Anne of Cleves
She runs from her tiny country, her hateful mother, and her abusive brother to a throne whose last three occupants are dead. King Henry VIII, her new husband, instantly dislikes her. Without friends, family, or even an understanding of the language being spoken around her, she must literally save her neck in a court ruled by a deadly game of politics and the terror of an unpredictable and vengeful king. Her Boleyn Inheritance: accusations and false witnesses.
She catches the king’s eye within moments of arriving at court, setting in motion the dreadful machine of politics, intrigue, and treason that she does not understand. She only knows that she is beautiful, that men desire her, that she is young and in love — but not with the diseased old man who made her queen, beds her night after night, and killed her cousin Anne. Her Boleyn Inheritance: the threat of the axe.
She is the Boleyn girl whose testimony sent her husband and sister-in-law to their deaths. She is the trusted friend of two threatened queens, the perfectly loyal spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and a canny survivor in the murderous court of a most dangerous king. Throughout Europe, her name is a byword for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust. Her Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune and a title, in exchange for her soul.
The first in this series that I’ve read, and it’s chiefly about the 4th and 5th wives of Henry VIII – Anne of Cleves (the German speaking Dutch wife, and the only one to survive the marriage without being accused of treason) and Katherine Howard (the young girl who took her place).
Told in several different voices, primarily Anne, Katherine and Jane Boleyn (Anne Boleyn’s sister in law who helped send her to the scaffold) and the voices are different enough that it’s easy to switch chapters and their narration. Anne of Cleves is shown to be intelligent to understand court and the danger of having such a man as a husband. Kitty is flighty and vain, able to turn a man’s head but unable to recognise danger when it’s in front of her. Jane is a manipulative, but ultimately blind-to-danger, and doesnt realise that she can be betrayed as soon as she stops being useful.
I dont know much about the wives of Henry VIII so unable to determine how much of the book is “poetic license” – as a fictional book, rather than a biography, I suspect a certain amount, but the book is no worse for it. It is a relatively easy read, especially once I got used to the chopping and changing between all the different voices