Mary Hawke is full of naïve expectation and romantic ideals as she enters into marriage with her parents’ choice, local nobleman, Henry Crawford. Heartsease follows the course of Mary’s life from wide-eyed 16-year-old bride to the scaffold upon Tower Hill. Mary has more than her fair share of ups and downs as we go with her through the romance of three marriages, following her to Henry VIII’s court and Spain. Lady-in-waiting to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Mary finds herself embroiled within deadly plots and intrigue, and the dire consequences which ensue.

With echoes of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory, I do not think Heartsease will disappoint the ardent fan of romantic historical fiction. The dialogue has a modern leaning, at times too modern, most markedly when Catherine of Aragon addresses Mary as ‘Mrs Crawford.’ I also found the narrative a little shallow in places, and some of the major plot points lacked subtlety. Historical errors and poor editing did almost cause me to put this novel down a number of times, but I am very glad I did not, for it gets better. A lot better! If the first half of this book was as good as the second, then it would be a sterling first novel. The characters and story had me hooked and drew me on to read to the very end, an ending which moved me to tears. Overall, a cracking first novel, but I would strongly suggest the author considers doing a thorough re-edit to do her novel justice. I think the HNS may see great things from Ann Turner in the future.

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