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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Captivating To Die For Brings History to Life

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As Anne Boleyn's neighbor and best friend, Meg Wyatt knows her destiny lies in hitching her wagon to Anne's rising star. It's a duty she accepts willingly, even though it dooms her to be "always the setting ... never the stone" (215). With little to keep her in Kent, especially after her beloved Will announces his intention to enter the priesthood, 21-year-old Meg follows her friend to court. While Anne serves as a maiden of honor to Queen Katherine of Aragon, Meg spends her days schmoozing with lords and ladies, hoping to make connections that will aid her father as well as the doddering old man he's forcing her to marry. Her adventures at court help take Meg's mind off her impending marriage as well as Will's rejection, but only just.

The women's courtly fun takes a dangerous turn when Henry VIII's wandering eye lands on Anne. Flattered by his attention, she encourages his affection, setting her sights on nothing less than Queen Katherine's throne. Appalled by her friend's scheming, Meg tries reasoning with Anne, but to no avail. Soon the king's wrangling with religious leaders to dissolve his marriage to Katherine, Anne's designing her wedding gown, and Meg's doing her best to protect her friend. As the fickle crowd turns against Anne, life at court becomes as treacherous as a battlefield and it's up to Meg to discern friend from enemy.

Things don't get any easier, even with the crown resting upon Anne's pretty head. Especially then. As Anne helps to usher in the English Reformation, struggles to produce an heir, and finally, finds herself imprisoned in the Tower of London, Meg is there to comfort, support, and defend. Even while grappling with her own problems; even when her loyalty to Anne Boleyn makes her a target; even when it could cost her her own life, Meg Wyatt is there for her friend.

To Die For, a new historical novel by Sandra Byrd, tells the story of a remarkable friendship between two very different women. While the relationship between Anne and Meg is based in fact, it's mostly fiction. Still, it makes for a compelling tale. It's a testament to Byrd's skill that Meg's story is just as intriguing - if not more so - than Anne Boleyn's. In fact, Meg's level-headed narration allows us to feel any number of things about Anne (disgust, pity, incredulity, admiration, etc.) while remaining completely sympathetic to Meg's plight. The complexity of that friendship, mixed with colorful period detail, plenty of juicy plot twists, and a cast of fascinating characters makes To Die For a captivating historical novel not to be missed.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild sexual content/innuendo and violence

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of To Die For from the generous folks at Simon and Schuster and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, for whom this review was written.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing, Susan. I appreciate you!


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