Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: The Queen's Rival

The Queen's Rival: In the Court of Henry VIII by Diane Haeger

Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Genre: Historical Fiction ISBN-13: 9780451232205

(Received for review from Berkley NAL)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Diane Haeger on the WEB: Website

Book Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

From the author of The Queen's Mistake comes the untold story of King Henry VIII's first well-known mistress.

As the beautiful daughter of courtiers, Elizabeth "Bessie" Blout is overjoyed when she secures a position as a maid of honor to Katherine of Aragon. But when she captures the attention of the king himself, there are whispers that the queen ought to be worried for her throne.

When Bess gives birth to a healthy son the whispers become a roar. But soon the infamous Boleyn girls come to court and Henry's love for her begins to fade. Now, Bess must turn to her trusted friend, the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, to help move beyond life as the queen's rival...


Well-known historical fiction writer, Diane Haeger's latest novel, The Queen's Rival is historical fiction at it's best. Haegar's attention to detail and research is flawless. Her ability to bring to life, obscure or little known historical characters is showcased with this book. Readers will fall in love with Bess as the follow her progress from maid to the queen, to rival for king Henry's affections.

Elizabeth "Bess" Blout can't believe her luck when she is given the position as maid of honor to Kathrine of Aragon. At only fourteen years old she has always dreamed of a life at court, complete with a handsome prince to sweep her off her feet. What she gets instead is the attention of a very fickle Henry VIII, king of the realm and more trouble than she bargained for. When Henry's affections turn to Bess, the queen becomes her enemy as the rumors of Henry's conduct begin in earnest. When Bess becomes pregnant and bears Henry a son, the queen in livid. The child is taken from her and she is forced to leave court as the Boleyn sisters are just coming on the scene. Elizabeth marries her friend, Lord Gilbert Tailbois and bears him three children before his death. She died of consumption while she was only in her 30's.

Author Diane Haeger takes the little known character Bess Blout and tells her story with flair and purpose. Bess was one of many conquests by King Henry VIII. He was well known for his sexual liaisons with the women who frequented his court, but Bess was different than the rest. Her character is very well developed by Haegar and readers will see Bess as an innocent young girl who fell in love with a king. Bess dealt with many things in her life. The stigma of being the mistress to the king, whispers and accusations, the queen's righteous anger, and the loss of her child. Yet Haeger shows her strength and determination as Bess eventually finds love and family. It is obvious that Bess always carried a love in heart for Henry even after he tosses her aside for the Boleyn's. She is just a wonderful character that the reader will come to love as the story progresses.

Diane Haegar is well known for her historical writing and I feel that this one is on par with her other books. The Tudor period has always interested me and I loved the fact that Haegar shows us King Henry VIII as a young man, with passions and dreams, just like any other person. Henry ruled his court with a very stiff hand and expected to get everything he wanted, including women. But he was fickle and tired of them quickly, moving on the the next best thing, in this case that was Anne Boleyn. Haegar shows us a side of Henry that is refreshingly different from how most author's portray him. I liked seeing him through the eyes of young girl who truly had affection for him and not just his position as king. This is a very well written novel.

I recommend this one to historical fiction fans, especially those who are interested in the Tudor period. This novel is an excellent example of how to bring a little known historical character to life. Readers will love the innocence of Bess and the down right ruthlessness of the King. This is a great read for those of us who are very interested in history and those who lived it.

The Queen's Rival is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Diane Haeger in her own words, from her website:

Writing is a career that found me when I had actually given up looking for it. In the middle of a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology 15 years ago, and quite by accident, I came upon the true, breathtaking story, which spanned over two decades and began when the legendary Diane de Poitiers was 31 and her lifelong love was the scandalously young second son of the King of France. That story, which unfolded for me on several research trips to France--- and which became my first published novel Courtesan, really changed the course of my life. I grew absolutely driven to accurately tell to an American audience the true story of Diane de Poitiers' strength, love and commitment to a man she loved but could never marry.

Being willing to adapt my writing to changing times has also been integral for me to staying published, and it is the thing about which new writers seem to ask me most. My best advice is to stay true to yourself and your goals, but be willing, if necessary, as it was for me, to "pay your dues" to get where you want to be. Every book, no matter how different, is a learning experience and a chance for you to grow as a writer.