The Secret Bride

Written by Diane Haeger
Review by Monica Spence

Another episode in today’s Tudormania. The story of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s younger sister, is relatively unknown to the reading public. She was probably the only woman in the English court able to get the better of her brother and then survive to tell the tale. The love story of Henry’s best friend, Charles Brandon, and Mary is both touching and romantic.

Diane Haeger’s novel entertains and informs without being pedantic. She writes of objects that I thought were anachronisms, but I later found were facts. For instance, who knew wallpaper was known in Tudor England?

The new viewpoint on the oft-told story of the Tudor family adds to the available history of the 16th century. Haeger’s sensitive treatment of Mary’s ailing first spouse, King Louis XII of France, is among the best characterizations I have read in historical fiction. The character of Charles Brandon grows from that a social-climbing serial husband to a man with a heart willing to risk all for the woman of his dreams. Haeger’s Mary Tudor develops depth and maturity, going from a spoiled child to a politically savvy Queen who willingly takes risks to follow her own mind and heart, in contrast to the usual destiny of the era’s noblewomen.

The drawbacks of the novel include an overuse of narrative. I wanted to hear more from the characters through dialog rather than description. On several occasions, the author’s head-hopping pulled me out of the story enough to wonder whose point of view I was reading.

I recommend The Secret Bride to lovers of the Tudor era, and for readers looking for a rare happily-ever-ending love story in Henry VIII’s court.