Rivals in the Tudor Court
Bogdan’s second Tudor-era novel opens with an angry Thomas Howard bemoaning his imprisonment in the Tower of London, and the next 300 pages explain how he got there and why he’s so angry. Thomas was a sensitive boy scarred by the cruelty of his father and grandfather, then embittered by the death of his beloved wife and several of his children. His second wife, Elizabeth Stafford, is the opposite of his sainted first wife (who he called his princess). While there’s no lack of passion between the two, Elizabeth’s opinionated nature and unwillingness to play the meek noble wife quickly drive the couple apart. Thomas takes the comely (and ditzy) Bess Holland as his mistress, and begins to play the two women against each other. As his fortunes in Henry’s court rise and fall, Thomas becomes more bitter and cruel, until he eventually finds himself losing the regard and influence he fought so hard to gain.
Bogdan’s treatment of her subjects is superficial at best, and Rivals in the Tudor Court is basically a Tudor-era soap opera, complete with love triangles, plot twists, court politics, and manipulative characters. However, it’s enjoyable for what it is – a fast-paced, quick, and entertaining read for those times when you just want something fluffy that doesn’t require much thought.