This is the story of Mary, the younger sister of King Henry VIII. Mary is 8 years old when the book starts and learns that her older brother, Arthur, has died making her favorite brother, Henry, the new heir to the throne. At 18, Henry becomes king and guardian of his sister. Because of her close relationship to Henry, Mary is allowed more liberties as she is going up than most girls would have such as riding the hunt with the men. Mary knows that because of her station in life she will have to have a political marriage regardless if she wishes it or not. She is drawn to one of Henry's close friends, Charles Brandon but also knows that nothing can come of it without Henry's favor.
Charles Brandon is an orphan whose father did a good deed for Henry VII, which resulted in Charles being placed being raised with Henry. Though Charles is several years older than Henry, the boys become good friends. This friendship serves Charles well as he works on acquiring wealth and prestige in Henry's court. Henry's sister, Mary, intrigues him even as a child but, like Mary, he knows nothing can come of it due to his lack of station. Mary is destined for other things.
Though this book is fiction, it reads as if it were a biography. Most if not all of the characters are real life historical figures and as such can be researched. This is good and bad. You can really get a feel of who Mary is friends with and the important people in her life yet the author, Diane Haeger, cannot deviate from what truly happened. In fact, in the back of the book, Ms Haeger lets the reader know what dates and/or events she moved within her timeline.
One of the things that Ms Haeger does really well is historical research. It shows in her writing. Besides Mary's story, readers are told about sea battles with the French, the love Henry has for his first bride, Katherine and the various affairs of Henry's court, love and political. Much of this background material is for the reader to get a sense of the era or to see how a particular character develops. Some seem to be just interesting subplots such as Charles and his relationship with his sister, Anne.
I'd like to say that this book is spellbinding and a true page-turner but I can't. It reminded me of several books that I read while in college studying history! You know what the ending is going to be before you even start the book, if it follows known history. Still, as I knew little about Henry's younger sister, Mary, I found the book to be interesting. I found it a bit slow in parts but the story still moved ahead at a regular pace. It was fun to know that Henry was not the only hardheaded child of Henry VII and not the only one to go after what they truly wanted. Mary's problem was how far could she go before she felt her brother, the king's wrath.
The author or publisher included a reader's guide for schools or reading clubs to have questions to discuss about this book. As I said, it reminds me of a textbook. In my opinion, a good book has you think of these types of questions without prompting.
If you want a historical novel with good research and data, this is your book. If you want a historical romance complete with torrid love scenes, find another one. While this book has great passion and love, it's within the rigid court pageantry and with political ramifications.
ary Tudor, the headstrong younger sister of the ruthless King Henry VIII, has always been her brother's favorite--- but now she is also an important political bargaining chip. When she is promised to elderly ailing King Louis of France, heartbroken Mary accepts her fate, but not before extracting a promise from her brother: When the old king dies, her next marriage shall be solely of her choosing. For Mary has a forbidden passion, love for her brother's older best friend--- a man with a scandalous reputation, yet still she is determined to forge her own destiny, through her own cunning, courage and passionate boldness.
The Secret Bride is the triumphant tale of one extraordinary woman who meant to stay true to her heart and live her life just as her royal brother did---by her own rules.