In The Favored Queen, Carolly Erickson weaves one of her fictional historical entertainments around Jane Seymour, a woman of noble birth who ended her life as not only the third queen of Henry VIII but as the only one who gave him what he wanted and needed most – a legitimate male heir to the throne of England.
The book is written as Jane’s account of her time at court, beginning as a maid of honor to Catherine of Aragon and ending shortly after the birth of her son, Edward VI. Deception and intrigue abound as Jane learns to weave her way through the treacherous maze she must live in and she does what she can to find happiness in this snake pit while also keeping her head, both figuratively and literally.
It must be noted first and foremost that The Favored Queen is not a true account of the history surrounding the actual events. Carolly Erickson even adds a “Note To The Reader” stating she has taken the real events of the past and twirled them together with “imaginative invention” to create a “reimagining of the past”. Having read a few of her historical entertainments I already knew this to be true. She creates a very intriguing world that touches on what we know of as fact and changes much to advance the storyline. However, even I (who often enjoys historical fiction that veers from fact) found issues with certain plotlines in the story.
For one, the Jane in this book was everywhere. She was in every birthing room and was witness to every significant quarrel discussed. As a maid of honor to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn she would have been around for much of what happened, but there is no plausible way she would have been witness to so much. Henry VIII also seemed to find her to be the only person he could trust (as was stated a few different times) and therefore confided in her much that I cannot conceive he would have actually told her as one of a few close attendants to both his wives.
Jane is also given two loves of her life (none the King), one of which came barreling out of nowhere and seemed rushed and not pertinent, in my opinion, to the storyline. I really don’t mind excursions from fact but they have to at least seem plausible for me to thoroughly enjoy the story.
All in all, at its base the story is definitely entertaining. I don’t think you will be bored with the tangled web Jane finds herself in and I know I will still read more from Carolly Erickson as her books have become a guilty pleasure of mine. If you don’t know much about the historical facts or can suspend your need for realism for a while then The Favored Queen is worth a read. If glaring changes to history bother you then put this one aside as it will most likely drive you to frustration.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
This book was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.