Laura Andersen endeavors to give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the Tudor Court in her book The Boleyn Reckoning. The story takes place after Henry VIII’s reign. The Crown is undergoing a power struggle involving Henry’s surviving children, the grandchildren of his siblings, and his cousins who have titles and landholdings throughout England. The cast of players is expansive though the author keeps the storyline concentrated on one character at a time, focusing on a single viewpoint in each chapter and plunging the reader into the life of one individual at any given moment.
Plots and schemes run rampant as Andersen gives voice to many prominent figures in the Tudor Court including Mary Queen of Scots, who was the granddaughter of Henry’s sister Margaret Tudor, and Elizabeth, who is the only surviving child of Henry and Anne Boleyn. She introduces William Tudor, who is allegedly the son of Henry and Anne Boleyn and crowned Henry IX. She presents him as a true claimant who reigned from 1553 to 1558 succeeded by Elizabeth I, inputting her own conjectures about what happened during this period. The entangling web of characters and plots to seize control of the kingdom is complex but also remains close to the account passed down by archivists and historians during this transitional phase of the British Monarchy. Andersen personalizes the figures that are merely named in history books, giving them dimension by exploring their desires and intentions.
The author attributes the cloak and dagger style coup to the beheading of John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland. Through the interaction of Dominic Courtenay’s character, who is a knight and a close confident of William Tudor as well as a protector to Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth, the story unfolds. The author conjures a connection between Dominic and Dudley and his sons, exposing an intimate look at the plot to overthrow William Tudor and appearing privileged to private conversations.
A connection between Dominic and George Boleyn is also formed by the author. As the brother of Anne Boleyn, Boleyn was Duke of Rochford and Chancellor of England enabling him to wield supreme authority to mete out justice on behalf of the Crown, and Andersen instills this impression into the reader’s mind. It is through Dominic’s conversations and conjectures that audiences discover the treacherous machinations of George Boleyn who is beheaded along with his son. Though Boleyn is referred to in the title of the book, it is Dominic’s relationship with the characters that threads the story.
Andersen concludes the book with the death of William and the coronation of Elizabeth, walking audiences through Elizabeth’s meaningful reflections as she muses over the trappings of power, the friendships ruined, and the treachery and plots brewing behind the public façade of the Tudor Court. Her childhood friend Dominic is the focal point bridging the characters with each one written to evoke the reader’s sympathy, to experience their grief as well as their victories giving the figures credibility. Andersen shows how fragile friendships were in Tudor times and how quickly loyalties shifted with a whispered accusation of treason.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HBQM6QC]