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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 17 February 2011
This is yet another canter through the wives of Henry VIII as seen through the eyes of Mary Howard who comes to court to serve Anne Boleyn. Dear Anne...if she had never existed I doubt whether there would be these innumerable rehashes of her story. Mary is what I would term heavy weather, as another reviewer has noted it doesn't take much to get her tear ducts flowing. As a character and a story, it's passable, certainly better than the Tudor Wife though anything would be. What grates is the language and choice of words, nobody of the period would say closure for instance, and there are some really awful proof errors, such as reigns instead of reins.

Just about worthwhile as an easygoing read if you're a Tudor or Boleyn completist who must read everything about the subject, but Philippa Gregory has already done it in a way that is classic and in my opinion, in popular fiction at least, unsurpassable.
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on 14 January 2012
This book is brilliant for anyone who enjoyed 'The Other Boleyn Girl' or any of Philippa Gregory's novels. It looks at the life of the daughter of Mary Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, and cousin to Anne Boleyn.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I've read a lot about the Tudors, in both fiction and non-fiction books, but I've never read one told from the viewpoint of Mary Howard, and found it fascinating. The author's portrayal of the Duke of Norfolk, and his relationship with his daughter, is hauntingly emotional, and I found this stayed with me a long time after I finished this book.
Another thing I loved about this book was the brilliant continuity - this book literally follows the life of Mary Howard, right through the reign of Henry VIII and all the ups and downs of his court, and includes the reign of Henry's son Edward, and daughter Mary.
I also loved how the character of Henry Fitzroy was explored, as his role in the Tudor court was a strange but interesting one, and it was so interesting to look at this through the eyes of his wife and childhood friend.

Anyone who has enjoyed the TV series The Tudors, or any of the popular Tudor novels, will find this a slightly different, but still really interesting take on life at the Tudor Court.
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on 6 May 2012
...and by that I don't mean profanity, I mean the use of modern words in what is supposed to be a period piece.

Jane Parker (Lady Rochester) was described as "mealymouthed", I gave up on the number of times characters were referred to as "daft" and there was a word in the book which I had never before seen. Thinking it might be an archaic English word, I looked it up in the dictionary to find that it was an 18th century American word!

That, together with the American spellings, which except for the previous language issues I could have tolerated, made this book a great disappointment for me. This is a pity as I love historical fiction and otherwise the book might have been, for me, a great success.

On the whole, I would say that far better research would have helped this book and may have then warranted a four star rating; as it is, I'm afraid, it only warrants a two star.
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on 2 December 2011
I have a high interest in the Tudor period of English history, but I've not read much fiction on it. I picked this up because it came as a recommendation from my mother-in-law (who IS very much into historical fiction) and decided to read something a bit different on my train journeys into work. The story follows Mary Howard - a young girl who comes to court to serve Anne Bolyen just as she's about to come into power, as her father plots to bring his family into the King's favour. As she becomes betrothed to the King's illegitimate son, slowly her life descend into chaos.

Mary Howard isn't exactly a pair of eyes that's seen through on a regular occasion, all the books I've seen have been from the wives of Henry but Mary serves as an outsider looking in and offers a unique spin on the royals. The book is told from a first person perspective of Mary herself but the opening and closing chapters are narrated by her mother. The text sometimes reads like its lifted out of a history book with its dates and descriptions, other times I feel like I'm reading Mary's diary with all her emotional drivel. I noticed also the odd jumps in time between paragraph breaks; sometimes only days pass whilst in most cases whole years whiz by in a matter of words. As I haven't read the likes of Philippa Gregory, I can't comment on whether the text is taken from another book or not, and I didn't take much note or offense to the incorrect language used for the time period as I have read much worst from much more incompetent writers, but overall I found it easy to read and keep up with what's going on.

Mary herself is an....unique protagonist; based upon a historical figure that somehow escape being Henry's 7th wife, not having any children and living to a old age (at the time) and not normally looked at by historian, I was intrigued by her story and found myself liking how some of her trials and terrors actually happened in real life. I was half expecting for it to be like The Tudors and take liberties to the extreme (for the record I still enjoyed that TV programme) by from what I can gather it's all based on reality. However I found her character a little weird and irritating at times. Her ability to shed tears at a drop of a hat got tiresome to read by halfway through the book, and her odd relationship with her father was, admittedly, intriguing but I can see why some people would be put off by certain scenes with the pair of them. Mary was likable and relatable at times but not someone I admired whole-heartily.

On the whole I did enjoy the book, I wouldn't read it again but I would consider picking up other historical fiction in the future. If like me you weren't expecting anything authentic and just light reading, Secrets of the Tudor Court will serve you well.
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on 21 February 2011
I am still reading this 'book' but had to check out reviews after seeing the word 'cute' used to describe puppies, whilst written in the 16th century and also I noted the word closure. The author boasts a history qualification - from where I wonder? Absolutely dire and a re-hash of much more outstanding books written years ago.
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on 24 March 2011
This book is a bit of a mixed bag. It's not utterly terrible, as I found myself completely immersed in the world for a while and had to remind myself what day it was when something distracted me. Having said that, what did distract me was exactly what others have said: plot similarities, bizarre language, easily avoidable factual mistakes, and the whole teenager-ish feel to the book.

Mary Howard is completely spineless protagonist for most of the book, which completely contradicts history's view of her as a strong, free-thinking and independently minded woman. She throws tantrums, loses control frequently, bursts into tears at everything, and is naive and irritating.

Factual mistakes included things like George Boleyn 'swinging from the gallows' inside the Tower of London, when even a brief glance at any biography of his will tell you that he was beheaded on Tower Green. The author also completely lifts George's story and character, and those of his wife, from Philippa Gregory's 'The Other Boleyn Girl' in one of the most flagrant examples of plagiarism I've seen.

I also felt uncomfortable in places where Mary's relationship with her father was developed. There's some sort of bizarre sadomasochistic thing going on between them that is creepy at best, and at worst incestuous. It felt like I was peeking through a window into the author's head, rather than Mary's life.

As others have mentioned, words like 'cute' and 'color' threw me. And when the author describes medieval London as some fairytale world with a glittering river and cobbled streets I almost put the book down there and then, as she's clearly never been to London and doesn't have the imagination or facts to know that it would have been a filthy, stinking place for the most part. The fact that the daughter of a Duke is impressed by the clothes of servants also grated on me.

For all that though, I was absorbed. There are plenty of better books out there, but this is an ok holiday read if you don't know much about the Tudor era yet. Just take the details with a shovelful of salt.
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on 2 July 2015
By the author who bought you such stellar classics as "The Tudor Wife", comes the lost tale of Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond; a tale that really should remain lost.

A young woman serving her cousin Anne Boleyn in the seedy steamy treacherous Tudor court, married by arrangement to Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, and not allowed to live together as man and wife, she spends her days after his quick death in which she hardly knew him, (but yet made him a promise on his deathbed never to marry again), being knocked around by her father the violent Duke of Norfolk (who creepily likes to comb her hair or run his fingers through it, and whom she climbs into bed with while he lays dying), embroiled in his various schemes (such as spying, gossiping, seducing), serving various Queens at Henry's court, and throughout all being comforted in her never ending tears of which someone is always around to stroke away, kiss away or hold their hands to her cheeks, until she dies.

So, if you want a story full of mush (high born Howard countess falls in love with lowly musician and they meet for rumpo in a music room), historical inaccuracies (swinging on hammocks in the garden, characters sitting on couches, birthday parties, riding side-saddle, walking through the palace in a nightdress), unlikely events (Norfolk combing his daughters hair, Henry VIII sitting with his leg propped up on Catherine Parr's lap at a banquet, riding along a seashore for fun and staring at rainbows), silly nicknames (Katherine "Kitty" Howard and "Mare-Bear"), silly names (Cedric Dame), use of 20th and 21st century language in 15th century Tudor England ("my daddy"\"I thought it was time to "quit the Tower"\"HAPPY BIRTHDAY"), crappy poetry and even worse poetry names ("O Happy Dames" which turns out to be a dirge stolen by Mary's brother about all her executed or fallen family and friends), buxom wenches (Bess Holland), dialogue that is repetitive ("time to quit the (insert place), "my Anne", "my tears", "thin wrist"), then this tale is for you.

Seriously, even "Reign" is better than this.
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on 27 January 2012
I will give this book three and a half stars. It isn't an excellent read by any means, nor it is totally bad.
The character of Mary Howard doesn't draw the reader in. She is a bit of a wimp most of the time, but kudos to the author for attempting to convey this neglected figure in history, it is a shame that the character just didn't engage any interest for me.
When she not crying, she whines. Only occasionally showing any backbone.She is like the proverbial beaten dog that goes back to it's tormentor with it's tail wagging.
There has been some comment on 'modernisms' used in the dialogue.This didn't really detract from the book for me.The author is American and there are some mistakes in the history (Elizabeth 1 was born at Greenwich, not Windsor)that grated a bit.
Here's an idea....to get maximum enjoyment from this book,have a swig of your favourite tipple (or a piece of chocolate) every time Mary cries in this book and that will get you through to the end.You'll either be sozzled or chocced out- but hey!!
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on 24 January 2011
This is a complete re-hash of the historical fiction already out there, a la Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy, etc. This author has obviously read those authors, and has written an almost identical copy of the story of Henry VIII's wives. In an attempt to make it seem original, she has written it from the perspective of Mary Howard. However this does nothing to disguise this novel's complete and utter lack of originality. The language of this book is littered with American expressions that sound completely out of place and quite frankly ridiculous. There are also numerous spelling and grammar mistakes. This is a poor effort, something that I would expect a sixth-former to come up with. Maybe this trash is ok for the American market, but I really don't recommend wasting your money on it.
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on 11 June 2011
I agree with so many of the other reviewers. This is basically a rewrite/ direct lift from the Other Boleyn Girl. If Philippa Gregory hadn't written that first you might be impressed by this effort but Philippa did it better and was the original so I wasn't seeing anything new here!! I'm amazed that publishers will go for this kind of thinly veiled copycat writing but there you go, it's nice work if you can get it.

That said, this presents a slightly different perspective from a new character of the era but is sadly lacking in accuracy and authenticity which isn't the end of the world (I am aware this is a novel after all!). However to overlook the similarities between other (better) works it would have to really deliver and IMHO it only goes half way to doing that. The language is mixed, some facts VERY wrong (even in the hazy and forgiving world of historical fiction) and it strangely revels in the violence and odd `relationship' between Mary and her father . Worth a flick through if someone lends it or you find an abandoned copy on the tube but I wouldn't pay much for this I'm afraid. Oh yes, one more thing; couldn't she think of a less lame title ???!
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