Book Tour Review: The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Title: The Boleyn Bride
Author: Brandy Purdy 
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 272
Published: February 25 2014
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own. . .

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne—while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne. . .

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances—and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one—and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning. . .

The Boleyn Bride is my second outing with Brandy Purdy, and it was a loose, serviceable, if somewhat rote, rendition of Elizabeth Boleyn's life from daughter of Duke of Norfolk to wife of Thomas Boleyn to mother of the Queen of England to Countess of Wiltshire. The story and pace is brisk and even, but there's little life to Elizabeth's narration. The plot is a bit too familiar in a lot of places, but it cannot be denied that Brandy Purdy is an author who knows her time period and her characters down pat.

Though this novel is framed as Elizabeth's story, the book is much more concerned with her children, especially Anne. This is a short novel, but Elizabeth is a mother for seventy-five percent of the novel. It doesn't matter that she abandons or ignores her children for the majority of their lives, but her story is almost always centered on what is happening with them, either romantically, or in France, or in Court. More than anything, once the introductory phases are over, The Boleyn Bride feels like an attempt to find a new perspective on the romance and fallout between Henry and Anne. It's the same old Tudor story, just this one is told in a new voice.

I was disappointed that there wasn't more material devoted to Elizabeth's life once her children come to court, but she was an interesting mix of contradictions. Far from her parvenu husband's ally, she goes out of her way to thwart his ambition more than once. I can't say that I liked Elizabeth (I doubt anyone in her life did, at least in this rendition) but she was a compelling main character. Shallow and shrewd, vain and virtuous, this spoiled noble's daughter (and namesake for Queen Elizabeth I, aka her granddaughter) isn't the most defined protagonist I've ever read she feels more like a collection of traits than a whole personality), but she's definitely memorable and active on the page. 

For me, despite a few anachronisms (no court noble would be so homophilic), this was a rather easy two hour read. It's...decent. Not bad. The best I can muster up is faint praise because there's very little that is new to offer about The Boleyn Bride, but it still remains very readable and fans of Tudor fiction will likely enjoy this latest offering.

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