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Book Review: The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory (4/5)

6 Oct

I love Philippa Gregory. On my Goodreads stats, she’s tied for my second most read author. (J.K. Rowling is #1 if that gives you an idea.) I sometimes think she’s the one that made me fall in love with historical fiction. Her writing proves that you can tell a historically accurate story and still tell a good story. I pick her books up whenever I see a used copy for a good price. I think I bought this one for $1 at the library.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Boleyn Inheritance (The Tudor Court #3) by Philippa Gregory

Summary from Goodreads:

Three Women Who Share One Fate: The Boleyn Inheritance

Anne of Cleves
She runs from her tiny country, her hateful mother, and her abusive brother to a throne whose last three occupants are dead. King Henry VIII, her new husband, instantly dislikes her. Without friends, family, or even an understanding of the language being spoken around her, she must literally save her neck in a court ruled by a deadly game of politics and the terror of an unpredictable and vengeful king. Her Boleyn Inheritance: accusations and false witnesses.

Katherine Howard
She catches the king’s eye within moments of arriving at court, setting in motion the dreadful machine of politics, intrigue, and treason that she does not understand. She only knows that she is beautiful, that men desire her, that she is young and in love — but not with the diseased old man who made her queen, beds her night after night, and killed her cousin Anne. Her Boleyn Inheritance: the threat of the axe.

Jane Rochford
She is the Boleyn girl whose testimony sent her husband and sister-in-law to their deaths. She is the trusted friend of two threatened queens, the perfectly loyal spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and a canny survivor in the murderous court of a most dangerous king. Throughout Europe, her name is a byword for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust. Her Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune and a title, in exchange for her soul.

The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration, and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror.

I’m not usually a fan of long summaries, but for a book with three narrators and over 500 pages, it seemed appropriate. Like all of Gregory’s other Tudor books, I loved this one. I’m a big fan of her depiction of King Henry VIII and the vain and silly women of the court. Her intelligent female characters, such as Anne, are well written and demand respect. I think live in the English courts is fascinating and wasteful. If people think Americans are wasteful, we should point a finger at this guy! I liked the three narrators in this one. I could commiserate with Anne, laugh at Katherine, and watch Jane make it all happen. It was a great way to tell the story.

Though I found Katherine to be a bit over the top, I enjoyed all the characters and they reminded me of women I know in real life. Gregory writes very complex characters and I think she does well at capturing their struggles to be seen as women of the court and be true to themselves at the same time. The ideal courtly woman is not a real woman, just the image of one. It’s nice to see the other sides of this. Katherine is a flirt but wants a steady lover, Jane wants a husband, and Anne wants to be left alone. But at court they must all behave the same.

Jane was my favorite. I liked seeing the workings behind every move. She was very smart and had a strong survival instinct, even if that instinct didn’t cover anyone else and put everyone close to her in danger. She admits to betraying three different queens always in an effort to save her own skin. She was a great set of eyes for the story and I’m glad she was included.

There are always parts of my life when I have to hide a bit of myself. I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way. I have to hide my emotional swings while at work and at home I have to put away my desire to control and organize everything. The women of Henry’s court had to do the same things though they were gambling with their lives. It was easy to relate to them and understand how hard it must be for Katherine to act like the loved the King, Anne to act like she was happy to be at court, and Jane to act like she was loyal to anyone.

Image from the Huffington Post

Image from the Huffington Post

I liked the chapters Katherine narrated. I thought she was fun to read because the vain and silly parts of her dialogue made her very real and contrasted sharply with Jane and Anne’s voices. It gave everything a very lighthearted feeling, even the ending. (And if you don’t know how this ended, read up on the wives of Henry VIII. Or don’t, if you want to be surprised by the ending!)

I didn’t like the part about Anne being put aside. It made me angry. Henry had made himself so powerful that he could do anything and it was frightening and angering to read how easily he annulled his marriage to Anne for a pretty face.


A lot of the Tudor series talk bout the price of a title and riches. The women who married Henry knew that their lives were in danger if a hair fell out of line, but they took the risk for the prospect of being queen and mother to the heir of the crown. Women betrayed friends and lovers to advance themselves and keep their inheritance. But it would almost always lead to their downfalls. Chasing jewels and money and land isn’t worth it if you have to act like a doll all your life and can never be your true self. This book told a very similar story. The only one who lived as she wanted to was Anne and you can see what she got from that.

Writer’s Takeaway: The distinct voices of these characters is amazing. Even without beginning of the chapter telling you who is speaking, the tone and voice of the writing made it obvious. I loved reading Katherine’s voice and found Jane a strong narrator. Anne was constantly worried about others and coldly trying to play her role. It was great.

Great story, though I can’t help comparing it to my all-time favorites. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1500s time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge and completes the challenge! Yay!!!!! It was so much fun.

Until next time, write on.

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