The second book in Philippa Gregory's "Tudor" series
Anne Boleyn’s younger sister, Mary, was the mistress of Henry VIII long before Anne became his queen. Historical novelist Philippa Gregory uses the perspective of this "other Boleyn girl" to reveal the rivalries and ruthlessness embroiling 16th century English court. The sisters and their brother George were raised with one goal: to advance the Howard family's interests, properties, titles and riches. The Seymour family was their bitter rival. Daughters were used as pawns, brokered out by their families for sexual favors or marriage, or both at the same time. This was Mary Boleyn’s case, who was married at the age of 14 but had to abandon her husband when she became the King’s favorite. She bore Henry two children, including a son. Her older sister Anne becomes her bitter rival to gain the King’s favor and replace Catherine of Aragon as queen, knowing that Henry is desperate for a legitimate son to be his heir to the throne. Anne’s desire to be queen drives her with ruthless intensity, alienating family and foes. Mary ultimately follows her own heart and abandons court life to live with a new husband and her children in the countryside, but love and duty bring her back to Anne time and again. We know the end of this story and what led to Anne’s demise amid accusations of adultery, incest, and witchcraft. But the author deftly holds her reader’s rapt attention throughout the book, capturing the escapades of Henry VII’s court set against the backdrop of political and religious clashes throughout Europe.