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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different look at Jane Seymour................
I have read and loved all of Suzannah Dunns' previous novels, and so was expecting great things from 'The May Bride'. I wasn't disappointed!! It is the story of the early days of Jane Seymour (pre-HenryVIII), and gives a different look at the somewhat colourless lady-in-waiting that history has portrayed. Jane is 15 at the time of the books' setting, and her elder...
Published 16 months ago by laineyf

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing historical novel
'Twice my life has turned on the step of a girl through a doorway; first when I was fifteen and my new, first-ever sister-in-law came walking into Wolf Hall.'

The novel opens with Jane Seymour, the fifteen year old narrator, describing her first view of her new sister-in-law, Katherine Filliol. Jane is captivated and charmed by her new sister-in-law and feels...
Published 10 months ago by Purpleheart


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different look at Jane Seymour................, 27 Feb. 2014
By 
laineyf "widnes" (warwickshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The May Bride (Hardcover)
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I have read and loved all of Suzannah Dunns' previous novels, and so was expecting great things from 'The May Bride'. I wasn't disappointed!! It is the story of the early days of Jane Seymour (pre-HenryVIII), and gives a different look at the somewhat colourless lady-in-waiting that history has portrayed. Jane is 15 at the time of the books' setting, and her elder brother, Edward (later to become Lord Protector of England) has brought home his bride, Katherine Filliol, to Wolf Hall, the Seymours' family home. Katherine is 21, and Jane is captivated by her. Not just her beauty, and her grace, but by everything about her, her attitude to life, to Edward, her aptitude for fun, and her ability to enjoy life. Jane is drawn like a moth to a flame to Katherine, and is dazzled by her. Katharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn hover in the background of this book, as of course does Henry, but they are merely extras in this story. This is about Jane, the Seymours, Edward, Thomas, and of course, Katherine. Jane Seymour is not my favourite Tudor consort, she didn't live long enough to leave her mark, and she didn't dazzle like some, but this book gave me an insight into her childhood, her loyalties, and answered some questions that I had about her character. It made her more real, more solid, than I had previously thought, and I really enjoyed this book. Recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The May Bride, 13 Mar. 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The May Bride (Kindle Edition)
Jane Seymour is fifteen when her eldest brother, Edward, returns to Wolf Hall with his twenty one year old wife Katherine. Jane is dutiful, plain and, even at her young age, suspects that her life will be spent as a spinster sister. In fact, it seems almost inconceivable that she ever leave the comfortable confines of Wolf Hall, where she has her world of loving parents, servants, younger sisters Elizabeth, Dottie and Margie and her other brothers Thomas and little Antony. Her days are filled with work, the children’s chatter and the evenings with sewing, while Father James snores by the fire. Yet, arriving at Wolf Hall, with all its traditions and reassuring ways of doing things, Katherine is a breath of fresh air and Jane is dazzled. By her beauty, her lightness of step, her seemingly limitless small treasures – gold leaf, brightly coloured thread, extra cushions in her room – and the way she laughs and trips effortlessly through the day. What is more, Katherine chooses Jane as her confidante and the young girl happily embraces her new sister in law as the fount of all wisdom.

Then, Edward goes off to war and Thomas is left champing at the bit. Jane’s brothers are ambitious and their desire is not to make a home at Wolf Hall, but to be at Court. Can Katherine be the wife that Edward wants and needs to further his career, or are the two dangerously ill matched? Then Edward makes a terrible allegation and things for the Seymour family will never be the same again. Jane finds herself transplanted to Court, where she never imagined she would ever visit, let alone live, sewing dutifully by the side of another Katherine. This Katherine is a Queen, although her husband is attempting to put her aside for Anne Boleyn and, again, Jane sees how powerless women can be – whether tucked away in the country or in the highest seat in the land.

I have to admit that Suzannah Dunn is an author about whom I have had mixed feelings over the years. I loved her early work and then was less impressed by some later books. However, I am delighted I gave this a chance, as it is a superbly crafted historical novel. Although most of the book (three quarters) takes place in Wolf Hall, amongst Jane’s immediate family, the author makes the story she is telling absolutely riveting. We are all aware of what Jane’s elder brothers, Edward and Thomas, will become. Here, she manages to create realistic, younger versions of these boys that will become men – the deeply ambitious Edward and the slightly wayward and dangerous Thomas. The author also makes a good point, that many women are written out of history – I have to admit that I was not aware that Edward ever married Katherine, the beautiful, vivacious May Bride, of his youth. In this book, Dunn has created a realistic and believable character in Katherine and virtually breathed her back into life. Out of domestic disaster, she has created a novel which I am sure will find her a whole new audience, as well as bring back former readers who may, like me, have decided that she is worth giving another chance – this novel proves that she is back at the height of her game.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An original, fresh and oblique look at Tudor marriage, 13 Mar. 2014
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The May Bride (Hardcover)
If the Tudors are our national soap opera, then this gives an original and oblique spin on that well-told story. Here Dunn approaches the story via Katherine Filliol, the first wife of Edward Seymour, and their story set at Wolf Hall is narrated by the young Jane Seymour, later third wife to Henry VIII.

I like Dunn’s modern take on the historical novel and here, as in her previous books, she gives her characters a contemporary idiom and language (someone, for example, is a ‘good bloke’). The relationships at Wolf Hall take their cue from the gossip and rumours of history (though Katherine Filliol’s story is not as well known as some). It’s only at the end that the parallels between Katherine and Edward and a more famous tale are made clear, and the result is a very modern retrospective on Tudor marriage.

If you’re looking for a ‘traditional’ history novel then this may disconcert, but I enjoyed this fresh and critical view of Henrician marriage.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's been ages since I dipped back into this genre..., 19 Feb. 2015
By 
Stella (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The May Bride (Paperback)
I used to read quite a lot of Historical and had a real soft spot for Tudor fiction but it's been ages since I dipped back into the genre.

I like something gentle every now and then though, to break up my usual reading material (Apocalyptic) and I'm so glad to have had this one to hand because I really liked it.

Now, aside from reading a lot of Tudor fiction I don't know a great deal about them. I usually Google a little bit after I've finished a book but it's just a light search to see what's real and what's not. I don't really mind if it's completely made up or just loosely based on known facts because most times I don't know the facts to start with and can just get caught up in the story.

I don't know the first thing about Jane Seymour so was looking forward to finding out a bit more of her time as Queen. Since she's the narrator I thought I'd be taken right into the thick of it all. I love a bit of palace intrigue :D

Jane's not the May Bride of the title though, that honour goes to her sister-in-law Katherine who marries Jane's eldest brother Edward in the first chapter.

That disappointment aside, I actually really liked her story. I didn't really like most of the characters (the Seymours) and it all takes place 10+ years before Jane is Queen so pretty much 90% of it is set at Wolf Hall where the Seymours live so there's little to zero court intrigue, and not a lot happens and it's all pretty pedestrian...but I still liked it. It's a good story.

I'm surprised how much I liked it, actually. One of the things that REALLY rubs me up the wrong way is modern speech in an Historical setting, and this has that in bucketful's. Jane Seymour would not say to her brother Thomas, "Tough, suck it up, Sunshine" (yeah, that one almost yanked me out of it), and her sister-in-law Katherine (when asked how she learned to swim) would not say, "Dunno, just did". And I'm pretty sure that Jane's elder brother Thomas when asked a question would NOT answer with, "How the F*** should I know?". Granted, things were getting a bit heated by that point but I'd put money on that not being what he went with as an answer.

Unlikely as it sounds, for some reason none of that seemed to matter as much to me as it usually does. I registered it, yes, but it didn't bother me. Which is weird. I've since found out that a modern style is something that Ms Dunn favours but this was my first of hers so it was all new to me. It probably won't be my last though, I'm already looking to see what else she's done.

Oh, and I've never seen so many colons and commas in one place before. My goodness!

*I was sent a review copy of this by the publisher*
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The May Bride, 1 May 2014
By 
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The May Bride (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've read and enjoyed Suzannah Dunn's novels before, particularly The Queen of Subtleties and The Confession of Katherine Howard, so I was looking forward to The May Bride and although The May Bride wasn't as enthralling as the other two I have read it was nonetheless , a good read.

Suzannah Dunn's novel is narrated by Jane Seymour which I rather liked because Jane Seymour is probably the least written about wife of Henry VIII although this novel is more about her sister-in-law Katherine Filliol than about Jane Seymour herself.

Katherine Filliol was the first wife of Jane Seymour's brother, Edward. They were married for nearly three years and had two sons. For some reason unknown (there were later rumours that she and her father-in-law had an affair although this is not backed up by contemporary evidence) Katherine and Edward separated and little else is known of Katherine's fate although her sons remained legitimate and inherited the Duchy of Somerset in 1750. It remains a mysterious and interesting event in Tudor history.

Jane is 15 when the captivating Katherine Filliol marries Edward and moves into Wolf Hall. Jane is dazzled by the carefree Katherine who is everything the steady Seymour's are not. Katherine opens up new worlds and new ideas to Jane and they soon become friends and allies but things between Katherine and Edward sour very quickly and Jane has her first, but not her last, taste of a disastrously failed marriage.

Katherine is portrayed as a forthright, carefree young woman who makes a terrible mistake. I wasn't sure about Dunn's interpretation of what might have happened although since we'll never know what happened it seems a possibly reasonable imagining. I liked Jane's narrative voice. Often portrayed as the mousey, uninteresting wife of Henry VIII Dunn gives her an individual voice and she is portrayed as a practical and reasonable woman which was refreshing.

Overall The May Bride is not Dunn's best novel but it is a good read and a fascinating moment in history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing historical novel, 18 Aug. 2014
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The May Bride (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Twice my life has turned on the step of a girl through a doorway; first when I was fifteen and my new, first-ever sister-in-law came walking into Wolf Hall.'

The novel opens with Jane Seymour, the fifteen year old narrator, describing her first view of her new sister-in-law, Katherine Filliol. Jane is captivated and charmed by her new sister-in-law and feels loyalty towards her. When scandal emerges Jane is torn in her loyalties and then transported to court of be lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon. Wolf Hall, the home of the Seymours, has become famous as the title of Hilary Mantel's masterly novel. This piece of historical fiction is not in the same class, but it does bring freshness to the Tudor saga with its depiction of a family drama and gives some insight into Henry VIII's third wife.

I was persuaded by Dunn's approach to historical fiction - she writes in a modern idiom and once I had grown to used to it it did not jar. At first I found the detailed descriptions of f domestic life at Wolf Hall charming but then I found it dragged in its descriptions so give it 3.5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ‘Twice my life has turned on the step of a girl through a doorway;, 8 Jan. 2015
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The May Bride (Kindle Edition)
.. first when I was fifteen and my new, first-ever sister-in-law came walking into Wolf Hall.’

I thought, when I picked up this novel, that it would be about Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII. A reasonable expectation, I thought, given that the tagline states ‘Marrying the King was Jane Seymour’s destiny and her revenge’. No, the novel is about Katherine Filiol’s marriage in May to Jane Seymour’s brother Edward when Jane was aged 15, and their subsequent friendship.

The story is told by Jane, and starts when Edward brings his bride Katherine home to Wolf Hall. Katherine is aged 21, and is a breath of fresh air to the Seymour household. Jane, the quiet dependable daughter, is captivated and the two become good friends. Katherine is left at Wolf Hall while Edward serves the King in France and then pursues his career at court. But then, after two sons are born, Edward makes shocking allegations against his wife and his father. Edward puts Katherine aside.

‘This is over now and the rest of your life can begin.’

Jane joins Catherine of Aragon’s household, and then sees Henry VIII put Catherine aside in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Then Anne herself is put aside, and on 30 May 1536, Jane becomes the May Bride of Henry VIII.

While the novel wasn’t what I was expecting and I enjoyed aspects of it, I wouldn’t have picked it up if I’d realised it wasn’t primarily about Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII. We don’t know why Katherine Filiol was put aside by Edward Seymour. And although Ms Dunn’s take is interesting, Katherine Filiol is not the May Bride I really wanted to read about. If you enjoy fiction set in Tudor times, if you want a novel that deals with aspects of Jane Seymour’s life before she married Henry VIII, you may well enjoy this novel more than I did. But if you are looking for a novel about Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII, this is not it.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A realistic and believable account of the most enigmatic of Henry's wives, 16 Oct. 2014
By 
Skeadugenga (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The May Bride (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like others, I do feel that the Tudor period has now been done to death and Suzannah Dunn has written individual books about each of Henry's wives, except Anne of Cleves (so far).

However, I did like this book. The story of Jane Seymour's teenage life at Wolf Hall occupies 3/4 of the book and is a quiet and convincing story until the huge upheaval that propels her to court. And the author provides interesting speculation on how Jane came to be queen although I think her brother's and father's role has been underplayed. The style is sometimes startlingly modern with anachronistic phrases such as "good bloke", but I don't mind that if an author makes a conscious choice on how she is going to handle language and then sticks to it. We are spared "Gods teeth" and "forsooth" and all the other nonsense that some authors sprinkle into their text to try and make it sound authentically historic. Dunn has an ear and pen for natural conversation and her characters are believable.

Where this book is particularly good is in the description of Jane's life at home. The Seymours seem to have lived only slightly better than a local farmer's family would have done and the women of the house undertake the heavy labour of cleaning and food preparation with only three servants to assist. Their move into courtly circles is due to grander relatives who sponsor the two eldest boys and the past history of their parents.

On the strength of this book, I might even try her book on Anne Boleyn, despite feeling sometimes that there can be little by now that we don't know about that lady (I blame Natalie Dormer for being quite so bewitching in "The Tudors")
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look at Tudor times, 17 April 2014
This review is from: The May Bride (Hardcover)
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You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Tudors have been done to death (pardon the pun) but Susannah Dunn is an original writer breathing fresh life into a vastly over-written period of history. In this as in other books she uses the perspective of a minor player in the story to give a new perspective on life and times. Katherine, the new wife of Edward Seymour, is breath-takingly beautiful, exciting, mischievous and loving; but when her marriage palls she causes unseen agony for her new family and commits an unforgivable tragedy. Such a cliché but I really couldn't put this down; my heart was in my mouth to find out what would happen next.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel featuring the young Jane Seymour, 11 Jun. 2015
By 
EleanorB - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The May Bride (Paperback)
Suzannah Dunn has centred this clever novel on a little known historical figure from the Tudor fringes, namely Katherine Filliol, the first wife of Edward Seymour. Katherine dances into the life of the Seymour family home, Wolf Hall, as a summer bride, entrancingly lighthearted, good natured, working hard to fit into the busy routines of her new husband's home, effortlessly glamorous and "different". She dazzles Edward's sister, the fifteen year old Jane, and over that warm summer they become friends, kicking over a few traces, as plain Jane's head is quite turned by this unconventional newcomer.

This idyll cannot last, and indeed when Henry the Eighth decides to go to war with France, Edward must rally solders from the neighbourhood and head off to join the King, his feet firmly on the first rung of his journey to power and influence at Henry's court. Things take a strange turn from then on as Katherine's complexity and underlying unhappiness come to the fore; not even Edward's safe return from battle can ease the tensions which spill out into the rest of the household: in fact quite the reverse. Is the new bride even the right wife for the highly ambitious Edward Seymour? Suffice to say, that an accusation is made and no-one escapes the aftershock of the May Bride's fall from grace.

We know in great historical detail that the lives of Edward, Thomas, and Jane Seymour were played out on the great stage of the Tudor court and this interestingly crafted novel gives some intriguing insight into the power politics and indeed the sexual politics which might have framed their lives far beyond their early years at Wolf Hall.

The bulk of the book focusses on events which take place in Jane's teenage, formative, years but latterly she finds herself sent to court, right into the orbit of Katherine of Aragon and another confident, "different" young woman, Anne Boleyn, who creates aftershocks of her own, which reverberate around Europe and set Jane Seymour on a very different path in life to the one she expected to tread, as she herself becomes a May Bride in her turn.

This is good stuff and I highly recommend.
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The May Bride
The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn (Hardcover - 13 Mar. 2014)
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