Author: Laura Andersen
Provided Synopsis: Elizabeth Tudor is at a crossroads. After a disastrous winter, the Duke of Northumberland has been executed for treason while his son, Robert Dudley, claims from the Tower that the true traitor has not yet been caught. And though her brother, William, has survived smallpox, scars linger in the king’s body and mind and his patience is at an end.
As English ships and soldiers arm themselves against the threat of invasion, William marches to the drumbeat of his own desires rather than his country’s welfare. Wary of this changed royal brother, Elizabeth assembles her own shadow court to protect England as best she can. But William, able to command armies and navies, cannot command hearts.
Minuette and Dominic have married in secret, and after an ill-timed pregnancy, they take to flight. Faced with betrayal by the two he loved most, William’s need for vengeance pushes England to the brink of civil war and in the end, Elizabeth must choose: her brother, or her country?
Review: As the final installment of this “alternative reality” historical fiction series, The Boleyn Reckoning brings to a close the story of what could have been had Anne Boleyn given King Henry VIII a male heir. From the very first book the author had made it clear that her intention is to align the alternate with the factual as Elizabeth becomes Queen of England. But how would it get there? How would all of the secrets, plots, politics, love affairs, and intrigues of the court life displayed over the course of the series be resolved?
At the heart of the story are four characters that have been friends for the majority of their lives. William and Elizabeth are Tudor royalty, with him as king and her as princess. Their two closest friends are Dominic and Minuette, both of whom have no titles but are granted favor and power due to their friendship with the king. In a stroke of fate as history repeats itself, William falls in love with Minuette and will do anything to have her as his bride, no matter the promises he has made to her and to foreign nations. The problem is that Minuette and Dominic are in love and have wed in secret. When William learns of their betrayal there is no end to his vengeance or his short sightedness as concerns his duties as monarch.
The best way to describe this conclusion is unflinchingly brutal. The build-up to William discovering the betrayal of Dominic and Minuette lingered over every page, and when the secret is brought to light it is clear that there will be no guilt-free ending for any of these characters. A friendship that had been so strong in the first book is stretched to its absolute limits, and it was frustrating and painful to behold. I am not sure if the author intended this to be the case, but I felt more sympathy for William than I did for Dominic and Minuette. These three characters have become involved in a fatal love triangle, and in some ways it ruined my affection for all three of them. Elizabeth was the only rational character able to think with her head rather than her heart. And perhaps that is important to note because the only way to appreciate this book is to separate yourself from your wishes (and angst) to understand it had to end this way. (Or, maybe the author could have killed off some more people because ugh, Mary Sue characters bother me)
Because of the way it poses an interesting premise into what could have been for England’s history I would recommend this series to historical fiction lovers. Out of the four central characters Elizabeth is the only historical figure, and the series as a whole did a lot to develop her to be the monarch she would eventually become.