Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Book Review: THE QUEEN'S RIVAL by Diane Haeger

Once again 2011 is shaping up to be one of the best years for historical fiction releases and “The Queen's Rival: In the Court of Henry VIII” is a prime example of why I love Diane Haeger. Diane is one of historical fictions heavy hitters and with good reasons. Her previously released novels like “The Perfect Royal Mistress: A Novel” and “Courtesan: A Novel” from what I have heard are by far very compelling HF reads. I read “The Perfect Royal Mistress: A Novel” and "The Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIII" but still have yet to conquer “Courtesan: A Novel” even though I own it. Since Diane has already such a prolific history in historical fiction my expectations were very high to say the least. It is because of novels like “The Perfect Royal Mistress: A Novel” that Diane gave me a historical fiction awakening and I discovered Restoration England for the first time. I found with “The Queen's Rival: In the Court of Henry VIII” that the read surpassed all my preconceived notions of what I thought it could be and made me fall in love with Diane Haeger’s gift for story telling all over again.

As most of you know I am an avid Tudor’s lover. I find though that after reading about all of Henry VIII’s wives that most of the reads kick off right about when Catherine of Aragon is on the decline and Anne Boleyn’s star is on the rise at court. This novel is completely different in a special way in that it focuses on a different period of Henry VIII’s life. “The Queen’s Rival” is set in the earlier days of Henry’s rein which I really enjoyed. Mostly focusing on Henry’s earlier infidelities like the Duke of Buckingham’s sister mistress Elizabeth Bryan. Haeger masterfully covers one of historical fictions most elusive mistresses of Henry VIII: Elizabeth Blount or Bess as her friends called her. She was the first one to give the King his hearts greatest desire, a flesh and blood living son.

Bess was a sweetie, good hearted and a good natured girl from the countryside at Kinlet. She spent her whole childhood with her big family and dreaming of a life of grander things at the Tudor court. Bess was naive in all the right places for Henry VIII to notice her at court. It really did not help Bess that she was best friends with his current treat of the moment Elizabeth Bryan. I found that Bess was different than the previous women in Henry’s life; she was not like Elizabeth Bryan or Jane Poppincourt in the fact that she truly loved Henry and was not blind to his faults. It would be Bess who gave Henry his heart’s desire, a son. His queen Catherine of Aragon physically could not give him what he wanted and so desperately needed not just as a king of England but also as a man. Henry always got what he wanted and was very fickle when it came to his liaisons with women. He had no qualms about passing off his seconds to his friends. It was the thrill of the hunt he really wanted but it also seemed like once Henry got what he wanted he dropped it like a bad habit especially when it came to affairs of King Henry’s heart

Bess really loved the man Henry was and the complex King that also ruled with a mighty fist over his court. When she came to court to be a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine Aragon, Bess had naive dreams of a real Lancelot coming into her life and stealing her heart away in a state of romantic bliss. Sadly Henry had turned into her Lancelot and we all know how his infidelities typically went. Henry is best known for his six wives but I found this novel opened a window into the early life of the passionate Henry that I always wanted to envision. Bessie Blount’s romantic heart led her to the king and she gave him the one thing no one else could, a prized son but at what cost?

5/5 "The Queen's Rival" is an impeccably written piece of prose that features one of Henry VIII’s beauties who ruled his heart and did not become one of the notorious six wives. I really enjoyed this one because of Haeger’s unique choice of leading lady. Bess Blount is not a typical historical fiction main character and I enjoyed the new spin on an old story I already knew bits and pieces of. Her story for the most part was pretty new to me and really I have to admit Bess is so lovable is was a pleasure to read her story. This is the perfect new addition to my past much loved Tudor novels because it is a completely new spin on the passionate young Henry Tudor. I would highly recommend this novel to Tudor lovers everywhere.
  • PG-13 Vague Sexual Reference
  • FTC-Sent by the Publisher 
The Queen's Rival: In the Court of Henry VIIIThe Queen's Mistake: In the Court of Henry VIIICourtesan: A NovelThe Perfect Royal Mistress: A NovelThe Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIIIThe Ruby Ring: A NovelThe Secret Wife of King George IVMy Dearest Cecelia: A Novel of the Southern Belle Who Stole General Sherman's Heart
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  1. I'm reading this one next - glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  2. This sounds wonderful! I actually haven't Diane Haeger but she sounds lovely!

  3. I love Diane Haeger's writing. She is awesome. And you need to dust Courtesan off your TBR list, its worth it!
    And this is the only book I've heard of that tells Bess' story. I am dying to read this one!

  4. I just read about this book on another blog and found the review awesome there as well.

  5. Daphne, it was good to read a new story about the Tudors. It made it fresh again, I hope you enjoy it too.

    Bonnie, you must check her out she has some wonderful novels. I have read about 3 of hers and loved each one of them.

    Allison, I knew it you love her too that is GREAT! I have heard Courtesan is mind changing with its perspective from Diane De Poitiers. I know I tried to find another novel on Bessie Blount but alas I came up empty handed. I am so glad Diane wrote her story it was a great read.

    Mystica, I guess great minds think alike even in reading. I think it is very interesting to Tudor lovers because no one has tackled Bessie Blount's story and Diane was the perfect author to do it.

  6. What a well done review. I am so excited I got to be #500. I hope that means you will do a review for me...
    I have a guest post today maybe you will stop over and say hello...

  7. You know where to find all the good stories. I've always thought that Bessie got lucky. This will make my books-to-read.

    Carole Rae

  8. I really want to read this one too. I hope I can win it somewhere!

  9. Doreen, LOL you crack me up. Thank you for being 500, of course I will check out your site. Thanks for following mine I hope you enjoy the posts to come.

    Carole, I agree she did get lucky I guess it was all in the timing.

    Pricilla, I am working on a giveaway. Patty it is like you always read my mind, just waiting to hear back from the publisher.

  10. I'd love to read this! Lizzy, would you believe I have Courtesan, but haven't read it yet? i must read it- i know she is a terrific author.

    hmmm..and since you loved this book so much..dare I ask if you're considering an art piece on this fair lady? (I'm working on a Borgia one!)

  11. Hey Lizzy I tried to post a comment yesterday...but it just wouldn't. So here I am again today:) Your review is splendid and I want to read this. Would you believe I have both: The Ruby Ring and Courtesan...and have yet to read them?! Shame, shame! I have got to get rolling on my readings by Haeger- I've heard so much raving about her writing and I'm convinced. I suspect when I start reading her books, I will just read them one after the other-binge style;)
    BTW, are you planning any new art for this historical lady, Bess, you just read(I'm working on something on Lucrezia..shh;)

  12. Lucy, that makes two of us that need to read it. Hum.. I guess it did not occure to me to do Bess. I might now that you planted the seed LOL. Borgia, that would be awesome you know I will love it. That is so weird about the comments.I have Courtesan but not Ruby Ring, I want to which is why no more of accepting review copies. I swear I will never get a book I own read if I keep taking on more. I am thinking about doing an ink one of Bess...maybe I just got some cool new pens and wanted to try them out but first I MUST finish Madame Tussaud.

  13. I didn't know he had another son... one before Edward? And what happened to the boy? I really want to read this now! Thanks for this lovely review.

  14. Oops, I just noticed that my comment did, after all, get published!sorry!

    About your art using ink..I LOVE that! I did most of my Catherine De Medici in ink and it felt just right-love the way it turned out too. So much more control, I find. Borgia is still at the sketching stage.

  15. Melissa, my lips are sealed you will have to read it to find out more on him. I can not ruin it for you but you must read it now especially since you did not know about him. You will LOVE this book.

    Ms. Lucy hehe you crack me up I think when I first started blogging I did the same thing a bazillion time on JP Royal Intrigue because my computer was all messed up. You are right about the control thing it is exactly why I love pens so much. I can have all the control I want with it. I have a few on the back burner in the sketch phase still but now I am sick so I do not have to will to draw at the moment but you are so right I need to pull them out and I hope you finish the Catherine one soon. I would love to see it.

  16. I haven't had the opportunity to read any of Haeger's book's yet - I think I have one of them. But this one makes me want to try to get to them. I'm interested that this one is before all of the Catherine/Anne power struggle - which you are right, most of them are about. Thanks for the review.

  17. Heather, you would love her to pieces. She was one of my first HF loves right after Gregory I read her and fell in love with her. I think you would really enjoy this one and her older one "The Perfect Royal Mistress". I know you love Nelly and she wrote a killer book on Nelly.

  18. Bess and her son are historical figures I knew nothing about prior to reading reviews of this book. Since Henry wanted sons and was dispatching wives for their inability to give him one, I am surprised he didn't take Bess to wife since she proved she could provide him with what he desired. I realize it can't possibly be that simple. Considering his track record, I consider her lucky not to have become his wife. I look forward to reading this book about a person and a time in Henry VIII's reign that has long been overlooked.

    Thanks for the review.

  19. Librarypat, I first noticed her in the first episode of the Tudors. She is in the first few episodes and so is her son as a baby. You must read this one Pat once you read it everything makes sense of why he did not marry her. I think it was more of an issue of timing in his life and in hers. I think you will really enjoy this one pat.


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