The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen

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Note: Will contain spoilers for The Boleyn King.

The regency period is over and William Tudor, now King Henry IX, sits alone on the throne. But England must still contend with those who doubt his legitimacy, both in faraway lands and within his own family. To diffuse tensions and appease the Catholics, William is betrothed to a young princess from France, but still he has eyes for only his childhood friend Minuette, and court tongues are wagging.

Even more scandalous—and dangerous, if discovered—is that Minuette’s heart and soul belong to Dominic, William’s best friend and trusted advisor. Minuette must walk a delicate balance between her two suitors, unable to confide in anyone, not even her friend Elizabeth, William’s sister, who must contend with her own cleaved heart. In this irresistible tale, the secrets that everyone keeps are enough to change the course of an empire.

The Boleyn Trilogy presents us with an alternative history, what if Queen Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted? It is a question that’s probably been debated for centuries and a popular one among history buffs today. This isn’t, however, Anne Boleyn’s story, but the story of her children. It was nice to see a glimpse of Anne in her old age but the trilogy in centred on three fictional characters, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s son William, his best friend Dominic and royal ward Minuette, along with Elizabeth I, or Princess Elizabeth at this stage.

Andersen has made it clear that she isn’t going to knock Elizabeth off her throne is this alternative history, so it seems we are heading towards the inevitable at some point in this trilogy. The pace doesn’t slacken off in this volume, there is much mystery, plotting and intrigue to keep fans of the first book satisfied. Andersen writes well and the characters are engaging, but while she has a reasonably good grasp of Tudor history and does a good job of rearranging historical events but there is still something slightly lacking in its authenticity. Perhaps it’s all a little too clean and shiny for the sixteenth century.

While the dynamic between the main characters is great along with the chemistry between Minuette and Dominic, I am finding young King William a more and more unpleasant character, with very little of Anne in him and far more of Henry. This may be the point of course, apparent in this conversation with Lord Rochford

“Tell me uncle, what exactly is it you think the King of England owes you?”
“To remember who you are and who you have always meant to be. Your Majesty”
“My father’s son” William answered, biting off each word.
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

The “noble” notion of Dominic and Minuette hiding their love for each other from William is a little grating, I think its hard to understand her motive of not hurting William’s feelings while actually carrying on a relationship with two men, when at the end of the day she is making as ass of him. The constant observations of of Minuette’s beauty don’t add much depth to a character who at times is coming off as a little shallow and slightly tiresome. But essentially this is a young adult novel, and teenagers are teenagers.

Andersen has stuck with some fairly traditional views, especially in the case of the “martyr” Mary Tudor and the villainous Jane Boleyn. Neither character is well-realised either and I have a sneaking suspicion Jane is going to be more important to the plot in the next book. Andersen has yet to flesh her out, however.

These books have been an enjoyable read so far, but very safe. If  you are writing an alternative history there is much more room for risk-taking, and I am hoping Andersen takes a lot more risks in the final volume.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Thanks to Ballantine Books.