Tag Archives: Tudor novels

Brandy Purdy’s Novel of the Grey sisters, The Queen’s Rivals, Gives a Glimpse into their Dark Lives

The Queen's RivalsBrandy Purdy’s The Queen’s Rivals gave me a new glimpse into the lives of the three Grey sisters, Mary, Jane, and Kate, nieces of Henry VIII.  It was narrated by Mary, the last of the sisters to die. I’m sure this is why she chose Mary to narrate, so she could reflect back on their lives and tell their story, but in other ways I think Mary was a good choice too.

Considered the “lesser” of the three, Mary had an understanding and patient heart that allowed us to view her sisters in what may be for some a different light. Purdy’s writing style models Philippa Gregory’s non-fiction tones, where though it seems more dense than light, a desire to get to know the characters propels you through the story.  Writing a historical fiction that is more first person narrative than a lively dramatized story is always difficult and few people can pull it off. Like Gregory, Purdy seems to have a knack for driving us along, keeping us wanting to know more even if we feel as if we are being pulled in the dank existence that seemed to be their lives. While some romanticize their life in fiction, Purdy gives us the hard, cold truth, sometimes more than some readers might want to bear. I’d say you have to really love history and this time period in order to read this book. You must be prepared. It’s a wonderful telling of their harsh lives, but not a juicy summer read.

Purdy’s portrayal of their cousin, Mary Tudor, made me more scared of her than I ever had been before. Showing her as loving and kind at first to the sisters, then out for blood and ultimately causing Jane to lose her head, showed the extreme political and family intrigue that they all were fated to try to overcome. 

As the sisters were doted along by court society as the beautiful one, the smart one, and the dwarf one (there was a better written reference from the book), we got to understand how Jane didn’t want more than to be educated and give her life to God. She was prudish, yet thrown into scandal.  She was ultimately used as a pawn because of her Tudor blood and thrown to her demise. Purdy writes about the drama of Jane’s affair with Tom Seymour, the alleged incest of their other cousin Elizabeth I by her father (Henry VIII), the mess with the Dudley family, the drunken parties, the Tower, the death and all in all pretty much held nothing back in letting the reader in on just how dark an existence these people lived.

She’s done a great job at research though, as usual, and she absolutely knows her details on this time period, especially on the Grey family. While there aren’t a lot of books out there that includes details on the entire family, many times focusing on Jane’s character since she was a Queen (even though short-lived), I think this is a welcome addition to any historical library or bookshelf.

If you’re interested in a different view of the tumultuous Tudor time period surrounding Edward the VI death and the Grey sisters and family, I’d certainly pick up this book. Her harsh rendering was at times blunt, but most likely authentic, and though her writing was dark, so were the times themselves. For anyone who likes Philippa Gregory, with a little more bluntness and droning from the characters, or Brandy Purdy’s other works, I’d add this one to your shelves.

Giveaway~

The giveaway is for one copy of  THE QUEEN’S RIVALS and open to US only. To enter please leave a comment with your email included, send me an email to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com, or leave a comment on the Facebook page with your email. The Facebook page is www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.

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THE QUEEN’S RIVALS/THE FALLEN QUEEN, Synopsis~

The Queen's RivalsUS Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Kensington Publishing
Paperback; 384p
ISBN-10: 0758265999

UK Publication Date: September 12, 2013
Avon Publishing
ISBN-10: 1847563457

Their ambitions were ordinary, but they were born too close to the throne…

As cousins of history’s most tempestuous queens, Ladies Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey were born in an age when all of London lived beneath the Tower’s menacing shadow. Tyrannized by Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen, the sisters feared love was unthinkable —and the scaffold all but unavoidable…

Raised to fear her royal blood and what it might lead men to do in her name, Mary Grey dreads what will become of herself and her elder sisters under the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. On their honor, they have no designs on the crown, yet are condemned to solitude, forbidden to wed. Though Mary, accustomed to dwelling in the shadows, the subject of whispers, may never catch the eye of a gentleman, her beautiful and brilliant sisters long for freedoms that would surely cost their lives. And so, wizened for her years, Mary can only hope for divine providence amid a bleak present and a future at the whim of the throne — unless destiny gains the upper hand.

A gripping and bittersweet tale of broken families and broken hearts, courage and conviction, The Queen’s Rivals recounts an astonishing chapter in the hard-won battle for the Tudor throne.

Please note this book will be published in the UK as THE FALLEN QUEEN by Emily Purdy.

The Fallen Queen

Author Brandy Purdy, Biography~

Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON, THE BOLEYN WIFE (THE TUDOR WIFE), THE TUDOR THRONE (MARY & ELIZABETH), THE QUEEN’S PLEASURE (A COURT AFFAIR), and THE QUEEN’S RIVALS (THE FALLEN QUEEN). An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at www.brandypurdy.com, you can also follow her, and her cat Tabby, via her blog at http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com where she posts updates about her work and weekly book reviews.

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The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau is a Top-Notch Thriller of Page Turning Suspense

Are you drawn to historical novels surrounding the steamy and intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII? You’re not alone. Many readers delight in books from this time period where drama unfolds at every dark corner and crevice!

The ChaliceSo how does an author make a book stand out from a sea of Tudor-mania? I’m sure this was a challenge for Tudor-era fanatic and author Nancy Bilyeau in endeavoring to write her novels.  In The Chalice (a known sequel to her popular The Crown, but really stands-alone quite well), she writes of the same era in history, but from the perspective of Joanna Stafford, a woman of noble birth and connections who was also pious and dedicated to the Catholic church being a former nun (novice). In her writing, Bilyeau delves into how the transition from England being ruled from Catholic perspective to Protestant, and the bloody fighting and paranoia it caused, confused the entire country, especially the nobles who were strong in faith but also wanted to regard their King (he was divine after all and God-ordained) without falter or question. How did the outskirts, beyond the castle walls, really handle the transformation? How did those of faith deal with priories and convents being dissolved?

Don’t let Joanna being a pious individual dissuade you from thinking this book is lacking pulse-pounding drama because it most certainly is full of hold-your-breath moments!  It was never a dull moment and I disliked when I needed to put it down due to other life demands! I couldn’t wait to pick it up again, just in time to reveal another plot twist or another piece to unraveling the riddle.  (review continued after synopsis)

Here’s the synopsis for The Chalice~

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era.

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

(review continued)

Sounds full of intrigue and page turning drama, right??

Though the novel didn’t take place at court, it showcased how court drama and governance carries around the countryside as families jockey for favor or position and conspire at a moment’s notice to fight for their lives. Anyone that knows of Henry Tudor (Henry the VIII) knows that he was impulsive and could make rash and unjustified decisions out of his own fears.  He would judge entire families on an extended family member’s wrong-doing and, as his father before him, tended to kill off entire family branches to fortify his own royal legacy.

Even though Joanna and her extended family were in constant fear for their lives, she had a bond with Mary Tudor that would help to serve her through some sticky situations. But with that bond, as well as her own to the Catholic church, she is most easily aghast over Henry VIII’s desecration and desire to wipe out all monasteries, sacred relics, and bones of Saints.  Then, when a prophecy is foretold that involves her, she struggles to rebel against it.  Being a good Catholic, she strongly believes that prophecy and seers are wrong in the eyes of God.  She does not want to believe that she could be a part of such dealings, but struggles to know if the greater good outweighs the risk.

I loved the book’s emotional tender moments when Joanna was overcome with human emotions for others in the book, for instance, when she mulled over her feelings for various male characters, all whom in some regard seemed to be smitten by her and feel a need to protect her. Yet there were boundaries to all relationships in regards to love and Bilyeau walked a fine line of pulling the reader into the moment of impulsive exploratory action and then whisking them away from it, just enough for us to feel the character’s internal anguish. In all, she teaches us her characters fortitude and strength (and self-control), most often through protagonist Joanna. She’s an amazingly strong woman who was too modest to see her own attributes.

My favorite supporting character in the book was Henry Courtenay, Marchess of Exeter, who had less “print time” than most, but I loved his demeanor. There were times in the book I felt on pins and needles, times I was holding my breath and then exhaling in relief, and other times (especially a particular time) that I cried for the horror.

I love the prophetic mystery within the novel and the clues filled with symbolism that heightened as I turned each chapter. The novel was most certainly full of intrigue, but quite in a different format than what I’ve read from most other Tudor-era writers. It’s drama-filled, but stemming from a protagonist so laden with religious adherence that the drama seems almost stumbled upon because she wants so badly to not be a part of the drama. But her heart tells her different and she finds her destiny.  It read like a Dan Brown novel with a strong female lead and who doesn’t love a nun on a mission? Any reader will want to take on the prophecy of Joanna, whether to see if it’s a true outcome or to prove it wrong. Bilyeau always leaves that question  up to the reader, as Joanna struggles with that same dilemma herself.

Being a journalist and editor, Bilyeau’s writing style is succinct and not heavily flowered with extra, unwarranted details. Her research skills and plot points are highly polished and shine through in this work making it a thriller for any must-read list.

I highly recommend Nancy Bilyeau’s The Chalice (and her former The Crown) for its unique presentation of a widely written about Tudor time period, her strong and memorable Joanna and well-developed supporting cast, her suspenseful riddles and exciting prophetic plot, and most of all, her page-turning literary skills.

Please stop back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with the fantastic author Nancy Bilyeau!

The ChaliceThe Chalice Information~

Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Touchstone Publishing/A Divison of Simon and Schuster
Hardcover; 512p
ISBN-10: 1476708657

GIVEAWAY!!!!~GIVEAWAY!!!!~GIVEAWAY!!!~

We have one (1) print copy of the The Chalice to give to a lucky reader this week! Please leave a comment, with email (for notification purposes ONLY) , here or on my Facebook post, to enter! You may also email me to hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 26, 2013.  Open to the United States only and no P.O. boxes.

For an extra entry, please follow my blog and let me know!

Praise for The Chalice

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” – C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Tudor Secret

“The Chalice offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page.” – Karen Harper, author of Mistress of Mourning

“An exciting and satisfying novel of historical suspense that cements Nancy Bilyeau as one of the genre’s rising stars. The indominable Joanna Stafford is back with a cast of powerful and fascinating characters and a memorable story that is gripping while you are reading and haunting after you are done. Bravo! The Chalice is a fabulous read.” – M.J. Rose, author of The Reincarnationist

Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau, author of critically acclaimed The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children. For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau’s webiste at www.nancybilyeau.com

 

 
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