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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Guest Post: Excerpt — JE ANNE BOLEYN, STRUCK WITH THE DART OF LOVE and Eric Ives Tribute by Sandra Vasoli

May 16, 2014 in 2014 May Tribute to Queen Anne Boleyn, Guest Writers by Beth von Staats

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Renowned Historian Eric Ives

Renowned Historian Eric Ives

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Excerpt from Je Anne Boleyn Struck with the Dart of Love

with a tribute to Professor Eric Ives

by Sandra Vasoli

The first part of a two volume series, Je Anne Boleyn: Struck with the Dart of Love, was published very recently. ‘Je Anne Boleyn’ is taken directly from an inscription made by Anne, which loosely translates as ‘I, Anne Boleyn’. It seemed to me a fitting title, since this series is a fictional memoir, as would have been recounted by Anne herself.

Of course, as a part of my research, I read Professor Eric Ives’ marvelous and transformational biography of Anne Boleyn from cover to cover. I share the profound admiration expressed by almost every reader of Professor Ives’ work for his thoroughness, his comprehensive interpretation of the available facts about Anne’s life and times, and his readability. There was something he presented, though, which I found so compelling, so different to anything else I had ever read about Anne, that it confirmed my beliefs about her, and encouraged me to try to speak with her own voice in a telling of her story. For the first time, at least in my experience, here was a historian intent on providing this woman her due right. His view of the history available to us today, 478 years after her death, is the observation of a woman clearly ahead of her time: one who paved the way for other female leaders and women of accomplishment to bravely step forward and assert themselves. This may appear to be a statement in the extreme, but I don’t believe it is. The loss of Professor Ives is sad and untimely. His thinking and his contributions, as well as his personal warmth, are much missed.

In the Preface to his book The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, he very logically and systematically presents the case that Anne was, indeed, an exceptional woman, by any standards, then or now. He suggests that a monarch as powerful and as charismatic as Henry VIII would not have pursued a woman of mediocre intelligence or appeal for over six years. He proceeds to point out that, in a day when most women were illiterate, Anne was fluently bilingual, and was extremely well read in theology and the classics; able to converse about such topics, not only easily, but convincingly. She was very evidently an early female patron of the Renaissance arts in England, encouraging and admiring works by Italian masters, and fundamental in the establishment of Hans Holbein the Younger as a prolific court painter; a documenter of the notable men and women of the time. Anne was a woman of great style and personal self awareness, setting trends – and, no doubt, invoking great jealousy among other women – as trendsetters do, even today. Ives describes her as ‘captivating, sharp, assertive, subtle, calculating, vindictive’. Moreover, Professor Ives states in no uncertain terms that Anne married for love. He also observes that through knowing Anne as best we can, we seek and try to understand her husband and the mate of her soul, Henry.

In my favorite passage, Professor Ives describes Anne in this very powerful way: “although we cannot recover Anne in sharp focus, she does come through as more than two-dimensional, more than a silhouette. She was the most influential and important queen consort this country has ever had. Indeed, Anne deserves to be a feminist icon, a woman in a society which was, above all else, male-dominated, who broke through the glass ceiling by sheer character and initiative.”

Hear hear, Professor Ives.

Thank you.

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Hever Castle, Kent

Hever Castle, Kent

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Excerpt from Je Anne Boleyn: Struck With the Dart of Love

Hever

March 1527

I did not know what to do.

The enigma caused me great agitation. I admired decisiveness, yet my mind continuously sought a way forward, and nothing came. I knew the King wanted me – but what was the true nature of his heart? Of that I could not be certain. I longed to be his – a desire greater than I had imagined possible for any man. My determination to avoid becoming his mistress, though, was at war with my yearning for him. While the role of mâitresse would fulfill my need to be with him, I feared that in the very briefest amount of time the lustre would fade, and the relationship cheapened in a way I could not tolerate. Hence, there seemed no possibility of anything more between me and Henry, since the Queen, although ageing, still appeared healthy and strong.

Around and around ran my thoughts ’til, in an effort to seek some peace, I decided to ask permission to go home to Hever for a while.

As always, my lady mother was there for me; a support and friend when one was needed most. I held my mother in great esteem, and hoped that I had inherited at least a few of her fine qualities. She was an elegant woman, now forty-two years of age, and in good health. This was somewhat surprising, considering she had withstood so many difficult pregnancies in succession, and endured the heartbreak of several children’s early deaths. She was nobly born, having been a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk – my grandfather, Thomas Howard – and was descended from 13th century English royalty. As a girl she had served in the court of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and then had spent considerable time as a lady in waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. It was through these experiences that she’d adopted the grace and poise she was known for. She carried herself with an aristocratic air and great dignity, no matter the circumstances, and I admired this attribute greatly. Her features had a delicate beauty, with enviably smooth skin. It was a face I loved very much, and nothing in the world could replace the comfort and reassurance I felt when I looked upon it.

While the cold rains of March fell, I busied myself with the daily tasks of helping to run the large household at my parents’ estate. My father was not present, being one of a diplomatic envoy recently departed for France. The King was in pursuit of a treaty which might pave the way for the marriage of the Princess Mary to the Duke of Orléans, and there was much to do to achieve that objective. So my mother and I had time to ourselves, and I leaned on her to listen and to give me her advice.

Mother, I am in a predicament from which I see no apparent way out,” I lamented, letting out a groan as we sorted and organized linens for the bedchambers. The weather was utterly dreary, raw and chill, and I felt exactly the same way. “I may as well remain here for the long term, and not return to court at all because it is simply too trying when I am in the company of the King. And, oh, it is even worse when I am near Katherine! She has turned very sharp with me, and there is such tension between us. It is clear she suspects an affair is taking place behind her back … yet the irony of it is that her suspicions are completely unfounded. Here I am at Hever, while the King is at Greenwich, and there is nothing – nothing at all – taking place between us.”

My mother allowed me to twaddle on, patiently tolerating my inclination to unload all my imagined troubles. I grant this tendency sometimes got the best of me. It seemed especially rife at certain times of the month, between my monthly course. I do not know why, but when the headaches came upon me and I felt generally awful, it was almost impossible for me to keep my mouth closed and my peevish reflections to myself. I tried to contain those impulses, but was all too often unsuccessful.

Anne,” she hurried to interject during a brief pause in my grumblings, “all I can tell you is that you need to be honest with yourself. You must do, as concerns the King, what your true heart and your conscience tells you. You know I would not say such a thing in earshot of your father, but I firmly believe that women must do whatever they can to assert their rights. Discreetly, yes – but do their best to live a life which will be meaningful and gratifying to them.”

Mother! I know you have a mind of your own, but had not realized you were quite so progressive in your thinking!”

For me, that opinion has become stronger with age, my daughter,” she said ruefully. “Women have so much to offer, yet very little of it is ever allowed to be expressed. My talents might have served to accomplish more than just the management of this house, but there was no opportunity for me to exercise them. Perhaps it will be different with you, Anne. Your intelligence and accomplishments are prodigious.”

What high praise indeed, Mother.” I was touched by her generous compliment. It served to quickly banish my grumpiness. “You know that your advice means a great deal to me. I will take it to heart, I promise. And I could not agree with you more – in my reasoning, there is no validity to the perception that a woman cannot govern a city, a country … even an empire if she possesses the wit, courage, and desire to do so. I am keenly interested in what goes on at court. I do not mean the idle gossip and uninformed speculation. No, I find myself more intrigued by the political complexities, and the debates and decisions which result. The important decisions! The ones which affect not only England, but the entire world. I find it fascinating. Oh how I would welcome the chance to express my opinions on matters of such consequence.”

Deliberating further, I glumly concluded, “Sometimes I think I should have been a man! Life would have been so much easier.”

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Sandra Vasoli

Sandra Vasoli

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/.

Je Anne Boleyn: Struck with the Dart of Love releases today in Kindle format and is also available in paperback. Get your copy today!

Je Anne Boleyn

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Je Anne Boleyn: Struck With the Dart of Love

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