Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The Favored Queen by Carolly Erickson
Kind lady in waiting Jane Seymour is caught in the middle of the messy marriage of Catherine of Argon and Henry VIII. She is completely loyal to the queen and resents Anne Boleyn's machinations and scheming. Jane's own life is in limbo as her father ruins her chances of a good marriage, then she realizes being wrapped up in life at court has left her without much means of being married off. As time goes on, Henry's relationship with Anne sours and Jane finds herself earning the king's favor. While Henry isn't exactly what Jane had in mind for a husband, she desperately wants children and is now considered an old maid. Despite her misgivings, she marries the king and becomes the new hope for a male heir.
I find Erickson's books enjoyable for the most part and I understand she makes it very clear she takes a lot of liberties with history, but for some reason that still bothers me somewhat no matter how good the writing. Erickson also has a tendency to dwell on the shortcomings of the historical men her books feature. Napoleon is portrayed as an outright villain while Henry is shown as a coward, womanizer and heartless. I'm not saying either man was a paragon of virtue, but I'm not sure one can simply paint them as horrible people. I mean the main characters marry these men after all, so it's hard to portray a sympathetic and intelligent female character who still marries these men. It's just not explained well enough. Erickson is an excellent writer and while I could do without the random made up affairs every woman lead has in every Erickson book I've read, her novels are infinitely readable. They're almost taken better as just well written romance novels though.