To Obey and Serve – by V.L. Perry – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

The best thing about this novel is its take on Queen Jane Seymour (third wife of King Henry VIII of England) as an ambitious, manipulative, power-hungry usurper with an intentionally demure outward presentation. Unfortunately, that crafty concept wasn’t enough to make this a great read for me. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

obeyandserveOne cautionary note before I continue — I am a big fan of historical fiction and particularly around the Tudors. That might make me more critical than most of this book.

In this novel, we meet three main characters. The narrator (an unknown, minor, short-lived mistress of Henry VIII and whose name you don’t find out until the very end of the book) is a lady-in-waiting to Henry’s first three queens. The second main character is Henry’s wife #2, Anne Boleyn – who prompts The King’s Great Matter at the beginning of the book. The third is Jane Seymour, initially just another lady-in-waiting to a queen.

As the narrator observes and shares the unfolding events of Boleyn rise and fall and then Jane’s short reign, there are other well known historical names that crop of — Norris, Rochford, Cromwell, Carew, Norfolk, and of course the King himself. But for me the most interesting of all was Nicolas Kratzer — a German mathematician who was Henry’s court astronomer and the narrator’s tutor. (I immediately went to Wikipedia to find out more about him.) He was a new one for me.

My overall sense of this novel however is that the author could not quite decide what the book is about. And with chapters moving back and forth in time, it is hard to get emotionally involved with anyone. The story seems much more about Anne Boleyn initially. Then for a while it’s the narrator’s story. Finally, it becomes Jane’s. Then after Jane’s death, there is a lengthy retelling of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion and Jane’s role in it, which seems misplaced after reading about her death. Maybe a good editor could have helped.

More about the author, V.L. Perry.

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