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Monday, February 27, 2012

"At the Mercy of the Queen" by Anne Clinard Barnhill~Historical Fiction Epitomized!

Published by:  St. Martin's Press
Pages:  432
Also: Reading Group Information~About the Author, Behind the Novel
and Keep On Reading
Review: In cooperation with:  Historical Fiction Virtual
Book Tours

About the Book :
"At the Mercy of the Queen" is a sweeping tale of sexual seduction and intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, a rich and dramatic debut historical about Madge Shelton, cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.

At the innocent age of fifteen, Lady Margaret Shelton arrives at the court of Henry VIII and quickly becomes the confidante of her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn. But she soon finds herself drawn into the perilous web of Anne’s ambition.

Desperate to hold onto the king’s waning affection, Anne schemes to have him take her guileless young cousin as mistress, ensuring her husband’s new paramour will owe her loyalty to the queen. But Margaret has fallen deeply in love with a handsome young courtier. She is faced with a terrible dilemma: give herself to the king and betray the love of her life or refuse to become his mistress and jeopardize the life of the her cousin, Queen Anne.

Meet the Author:
Anne Cli­nard Barn­hill has been writ­ing or dream­ing of writ­ing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has pub­lished arti­cles, book and the­ater reviews, poetry, and short sto­ries. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like grow­ing up with an autis­tic sis­ter. Her work has won var­i­ous awards and grants. Barn­hill holds an M.F.A. in Cre­ative Writ­ing from the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina at Wilm­ing­ton. Besides writ­ing, Barn­hill also enjoys teach­ing, con­duct­ing writ­ing work­shops, and facil­i­tat­ing sem­i­nars to enhance cre­ativ­ity. She loves spend­ing time with her three grown sons and their fam­i­lies. For fun, she and her hus­band of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

For more information, please visit Anne Clinard Barnhill's website @ http://www.anneclinardbarnhill.comwebsite/W

The Dame's Review:
A sparkling account of the Tudor court, accompanied by the love story between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, as well as her cousin and lady-in-waiting, Margaret Shelton, will give you many hours of enjoyment.  This is a familiar story, but it's couched in the intrigue of Margaret or Madge Shelton's coming to the court and finding her life  compromised in vastly unexpected ways.  Ms Barnhill's research is apparent throughout the novel in details that enhance the reading.  I was surprised by some of the finest details I hadn't known, even after having read many a historical novel about the 1500's and the Tudor era.  This is a novel that held my interest and kept me reading, though it absolutely falls within the historical fiction category and not historical romance.

While we get a passing description of each person involved in the story, I believe they could have been filled out more.  I think this may be due to the focus which seemed more on historical interest.  What happened is that I didn't get strongly attached to any one figure, but rather became more involved in the court intrigue and details of the life there than in the characters themselves.  The romance between Madge Shelton and her sweetheart Arthur Brandon was courtly, but never quite reached a point that convinced me of anything passionate, for instance.  And, I didn't feel the desperation of Anne Boleyn as she struggled to keep her king, her child or her head.  

Though it absolutely held a sense of the language and cadence of the times, I found the dialog rote.  However, strangely enough, that was also one of the things I enjoyed most in the reading.  I cannot emphasize too much the translation of historical detail.  So while this might be annoying in a novel meant to engage one in both history and romance, it just worked to create an atmosphere of the times for me.  I found it easy to overlook a diaglog that was matter of fact or predictable in light of the truth it was telling.

I will say this, in closing, I thoroughly enjoyed "At the Mercy of the Queen" as a glimpse into the Tudor court's outwardly sumptuous, but terrifyingly political ways.  It was a walk I loved taking in the historical fiction genre.  I cannot recommend it as a book with emphasis on the romantic or character driven aspects, as I've said.  Although it does include these elements, the best of the book lies in the author's ability to transport us to another time and the reality of the queen's and a lady-in-waiting's lives.

3 1/2 stars

Deborah/The Bookish Dame

For more information and other reviews of "At the Mercy of the Queen" go to:  http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.blogspot.com/

*A copy of this book was given to me for a review of my honest opinion


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