The Secret Bride by Diane Haegar

For the fans of The Tudors comes a captivating drama about the only woman who could defy Henry VIII – and keep her life

– said the blurb at the back of the book, and it had me hooked. As regular readers here would know by now that I love historical fiction. And especially about the Tudors who seem to be most colourful(or at the very least, most interesting) of all the monarchs in British history.

TheSecretBride

Mary Tudor is the headstrong, younger sister of Henry VIII. They grew up together, and shared a close bond. When Arthur, their elder brother died, Mary and Henry were there for each other. Henry liked to say that he would rule the country with Mary beside him, helping him. Life in the royal courts are never as they seem. While young princes might stand a chance of becoming king, princesses are mostly bargaining chips. Mary had been betrothed by her father, to a young Charles of Castile when he was still a boy. This wedding did not take place as weddings were all based on political alliances. The political tides had changed, since the time of the first betrothal. Henry, her brother, then betrothed her to King Louis of France, a much older man. Unhappily, with a heavy heart, Mary agrees to marry the King of France, because as a royal princess, she really doesn’t have much of an option. Her heart was in England though, with Charles Brandon, her brother’s best friend. But this is a relationship that would go nowhere. Henry was already upset that his other sister Margaret refused to do her bit for England when she was widowed, so Mary had no options but to follow her royal duty. She did manage to wrangle a last promise out of her brother, just before she left for France, that in case she were to be widowed, she would be free to choose her own destiny.

It is all about Mary and Charles’ romance. The risks they took, the chances that they grabbed at, while hoping that one day, they would be able to live the life they both wanted. While the story is mainly about Mary, it is also about Henry VIII as a brother, a side of him, that had been unknown to me, at least. It is interesting how he changes, slowly over time to the person he is now most known for. Mary came across as a woman with a mind of her own, but willing to do what she thought of, as her duty. Even as the Queen of France, Mary did her best, the relationship she shared with the King of France was sweet, rather touching to read. The life of the princesses those days, born into luxury and yet trapped by the traditions and expectations that they had to adhere to. Not easy at all, but then I guess, if we were to look at the lives of the common people, those days, even this would be paradise.

While overall the book was interesting, it never came across clearly, as to what really brought Charles and Mary close. The narrative rather felt like a romance where they hated each other and then fell in love, with no real reason why Mary started liking Charles. That was one discordant note in the story of the romance. I enjoyed Mary as a character, but the others, I felt would have been better fleshed out. It touches upon the other happenings in the Tudor world, like Henry’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon which was fraught with all sorts of problems. A quick and interesting read, apart from the few things that didn’t quite work for me, but as someone who enjoys historical fiction, I definitely enjoyed it, and I went back and read more about Mary Tudor, Queen of France.

I would give it a 3.5/5. An interesting read, but not the best or something that would stay with me.

About the Author
Diane Haeger is the author of four previous historical novels, including The Ruby Ring and My Dearest Cecilia. She lives in California with her husband and family.

The book is available from Amazon(UK) and Flipkart(India).

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