The Queen’s Rival

Written by Diane Haeger
Review by Wisteria Leigh

Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, through the connections of her uncle, Lord Mountjoy, is given the opportunity to serve Katherine of Aragon as a maid of honor in King Henry VIII’s court. She is bedazzled, a naive 14-year-old with unabashed enthusiasm and visions of endless possibilities. She was granted the covetous position as a family favor. Her appearance at court is not as she expected: she begins to feel unwanted and quickly realizes the allure of court life is a double-edged sword. Gossip, innuendo, and the quest for individual favor and power permeate the atmosphere, and life is quiet and dull.

When King Henry is in residence, his love and lustful pursuit of all pleasures make the court bloom with joy. His pursuit of beautiful women is legendary, as are his inevitable callous breakups as he casts aside his lovers. But Bessie Blount is different, and Haeger portrays the vulnerability of the king as he struggles with his desire and need to be with this lover. From the moment he meets her, his passion is stirred with unique desperation. History will show that Bessie Blount did become King Henry’s mistress and their union produced his son.

Haeger has a remarkable sense for creating believable characters. Although historical fiction, the story is teeming with facts. The Queen’s Rival is fascinating to read as most characters are pulled from history, sparking the curious mind to research further. Haeger’s story is imaginative, seductive, and spellbinding. The Queen’s Rival is less about the scheming and struggle for power that defined the Tudor court as it is about Henry’s fairy-tale love for Bessie Blount.