Every so often a little tremor of book buzz flows through blogland and catches our attention over here at A Reader's Respite. Such was the case recently when all of a sudden it seemed as if everywhere we turned peeps were talking about a upcoming historical fiction release entitled The Boleyn Wife by an author named Emily Purdy.
"Purdy.....Purdy....," we mused silently to ourselves, wracking our overtaxed, holiday-stressed brain, "...that name is familiar."
Of course, as it turns out, Emily Purdy is the new pen name (in the UK, at least) of one Brandy Purdy, a writer down in Beaumont, Texas who has penned a notorious little novel about Edward II and Piers Gaveston and another about Anne Boleyn and her arch-enemy and sister-in-law, Lady Jane Rochford called Vengeance is Mine.
The publisher Kensington has evidently picked up Purdy's novel Vengeance is Mine (originally self-published via iUniverse), retitled it The Boleyn Wife and given Purdy are more British-sounding pen name to go with it.
Intrigued, we set about finding ourselves a copy of Purdy's original version, Vengeance is Mine (not the easiest task in the world given that copies of the original novel are disappearing quick) and within a few days had a copy in our hot little hands.
A Reader's Respite was fully prepared to not like this book.....we had heard about some, *ahem*, creative love scenes involving two of ol' Henry VIII's wives and a rather large jar of honey. Let's just say we were dubious at best.
To our surprise, the novel isn't terrible. Really, it isn't.
Most of the story revolves around Anne Boleyn, second and soon to be headless wife to Henry VIII, as told by her notorious sister-in-law, Lady Jane Rochford. Towards the end of the novel, after Anne goes to meet her maker, Lady Jane relates the shorter reigns of Henry's subsequent wives, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, finally ending the story with the beheading of fifth wife, Katherine Howard - a time when Lady Jane meets her own untimely end on the chopping block as well.
Ms. Purdy, it should be noted, is a mighty fine writer.....the words flow easily across the page and the narrative is, for the most part, quite sensible. In short, she shows enormous promise as a historical fiction author.
Of course, we did have a few quibbles. Jane Rochford was a tad one-dimensional and singular in her hatred and desire to give her sister-in-law her comeuppance. And although Jane was indeed a lady-in-waiting for many of Henry's wives, one wonders how the woman managed to witness so many private conversations and sexual couplings throughout her royal stay.
Along the same vein, the novel was just a tad disjointed with over two-thirds being devoted to Anne Boleyn's rise and fall, with only two short parts towards the end devoted to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. Although Lady Jane wasn't at court during Seymour's short stint as queen, she was present for Anne and Katherine's reign and though their queenly time was comparatively short, it left the reader feeling rushed, as if there could have been more to the story.
There were also constant references to these women's historical nicknames....if Anne Boleyn was referred to as the "Goggle-eyed whore" once, she must have been referenced so at least fifty times. Ditto for Katherine Howard, the "rose without a thorn." Throw in a few references to the "Flander's mare" (Anne of Cleves), and you have yourself a veritable festival of royal nicknames.
You're wondering about the kinky sex scenes, aren't you? Yes, for the record, there is a interlude between Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and a jar of honey. Thankfully, most of the scene occurs behind the curtains of a royal bed and most is left to our imagination. A Reader's Respite, for the record, thought the scene was cute and silently applauded Purdy for throwing in a little fun conjecture.
Presumably, now that Kensington has picked up the book (to be released January 26, by the way), a new editor will have had their way with the novel, so the criticisms you read here may well not apply to this new version.
All in all, the book is publisher-worthy, no doubt about it. Don't expect a Sharon Kay Penman or a Higginbotham novel here, rather think Philippa Gregory. But as we said, this writer shows promise and may well develop into a mighty fine historical fiction author. Time will certainly tell.
In the meantime, A Reader's Respite simply must get our hands on her other novel about Edward II's lover and favorite, Piers Gaveston entitled, aptly enough, The Confession of Piers Gaveston. It's time to go a-book-huntin'!
Required FTC (TSA, DOD, USDA, whatever) Notice: We purchased this novel for a whopping $8. It wasn't given to us, wasn't stolen, and no animals were harmed during the reading of this novel. We bought it, fair and square, and we'd do it again with no regrets. So there.