When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King's fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him. . .
Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she's been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life--and the course of history
I just can't resist books where the author grabs a little known historical character and writes a story, within history, for her. That's why I decided to pick this one up. The main character here is Mary Howard, the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. As his nieces Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard she will also be a pawn in her father´s plans to maintain his powerful position with the King.
Unfortunately I didn't find Mary all that appealing as a character. She was a bit too good to be true and she endures too much to be true. Well about that last part maybe her father is too bad to be true. Norfolk is painted as a true villain who spends his time abusing women. Mary's mother first - he even beats her while she is in labor - and eventually Mary herself. All this written with modern of undertones, suggesting a pattern of domestic violence which, although I'm sure it happened in other eras, sounded too contemporary in its description.
Despite how he mistreats her and controls her life, making her miserable, Mary still loves her father and ends up being a victim of his schemes one time after another. I felt that went on for too long and that Mary never really rises from being a victim to being her own woman. I ended up thinking Norfolk was one creepy man and vowed to stay away from books about him in the future.
History wise, the background of this story is a well known one. The story of Henry VIII and his wives has been the main or secondary interesting of many historical fiction novels and I think Bodgan failed to bring us something different with this one. All that plotting for power on Norfolk's part is well known and it ended up not being enough to capture my interest and make me ignore who I didn't love Mary.
Lovers of the Tudor period might find this one an interesting read, because it is from a minor character point of view, but lovers of "meatier" historical fiction will probably find it a bit too light and, eventually, a bit disturbing.