious.

The World of Richard III is a fantastic book. Why? It is a great “all purpose” read that covers a ton of ground in introducing the life of King Richard III and his family in a highly interesting and engaging way. I must admit that Kristie Dean was downright “sneaky” about it though. By introducing the remarkable historical castles, homes, cathedrals, abbeys, monasteries, ruins and battlefields throughout Great Britain and Europe that King Richard III lived, visited, frequented or literally fought for the York cause or later his very throne, I learned a great deal about the man himself. I will never be able to see the remarkable prose of Saint Thomas More in the same light again — and that is a good thing for both the lawyer and the king he villainized.

In all seriousness, The World of Richard III is an outstanding resource, not only for history lovers, but also for travelers or those interested in castles, cathedrals, monasteries and medieval architecture. Kristie Dean sets out by bringing readers on extensive tour of King Richard III’s life, beginning with his place of birth, the ruins of Fotheringhay Castle all the way to his place of death, Bosworth Battlefield. At each stop along the way, Kristie provides a comprehensive history of the location as well as King Richard III’s relation it it, details related to the present use of the site if applicable, and even admissions prices if such applies. Beyond all this, Kristie seamlessly slips in other points of history unrelated to the Wars of the Roses when the opportunity presents itself.

If you are interested in English history or are just wondering what all the “King Richard III hullabaloo” is about, pick up your copy of The World of Richard III. This fine book releases on February 15, 2015 throughout the United Kingdom and on April 19, 2015 in the United States.

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Kristi Dean

Kristie Dean

Kristie Dean holds a Master’s Degree in History and now enjoys teaching the subject, following a successful career in public relations. She has been published on several online magazines and local newspapers and presented a paper at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. She lives in Tennessee, USA. To learn more about Kristi, visit her website at Kristie Dean.

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Kristie Dean book

TO PURCHASE THE WORLD OF RICHARD III

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THE WORLD OF RICHARD III

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QAB Book Review: WOLF HALL, by Hilary Mantel

January 22, 2015 in 2015 Tribute to Hilary Mantel, News, QAB Book Reviews by Cyndi Williamson

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wolf hall book cover

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by Cyndi Williamson

With all the hype surrounding the premier of BBC’s Wolf Hall mini-series, I decided some attention needed to be placed upon the first novel written by Hilary Mantel. After all, it was the driving force for all that came after. Without the original Wolf Hall, there would be no Bring Up the Bodies, no repeat Man Booker Prizes, no plays, no mini-series, no Damien Lewis in tights, and no portrait of Hilary Mantel hanging in the British Library.

When people ask me which is my favorite Tudor novel, my answer is always the same, Wolf Hall. The story is a familiar one, with the usual cast of characters, but Hilary Mantel has done something outstanding. She has made all of the old faces new again, by changing the perspective in which we see them. The story is seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, the usual villain of Tudor lore. Mantel has created him as her protagonist, and given her readers the opportunity to see him in a much more human capacity.

Wolf Hall takes you from Cromwell’s humble beginnings, being abused by his father in an ale yard, through his service to Cardinal Wolsey, and on to his rise in the court of Henry VIII. Mantel never lets us forget Cromwell’s low birth, and she is careful to keep his admiration for his mentor, Wolsey, always in mind.  Her Thomas Cromwell is a husband, father, brother, servant, mentor, and friend. Her Thomas Cromwell is a self-taught man, a genius, and hard worker. Her Cromwell is like no other that I have ever encompassed — and I liked him.

The people and events in King Henry VIII’s court take on different personas seen through Cromwell’s eyes, and they evolve with Cromwell as his situations and experiences change. We see the people he loves and the people he hates very clearly, as Cromwell does not afford respect nor affection to those he does not love. From his perpetual antagonism for Stephen Gardiner to his devotion to his children, we can feel his animosity, or smile as he bemoans his son’s atrocious Latin . When Cromwell is haunted by the memory of his daughter, we can see her tiny hand turning the page in a Book of Hours, and grieve with him.

Mantel’s descriptions of her characters are very detailed, as Cromwell was a detail oriented man. Her scenes are set in a manner that shows the very cost, the weight, and the detail of a gown, a carpet, or even a candle. As Cromwell measures the luxury or lack in a thing, the reader can see it, feel it, and smell it. For example, when Cromwell is mired in at Calais with the king and court, waiting for good weather to sail, one can  feel the oppression of the chilly rain, which contrasts sharply with the lush furs worn by Mary Boleyn.

The prose in Wolf Hall is astounding. Cromwell has just the right turn of phrase, the descriptions are vivid, and the words lend themselves easily to the imagination of the reader. This novel richly deserved its awards, as Mantel paints pictures with words, and even if you know the story, it is fresh and enticing. For example, Thomas More’s resignation as Chancellor looks different, when viewed from a window with Cromwell and Anne.

Mantel spent as much attention to the historical accuracy of this novel as she did the brilliant prose.  While some might take issue with the portrayal of their favorite Tudor character, it is seen through the eyes of Cromwell, and where the thoughts and daily conversations are fiction, the events and places are spot on. There were many places in the novel that I decided to further explore the history of some of the lesser known figures, and double check what I thought I knew about the period. That is crucial to me in a historical novel. Mantel tells us a story, and makes us want more.

As Wolf Hall drew to a close after the execution of Thomas More, which is poignantly underplayed, I found myself experiencing a myriad of emotion. I turned back to the first page and started my journey with Cromwell again.

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WOLF HALL starring Mark Rylance premiers on BBC2 beginning January 22, 2015 in the United Kingdom and on PBS on April 5, 2015 in the United States.

WOLF HALL starring Mark Rylance premiers on BBC2 beginning January 21, 2015 in the United Kingdom and on PBS beginning April 5, 2015 in the United States.

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WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring Ben Miles will premiers on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 2015.

WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring Ben Miles both premier on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 2015.

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AUTHOR HIGHLIGHT

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is a highly acclaimed, award winning English historical fiction writer of novels and short stories. A two time Man Booker Prize Award honored author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, both novels featuring Thomas Cromwell as main character, Hilary Mantel is currently composing the final novel of her Tudor Era trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. 

Considered by many to be the world’s finest historical fiction author writing in the English language, Hilary Mantel’s first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985. Since then, Mantel’s exhaustive body of work includes a variety of stellar novels and short story compilations. Her commitment to and interest in composing compelling short stories greatly enhanced the genre’s popularity with readers and continued publishing viability.

Awards and prizes bestowed upon Hilary Mantel for extraordinary accomplishment in literature include the following: Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize 1987, Southern Arts Literature Prize 1990, The Cheltenham Prize 1990, Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize 1990, Sunday Express Book of the Year 1992, Hawthornden Prize 1996, CBE 2006, Yorkshire Post Book Award (Book of the Year) 2006, Costa Novel Award 2009, Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2009, National Book Critics’ Circle Award (US) 2009, James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) 2010, Walter Scott Prize 2010, and Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2012.

A portrait of Hilary Mantel, the creativity of Nick Lord, is on display at the British Library. She is the only living author to be bestowed such honor.

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Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

TO PURCHASE A BOOK AUTHORED BY HILARY MANTEL

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BOOKS BY HILARY MANTEL ON AMAZON.COM

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Book Review: CHAUCER’S TALE 1386 and the Road to Canterbury by Paul Strohm

November 16, 2014 in QAB Book Reviews by Beth von Staats

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“And high above, depicted in a tower,
Sat Conquest, robed in majesty and power,
Under a sword that swung above his head,
Sharp-edged and hanging by a subtle thread.”
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

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In 1386, Geoffrey Chaucer made a monumental decision. Estranged from his wife and children, evicted from his London home, terminated from his patronized job managing the customs of the Wool Wharf, Geoffrey Chaucer left London and ran into exile to save his skin and dove headfirst into his writing — the results his masterpiece for the ages, The Canterbury Tales. 

Professor Paul Strohm, once J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, focuses his research and full attention to Geoffrey Chaucer’s most acute major life crisis, the year 1386, and constructs a highly detailed and fascinating micro biography which illustrates just how crisis can turn to opportunity, in Chaucer’s case how tragedy and adversity in one short year launched him to genius and immortality.

The fruits of Professor Strohm’s research is quite enlightening. For more that 20 years prior to the commencement of Chaucer’s opus, I was surprised to learn that his poetry was shared with only with those close to him, the watershed of 1386 finally pushing Chaucer to finally focus on his brilliance rather then the comforts of the privilege he enjoyed in partial measure from his marriage to Phillipa Roet, friend of the King Richard II and the sister-in-law of John of Gaunt.

Beyond Professor’s Strohm’s stellar analysis of Geoffrey Chaucer the man, I was most fascinated by his exquisite detailing of medieval life in London, as well as the political drama that Chaucer became entangled in. Medieval lovers will be enthralled by the detail, but those reading Strohm’s work to learn of just how 1386 leads to his literary brilliance crafted in The Canterbury Tales will need to be patient. The background details that will fascinate medieval history enthusiasts dominate at least the first half of the book.

John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancester enthusiasts beware! Professor Strohm’s conclusions of the forefather of both King Henry VIII and his first wife Catalina de Aragón are downright scathing. Is his analysis of John of Gaunt accurate? I will leave that to historians to decide. Whatever the truth of the matter, the argument is compelling and highly engaging.

Chaucer’s Tale, 1386 and the Road to Canterbury is not a book for everyone, nor is it intended to be. Geoffrey Chaucer lovers and medieval history enthusiasts, however, will find this a highly enjoyable, fascinating and engaging read. Chaucer’s own words best illustrate the fruit of Professor Strohm’s accomplishments. “Gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.” Amen.

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Professor Paul Strohm, Ph.D

Professor Paul Strohm, Ph.D

Professor Paul Strohm, Anna S. Garbedian Professor Emeritus of the Humanities at Columbia University in New York City, also most recently was the  J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. A world renowned expert in medieval literature, Professor Strohm concentrates his studies upon the transition of literature from the medieval to early modern eras of English History. His previous publications include: Social Chaucer (Harvard, 1989, 1994); Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts(Princeton, 1992); England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and Textual Legitimation, 1399-1422(Yale UK, 1998); Theory and the Premodern Text (Minnesota, 2000);  and Politique: Languages of Statecraft Between Chaucer and Shakespeare (Notre Dame, 2005).

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To Purchase Chaucer’s Tale, 1386 and the Road to Canterbury, Click the Link Below!

Chaucer’s Tale, 1386 and the Road to Canterbury

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QAB Book Review: Je Anne Boleyn ~Struck With The Dart Of Love, by Sandra Vassoli

October 20, 2014 in QAB Book Reviews by Mary Rose Tudor UK Z

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” ‘ Henry, ‘ I said, stroking the sweat-soaked hair at his temple, ‘ we are each a part of the other, just as you have told me so many times, my darling.’ He murmured sleepily in my ear. ‘ I know Nan. You are my heart and my soul. There is no height we cannot reach together.’ “

A passage from Je Anne Boleyn~ STRUCK WITH THE DART OF LOVE

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I have had the privilege of representing our website as Queen Anne Boleyn on Twitter. I have learned from my portrayal of Anne that she fascinates more today then she did in the sixteenth century. From my experience, Anne is one of England’s most misunderstood but beloved queens. I come in contact with thousands of people that worship Anne and cannot get their hands on enough novels and biographies written about the first English queen who was executed.

Je Anne Boleyn~ STRUCK WiTH THE DIARY OF LOVE, by Sandra Vasoli, is the latest Anne Boleyn novel that was published this year. Sandra’s version of Anne and Henry’s courtship was derived by the love letters that Henry wrote to Anne. This is not a scheming Anne, but an Anne who falls deeply in love with the king of England. Henry was not the overweight sovereign with a putrid leg when Anne met him. He was in his prime and was considered to be a handsome Renaissance king. Why would a woman not be dazzled to catch the eye of this magnificent monarch?

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Ms. Vasoli did an excellent job of researching her subject, even adding little known facts such as the name of one of Henry’s favorite horses. She beautifully conveys one of the most fascinating love stories in history. She shows the reader the qualities that Henry and Anne shared, which made him turn England upside down, and start a new religion to marry Anne and make her his queen. You may think you know their love story, but Ms. Vasoli’s methodical research of Henry’s letters conveys the passion, love, wit and intelligence that they shared. Ms. Vasoli could tell by the difference in Henry’s handwriting when he was distraught with the fear of losing her or worried about her well being. This is a book that you want to find a cozy nook, put your feet up and lose yourself in their love story.

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Ms. Vasoli also shows us the side of Anne that was not so pretty, such as her verbal outrages over Wolsey not doing anything to help the King in his “Great Matter”; her impatience after so many years of waiting and not getting closer to their goal; and her youth being spent waiting for an annulment, which never seemed to make any progress. Anne lived in limbo, and the reader could understand Anne’s feelings of despair and jealousy of Katherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary Tudor.

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The truth is that it is impossible to know the real Anne Boleyn. Most of our information comes from the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, who many historians believe was too biased against Anne to give us any true insight into who she was. We also will never know what she looked like, but Sandra Vassoli gives us an Anne that is believable and captivating. This novel is perfect for a novice as well as an academic due to Ms. Vassoli’s excellent writing, attention to details and her meticulous research. The book starts with Henry and Anne’s courtship and finishes in 1533. I look forward to Volume 2. I would highly recommend Je Anne Boleyn to any Anne aficionado.

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Written by Marisa Levy

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Sandra Vasoli is an historical fiction writer from Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, USA. A graduate with a dual degree in English and Biology from Villanova University, Sandy enjoyed a long term career of leadership and organization development before turning her attention to her passions of writing and Tudor Era history. Sandy has written all her life: essays, stories, and articles, but Je Anne Boleyn: Struck with the Dart of Love is her first work of published fiction. Sandy’s career, working for several of the largest companies in the world, allowed her the study of people, especially those in leadership positions. Thus, she is keenly interested in the bold and insightful qualities possessed by Anne Boleyn. For more information about Sandra Vasoli, visit her website at http://sandravasoli.com/.

To purchase, click the link below!

Je Anne Boleyn, Struck with the Dart of Love (Volume I)

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