I know I've read the story of Anne Boleyn a billion and one times, but I will always pick up a new book about her. Most of them come from different perspectives or focus on different parts of her reign, but a lot of them are the exact same story. She seduced Henry, he divorced Katherine, Anne was crowned, had a daughter, miscarried a son, was imprisoned, tried, and died. But Ambition's Queen was told from a maid's perspective during the last few months of her life. So I thought it would be fun and interesting.
God, was I wrong.
As Thomas Cromwell goes through England, closing abbeys and collecting his riches, Bridget Manning is nearly left homeless when her own is closed. Luckily, through a distant blood relation to Queen Anne Boleyn, Bridget is brought on as a maid for the queen during her final tumultuous months alongside King Henry VIII.
The longer I read Ambition's Queen, the more irritated I got. I continued reading for some inexplicable reason, but I was very happy to finish it. In the first 100 pages, I just figured the author was a newer writer. I was willing to forgive that, but eventually I grew annoyed with the way the characters were written.
First, let's get this out of the way: I know historical fiction is exactly that: fiction. But certain characters and events should be altered to improve the story. That was definitely not the case in this book.
In the very beginning, when Bridget is first introduced to the Queen (whom she feels is completely acceptable to refer to as simply "Anne," for whatever reason,) she notes that "the rumors were not true." What rumors you may ask? The rumors that Anne Boleyn had six fingers, a large wren (mole) on her neck and was cross-eyed, as well as that she practiced witchcraft.
Those rumors were started during the reign of Elizabeth I by a Spanish ambassador who was looking to discredit Elizabeth as a bastard, making her ineligible as queen and allowing a Catholic king to reign in her stead. Those rumors were started 25 YEARS LATER, at least. Unfortunately the rumors have continued until today, so many people do assume Anne had six fingers. But Bridget never would have heard anything like that, especially as a maid in an abbey.
Another aspect of Queen Anne that Bridget noticed were her plain looks, with only her eyes being somewhat beautiful. Later on in the book, however, Anne is described as having tear tracks mar her "savage beauty." So is she pretty or not? Consistency is all I ask.
Too be fair, the author is incredibly consistent on other aspects. At least twice, Cromwell's face lit up with a smile that made him look younger. Carew felt "antipathy" towards Anne whenever he was mentioned, and whenever Anne and Princess Elizabeth were together, the author made sure to tell us that Anne would only allow the best clothes for her daughter.
And then there were the characters. Every single one of them were written as if they were 17 years old and incredibly hormonal. I know Anne's rooms were typically very lively and not very chaste, but even the older, incredibly dark, controlling and serious characters were conveyed as childish. All of them fell in love at first site, and none of them were capable of controlling their emotions.
Let's not forget Norfolk, the man who passed judgement on his own niece and condemned her as a witch. This man is considered one of the most conniving, cruel men in history. He was portrayed as such throughout the novel during his few appearances. Yet at Anne's trial, he bursts into tears! And then again during her beheading! If you want to show Norfolk as a man who did have some remorse, that's fine. But don't decide in the eleventh hour that he should suddenly be emotional!
I was also incredibly annoyed by the relationship between Bridget, a maid, and Queen Anne. I confess I don't know much about the relationships between the courtiers of the 1500s (besides distinct marriages/mistresses,) but it seems highly unlikely that a queen would have become such close friends with a simple maid. More likely, the maid would have been present during events, but not having deep discussions with the queen into the night and serving as a confidante.
This is my curse for wanting to read anything and everything about the Tudors. There are two more books about Bridget Manning, but I have no intention of reading them. Thank God I at least got this one for free.
My recommendation? Do not read.