Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen

Rating: ★ ★  ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: March 5, 2014

Henry IX, known as William, is the son of Anne Boleyn and now the leader of England, his regency period finally at an end. His newfound power, however, comes with the looming specter of war with the other major powers of Europe, with strategic alliances that must be forged on both the battlefield and in the bedroom, and with a court, severed by religion, rife with plots to take over the throne. Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. But as the pressure rises alongside the threat to his life, even they William must begin to question-and to fear...

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They say confession if good for the soul so perhaps it's best that I just admit I've been avoiding this review. I've allowed Laura Andersen's The Boleyn Deceit to languish in my pending folder for months to circumvent penning what I knew would be somewhat negative commentary, but no more. It's time to bite the bullet and be done with it. 

I realize I'm in the minority here, but I genuinely feel the second installment of Andersen's Boleyn Trilogy lacked the 'oomph' of its predecessor. I know sequels have a hard time of it, but I can't help looking back on this piece and wondering what the hell happened. Consider this your warning folks, there be spoilers ahead.

The love triangle Andersen carried through book one utterly stagnates in book two. It isn't until the final chapters that I felt tangible emotion or movement, at which point the affair felt entirely slapdash. Call me crazy, but I feel Andersen misstepped in neglecting the romantic subplot for so much of the narrative and overcompensated in her attempt to revive it in her build up to book three. 

Having so enjoying Andersen's interpretation of Elizabeth in The Boleyn King, I was bitterly disappointed to see her role much reduced in The Boleyn Deceit. I felt her the strongest of the four leads in Andersen's debut and was frustrated to witness her playing a less astute second fiddle to supporting characters like Dudley and Northumberland this go round.

William is fast becoming a carbon copy of his father which is something I found particularly frustrating. Andersen has the freedom to do anything she wants with this character and she chooses to create a doppelganger of Henry VIII. Creative? Inventive? Imaginative? I think not. 

And while we're on the subject, let's talk about Alyce de Clare’s unfortunate and untimely death. Were readers supposed to be shocked and surprised by the identity of her lover? I mean, it isn't as if poor Alyce is the only Tudor era courtier to take a tumble down a flight of stairs. I told myself from the start that the solution was too obvious to be correct, but no, there it was, staring up at me in prosaic black and white. 

Bottom line, I felt the book rushed, disjointed, predictable and dull. There are moments involving Guildford Dudley, Mary Stuart, Francis Walsingham and Amy Dudley that I greatly enjoyed, but taken as a whole this piece left me disenchanted with the series and is proving a significant obstacle in my effort to rouse enthusiasm for book three.

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Robert raised his eyebrows and lowered his voice that half step that made Elizabeth’s blood warm. “We choose our battles with care—political, religious … personal.”
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