Book Review: Jane the Quene by Janet Wertman (@Janetwertman) #RBRT # historical fiction #Tudor-Seymour saga
Jane Seymour is one of the Tudor characters about whom I have read little, other than incidentally in stories of Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. The Tudor period has been so over-written, I approached this book with some hesitancy, thinking it would be another rehash of everything I’ve read. I was pleasantly surprised – Jane Seymour comes across as a unique and layered individual, in contrast to the colorless, vapid, and upright woman described in so many other books.
In the England of 1535, Jane Seymour is 27 years old, edging to spinsterhood. She wants more than anything a marriage that will give her a future and a real place in society, but she is a shy and unspoiled woman who manages everything but is only part of the background. When the court of Henry VIII visits Wolf Hall, her family’s manor, she directs the event with such poise and efficiency that she finally gets noticed, and by Henry VIII himself.
Henry’s wife, Anne Boleyn, has become something of a curse to him: he changed England’s religion to divorce his first wife, Queen Katherine, to marry her (both unpopular moves with the English people) and Anne has given him only a girl child, followed by several miscarriages. He is desperate for a son and sees Jane’s honesty and innocence as a means to his redemption as well as a male heir.
Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious man who has, as the King’s clerk, managed to satisfy his every desire, also sees redemption for Henry in Jane and engineers the plot to have her become queen.
The author has woven a story in which we can see Jane as she was before the King’s visit and watch her develop into a confident queen. Her thoughts, fears and experiences through the plot to remove Anne and Anne’s her subsequent beheading create a three dimensional person trying to manage the ardor of the King and her new and unprepared- for position at court. Her ambition, nascent at first, grows as she marries Henry and becomes Quene Jane, and I enjoyed the contrast the author made between the sweet story of her early life and encounters with the King and her developing ambition, which seemed to get the better of her as time went on.
As seems normal for the treachery and intrigue of the Tudor court, relatives tend to direct he loves of the women, and in this respect Jane is not different – her brothers regulated her life from the beginning and I was quite thrilled when she finally stood up to them, although she did take their advice to manipulate the king through his affection for her.
There are many unanswered questions about Jane – what were her feelings about the haste with which Anne Boleyn was removed and executed, her unduly swift marriage to the King, her insertion into the Tudor Court and the gossip associated with it. The author does a good job getting into Jane’s thoughts: guilt, joy, and growing strength and ambition. One can only wonder what would have happened if she had not died following childbirth. Would the King have tired of her and moved on?
I will freely admit I did not like the person Jane became as she moved fully into the role of queen. She lost the humility and sweetness that I had come to love about her. But I believe this is probably what would have happened, and the author has the pulse of this character. The historical detail is wonderful and the dialogue smooth, which made this an easy and fun read.
If you like historical fiction and are a fan of the Tudors, this is a good book for you! An I am more than ready for the next book in the author’s trilogy on the Seymours – The Path to Somerset
About the author (from her blog site):
Janet Wertman grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West. Her grandfather was an antiquarian book dealer who taught her that there would always be a market for quirky, interesting books. He was the one who persuaded Janet’s parents to send her to the French school and then Barnard College. She spent fifteen years as a corporate lawyer in New York, doing a little writing on the side (The Executive Compensation Answer Book), but when her first and second children were born, she decided to change her lifestyle. She and her husband transformed their lives in 1997, moving to Los Angeles and switching careers. Janet became a grant writer and took up writing fiction.
Janet has always harbored a passion for the Tudor Kings and Queens since her parents let her stay up late to watch the televised Masterpiece Theatre series (both The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R) and is thrilled to have released the first two books in The Seymour Saga trilogy: Jane the Quene, which has been nominated for several book awards, and The Path to Somerset, which chronicles Edward Seymour’s rise after Jane’s death to become Lord Protector of England and Duke of Somerset. They will be joined in 2020 by The Boy King, which will cover the reign of Jane’s son, Edward VI.
Author: The Salty River Bleeds, The Timbre of Sand, Still Dandelions, A Ranch Bordering the Salty River. Alum: Palomar College, Columbia University, Bennington College. Follow on twitter @SmpageSteve on Instagram @smpagemoria on Facebook @steven.page.1481