King Henry VIII’s sexual liaisons have been well-documented in both fictional and nonfiction books as well as popular culture. His affair with Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount is often mentioned by authors who tackle this time period because Bessie gave birth to the King’s recognized but illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Haeger’s novel is the first I’ve read where Bessie is truly the focus of the tale.
I received this book as a prize for my participation in last October’s read-a-thon. I had the book sent to my house so I wasn’t able to get my hands on it until I went home for winter break. It’s actually the third book in the series; a fact that really does not affect the flow and understanding of the novel.
Bessie is a really likeable character. She moves from a naive country girl to a confident woman determined to create her own destiny after the King stops courting her favor. Catherine of Aragon, however, moves in the opposite direction as her husband stops courting Bessie’s favor and turns his attention to Anne Boleyn. At one point, Catherine even longs for the days of Bessie.
It’s been said that Bessie’s marriage to Gilbert Tailboys was arranged, but Haeger doesn’t present it as such. Maybe this wasn’t historically accurate, but it certainly made the story way more interesting. I finished the book very quickly and did enjoy an escapade into the Tudor Court, but there isn’t really anything new or “wow!” about this tale.
- Haeger, Diane. The Queen’s Rival. New York: New American Library, 2011. Print. 405 pgs. ISBN: 9780451232205. Source: Gift.