The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy

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The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: We've had the Boleyn girls, this is the Boleyn mother: abused, embittered and not the most maternal of creatures but making a fascinating centrepiece for a new twist on a Tudor mainstay.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Piatkus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0349405957

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Elizabeth Howard wants a noble marriage but at 16 she's married off to Thomas Boleyn, a jumped up nouveau riche who tries to hide his humble roots any way he can. It's not a love match on either side. So to compensate for her husband's shortcomings, Elizabeth throws herself into a collection of lovers and the lives of two of her three children. Yes, she dreams of rosy futures for Mary and George, but for the third child Anne, born as ugly as a monkey, Elizabeth can't envisage any future so wastes neither dreams nor love on her. However when Henry VII dies and his second son eventually takes the throne, Elizabeth realises she may not be right. Having Henry VIII as a son-in-law may do both Anne and the family a lot of good.

Emily Purdy (who writes under her real name of Brandy Purdy in the US) is a Sunday Times best-selling author with a string of successful hist-fict under her belt. The name change for British audiences is interesting: are we less likely to buy historical fiction written by a Brandy? For me it's about the story telling rather than the author's name. If everyone judges by this criterion then Brandy/Emily has no worries – this is an interesting account of a slice of Tudor life from an angle that will entice even the most Tudored-out reader to rekindle acquaintance with the era.

It was Anne Boleyn who first piqued Brandy's interest in history and so, having revisited the family over the years (including Anne's brother George and wife Jane in The Tudor Wife) it's time for her to provide an overview via Elizabeth, and what an overview!

Elizabeth is one of those people it's hard to watch without judging with modern sensitivities. An abused wife who fails to bond with her third child and lives vicariously through her other two would provide today's psychologists with a field day from heaven. From a mental-health-professional's viewpoint she may well have excuses but she's one nasty piece of work! In fact as Elizabeth tells the story in the first person, the amount we enjoy the tale depends on how much can make excuses for her.

Personally I fluctuated between being intrigued by the subtext behind her narrative and being annoyed enough to throttle her. Yes, she does have a lot to whinge about but, in the initial stages of the book, she does go on a bit. Hang on in there though; there is much to reward those who can ignore minor niggles such as this.

For one thing the novel is packed with wonderfully enthralling factoids. Did you know that the Boleyn family changed their name from the trade-identifiable Bullen to make them sound posher? In this way, Elizabeth is a similar vehicle towards success as she was married for her position and riches rather than personality.

Some of the moments in the novel are a little more controversial. For instance was George Boleyn gay? This was first mooted by a historian in 1987 and Brandy takes it from there. It's an interesting supposition but his documented interest in women would render him at least bi say some of the theory's opposition whereas others refuse to countenance it at all.

Having said that, let's not get bogged down with Anne and George; this is Elizabeth's story encompassing the entire court including some particularly tender moments when she realises that she has something in common with the hard done by Catherine of Aragon. Yes, there is poignancy among the bluster particularly towards the end as Elizabeth realises what her husband is really capable of. Indeed, as the shadows darken across the Boleyns, Elizabeth's maternal feelings finally come to the surface after years of absence, although a little too late.

This is a novel rich in Tudor colour and the complexities of life at court and just staying alive. In this context the inner workings and outward actions of a woman who plays second historical fiddle to her daughters makes a riveting read and well worth a couple of evenings of anyone's time.

(Thank you, Piatkus, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you'd like to read more about Emily/Brandy's take on the Boleyns, try The Tudor Wife. If you enjoy the what-ifs in history, how about The Boleyn King (Anne Boleyn Trilogy 1) by Laura Andersen. However if you prefer your history straighter, we loved The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir.

Buy The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy at Amazon.com.


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