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The Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIII    by Diane Haeger order for
Secret Bride
by Diane Haeger
Order:  USA  Can
New American Library, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

Boy do folks love the Tudors. Not just the Showtime series, but also the countless books, movies and shows that have been dedicated to examining the lives, both historically and fictitiously, of the Tudor family. Henry, Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn and the rest of the gang have been examined, deconstructed, and in some cases, reinvented to the delight (and sometimes fury) of Anglophiles everywhere.

Now, a new addition has been added to the library, which approaches the story from yet another point that of Henry's baby sister Mary. In The Secret Bride, we watch Mary Tudor grow from a willful child to a willful woman whose future lies in the hands of her brother, the king. Like any other royal female, she is used as a political pawn and married off to the much older King Louis of France. But before she sets sail for France, Mary extracts a promise from her brother that her next marriage will be for love.

And that love is reserved for her big brother's best friend, the dashing Charles Brandon. The book's title references their secret marriage after the death of the king of France an act which incenses King Henry. The problem is that so little of the book's action centers around that marriage which could have cost Mary and Charles their lives. Rather, Haeger seems to rush in the marriage towards the end. And the love story between the couple, which begins when she is besotted with him from a young age, never really seems to catch hold of the reader's interest. Couple that with the fact that Mary is not the most likeable character (she comes off at times as immature, whiny and slightly vapid) and this is not the book it seems it could have been.

I have to admit that I expected more from Haeger, the author of such gems as The Ruby Ring and Courtesan. I wanted to sink my teeth into a juicy, exciting historical tale and the book never quite took flight for me. Those wishing another viewpoint to the Tudor story will probably find some value in The Secret Bride, but true fans of the family may be left wanting.

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