Tudor Book Reviews

The Sixth Wife by Suzannah Dunn

Guest Review by Sydney author and journalist Karina Juncal

Harper Collins


There isn’t a “thou” or “my lord” to be found in this thoroughly modern, and occasionally  raunchy, re-imagining of the tragic final months of Henry VIII’s last wife, the erudite  Katherine Parr, who finally finds love after the old king’s demise. Narrated by her best  friend, the steely Catherine Suffolk, the contemporary voice (eg, “Listen: she’d dealt with  it … she’d saved everybody’s skin”) may take some getting used to for fans of the genre. Yet  it  is worth persevering, not only for some starkly beautiful writing, but because in every  other way the 1540s spring to life in sumptuous detail—the clothes, the settings, the  courtly intrigues, the names and events. By exploring indelible themes such as  motherhood, sexuality, friendship and the complex face of love, Dunn spotlights the  humanity in a cast of long-dead historical figures, drawing a connection between  her  readers and her characters which skips across the centuries.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett

Guest Review by Sydney author and journalist Karina Juncal

Harper Collins


This remarkable novel by London journalist Vanora Bennett is reminiscent of Tracy  Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, in that its storylines circle the works of a  famous painter, though Bennett’s is wider in scope. Possibly too wide—at around  500 pages, you could argue that Portrait wouldn’t have suffered for having some of  its scholarly subplots pruned, but it’s worth staying with. At the heart of this story is  the imagined love affair between two real-life historical figures—German artist  Hans Holbein the Younger, and the narrator, Meg Giggs, foster daughter of  esteemed English thinker Thomas More—set against a broad canvas of religious  and political upheaval during Henry VIII’s most tumultuous years. More  commissioned Holbein to paint his family’s portrait, and Bennett’s rendering of the  Tudor household has no better in fiction. Fans will relish the superb period detail in  this smarter-than-average offering from the genre.

Catherine of Aragon by Amy Licence

“Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived”: Henry VIII’s six wives must be among the most famous groups of women in history, a collection of brides bundled together by historians, teachers and TV producers despite them having very little in common beyond their having married the same man. Biographies have often tended towards this all-encompassing approach, […]

The Wars of the Roses in 100 Facts by Matthew Lewis

The ‘Wars of the Roses’ were a series of battles fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York to control the throne of England. Author Matthew Lewis takes us on a journey through this tumultuous period of history via 100 ‘bite-size’ facts, including a number of interesting ones about the ‘run-up’ to […]

The King’s Pearl by Melita Thomas

England’s first crowned queen has been in the shadow of England’s second crowned queen for centuries. Just as Elizabeth supplanted Mary as heir to the throne in life, so she has supplanted her in posterity, with Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, heroine who defied the Armada attracting far more praise and admiration than the cruel caricature […]

How to be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman

As a TV presenter Ruth Goodman shows such enthusiasm for her subject that you cannot help but be drawn into it – it is quite infectious! This also translates into her books, and you are gripped from the first chapter. Ruth is an expert on social history with an emphasis on ‘ordinary’ people which is […]

The Queen’s Mary by Sarah Gristwood

Book Blurb  Mary Seton is lady-in-waiting to the legendary Mary Queen of Scots. Torn between her own desires and her duty to serve her mistress, she is ultimately drawn into her Queen’s web of passion and royal treachery – and must play her part in the game of thrones between Mary and Elizabeth I. Must […]

‘Bosworth – Psychology of a Battle’ by Michael Jones

Everyone knows about Richard III: the scheming, duplicitous, evil crookback who murdered his nephews to steal the throne. Or do they? Shakespeare’s notorious villain has been so ingrained in our minds for centuries that the “winter of our discontent” and the horse worth more than a kingdom are practically viewed as historical facts. Perhaps inevitably, […]

Thomas Cromwell – The untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant by Tracy Borman

Thomas Cromwell is known to millions through Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.   But who was the real Thomas Cromwell? Born a lowly tavern keeper’s son, Cromwell rose swiftly through the ranks to become Henry VIII’s right hand man.  A ruthless politician, he was also a loving husband, father and guardian, […]

A Review of ‘Young and Damned and Fair’ by Gareth Russell

Young and Damned and Fair Guest Review by Wendy J. Dunn Something is not right, rife with errors from top to bottom, leading to suspicion of motive. If the authorities knew about the problems and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark ~ Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, […]

A Review of ‘Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey’

In July 1553, at the age of 16 or 17, Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII’s great-niece, became Queen of England, albeit briefly. Jane was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset and Lady Frances Brandon, from whom Jane inherited her royal blood. Frances, Jane’s mother, was the eldest daughter of Mary Tudor, […]

Review of ‘Elizabeth – The Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her’ & Giveaway!

I am delighted to share with you my review of ‘Elizabeth – The Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her’ by Robert Stephen Parry. Be sure to leave a comment after my review, for your chance to win a copy of this book. This giveaway is now closed Conditions of Entry For your chance […]

Review of Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

Blurb: In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiancé has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, […]

A Review of The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

Synopsis: In the midst of England’s Reformation, a young novice will risk everything to defy the most powerful men of her era. In 1538, England’s bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king’s […]

A Review of The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo

Synopsis: Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such extreme reactions? What did she really look like? Was she the flaxen-haired martyr of Romantic paintings […]

A review of ‘The Queen’s Promise’ by Lyn Andrews

The Queen’s Promise by Lyn Andrews was the only Tudor comfort I allowed myself on a recent trip to New Zealand and it did not disappoint! The novel tells the story of Anne Boleyn, beginning with her birth and ending just after her execution but it is much more than just another account of the […]

A review of Le Temps Viendra: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

Apart from my endless fascination with Anne Boleyn, I have always been intrigued by the idea of time travel, so imagine my delight when I discovered that Sarah Morris was writing a novel, Le Temps Viendra, combining the two. On several occasions, I have visited historic sites and wondered what it might be like to […]

A review of ‘The Secret Keeper’ by Sandra Byrd and Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of Sandra Byrd’s novel, The Secret Keeper,  she has kindly donated a pack of Anne Boleyn inspired greeting cards to give-away to one lucky commenter. For your chance to win these beautiful cards you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage). […]

A Review of A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England

When I first interviewed Suzannah Lipscomb in early 2011, she was immersed in researching and writing A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England. Whilst talking to Suzannah about her book, I discovered that we share something in common – a love for walking in the footsteps of the great historical figures of Tudor England. There is […]

A review of ‘The Crown’ by Nancy Bilyeau

Synopsis An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . . Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred […]

A review of ‘At the Mercy of the Queen’ by Anne Barnhill

Synopsis A sweeping tale of sexual seduction and intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, At the Mercy of the Queen is a rich and dramatic debut historical novel about Madge Shelton, cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. At the innocent age of fifteen, Lady Margaret Shelton arrives at the court of Henry VIII and […]

A review of VIII by H.M Castor

With so much Tudor fiction written for adults, I don’t often read novels aimed at young adults but when I read about H.M Castor’s debut novel for teens, VIII, I was immediately intrigued. Why not Henry VIII? Why just VIII? The title caught my attention but the opening line captured my imagination – I was […]

A review of ‘To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn’

Sandra Byrd’s ‘To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn’ was the only ‘Tudor comfort’ I allowed myself on a recent family vacation and boy am I glad I took this treasure along! It is the story of Anne Boleyn told through the eyes of her friend and confidante, Meg Wyatt but Meg is much […]

A review of The Tudor Secret by Christopher Gortner

Having read and loved The Last Queen by Christopher Gortner I couldn’t wait to read the first book in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles – The Tudor Secret. I read the book in a few sittings and was hooked from the opening line, “Everyone has a secret. Like the oyster with its grain of sand, […]

My review of The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne – and she with him – until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will […]

A review of Sandra Worth’s ‘Pale Rose of England’

Synopsis It is 1497. The news of the survival of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, has thundered across Europe, setting royal houses ablaze with intrigue and rocking the fledgling Tudor dynasty. Stepping finally onto English soil, Catherine arrives at the island of Saint Michael’s Mount, along with her husband and young son Dickon, their second […]

A review of The Virgin Widow by Anne O’Brien

What separates the good from the great when it comes to historical fiction is the author’s ability to seamlessly weave fact and fiction whilst simultaneously transporting us back in time via an engrossing storyline and vibrant characters. Another important factor for me is the author’s ability to incite interest in the ‘real’ historical characters through […]

A review of Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables & Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor

This remarkable novel by Robert Parry is one of the best Tudor novels I have ever read. At various points throughout the story, I asked myself ‘How?’ How can a person who has never experienced life in Tudor England bring it to life so spectacularly? The novel revolves around John Dee, a brilliant mathematician, astronomer, […]

A review of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

C.W Gortner’s The Last Queen is the story of Juana of Castile the third child of Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. It is an evocative and vivid portrayal of the life of a Queen that history all but forgot. I was hooked from the beginning and immediately drawn into the world of this […]

A review of His Last Letter by Jeane Westin

His Last Letter by Jeane Westin is a captivating and powerful love story set against the backdrop of a perilous time in Elizabeth’s reign. Westin brings Elizabeth and Dudley’s tempestuous relationship vividly to life. Their relationship spanned more than 30 years and, although set in the last three years of the Earl of Leicester’s life, […]

A review of The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

I have just finished reading The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and found it entertaining and engaging. This is the second book in the Cousins’ War series and covers roughly the same period as The White Queen (the first book in the series) but from a different point of view. The protagonist and narrator, Margaret […]

The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn by Josephine Wilkinson

Having never read one of Josephine Wilkinson’s books before I was unsure of what to expect.  I quickly discovered that her work is well researched and based on evidence but it is by no means as detailed as the work of Eric Ives or Alison Weir. In saying this, I should clarify that I did […]



  1. Have you read ‘Mistress Blanche Queen Elizabeth I’s Confidante’? Blanche Parry was with Elizabeth for 56 years, from Elizabeth’s birth to Blanche’s own death the year after the Spanish Armada. Blanche was in charge of Elizabeth’s jewels, and she acted as a modern PA for the Queen. She was in charge of the Privy Chamber and of access to the Queen. Her aunt, Lady Troy is proved to have been the Lady Mistress who brought up Elizabeth and her brother Edward VI. A book with absolutely new, and accurate, information. See: http://www.blancheparry.com

  2. This is a great way to find out about new Tudor books. Thank you for the great reviews!

  3. Hi there

    Have you read Sarah Gristwoods books? She’s done a recent biography on the women in the wars of the roses ‘blood sisters’ & ‘Elizabeth & Leicester’ biography & another biography on Arabella Stuart ‘England’s lost Queen’, i really recommend her books, she also has done a fiction book called ‘Girl in the Mirror’ which is set at the end of Elizabeth’s reign- highly recommend her books 🙂

    • Hi James, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I haven’t yet read any of Sarah Gristwood’s books but hope to in the near future. Have heard great things about her work. Natalie

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