Book Review: “Summer of Blood: The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381” by Dan Jones

Summer of BloodThe year was 1381, and England was engulfed in chaos. A band of ruffians and revolters descended on London to achieve political change and a fair chance for the lower classes who suffered greatly from war and plague. The young King Richard II watched as men like Wat Tyler and the preacher John Ball led this ragtag army to his doorstep, fighting against his advisors, like John of Gaunt, to end a poll tax that was their last straw. Why did this ragtag army march on London? How did men like Ball and Tyler convince the masses to march against their sovereign and his government? How did this revolt end, and did the people get what they wanted due to their revolution? Dan Jones brings the bloody story of the first significant revolution by the English people to life in his book, “Summer of Blood: The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.”

I have been reading books by Dan Jones for a few years now, but I have just read this particular title. The Peasants’ Revolt has always been a footnote or maybe a paragraph in books that I have read about the Plantagenets, John of Gaunt, and Richard II. I wanted a deeper dive into this momentous event in medieval English history, which is precisely what this book provides Jones’ audience.

The Peasants’ Revolt lasted from May to August 1381, sweeping across England, and was one of the most defining moments in English history. The Black Death had ravaged the English countryside, and the ones left had to pick up the pieces. Adding to the stress from the plague, England was at war with their bitter enemy France in the Hundred Years’ War, which the former King Edward III started, and the government was running out of funds. The English government under King Richard II had already created two poll taxes targeting the more affluent members of society. Still, they did not raise enough funds, so they came up with a brilliant idea in 1380 to create a third poll tax targeting the ordinary people of England.

To say the introduction of the third poll tax did not go over well with the people would be an understatement. The people were pissed off at their government, especially men like John of Gaunt, who they considered a tyrant and someone who did not care about the people. The revolt started in the town of Brentwood but soon spread like wildfire throughout Essex; men and women joined the cause to protest against the poll tax and corrupt politicians.

The angry mob would eventually adopt leaders like Wat Tyler, Jack Straw, and John Ball, adding fuel to the fire. They would march on London during the festival of Corpus Christi, looting, damaging homes, and killing those they deemed an enemy of the state. Richard II and his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke were in the Tower of London while the city was on fire and heads were rolling. Jones explains how matters came to a head when the ragtag army faced off against King Richard II’s army at Smithfield, where Wat Tyler fell, and the terror of Richard II rose to prominence.

Dan Jones does a superb job telling the story of the Peasants’ Revolt from the perspective of the ordinary people who marched for a better life and a bit of chaos. This little book contains fascinating facts, anger, blood, and gore that will entice anyone interested in medieval England. If you want a book about the early days of Richard II’s reign and the revolt that caused him to grow up quickly, I would highly recommend you read “Summer of Blood: The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381” by Dan Jones.

Book Review: “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies” by Richard Heath

75418858._SX318_Two kings, two rivals from different countries defined the 16th century. One was the spare to his father’s crown, but when his eldest brother suddenly passed away, he became the next Tudor king. The other was the sole heir to his parent’s large kingdom and would become the Holy Roman Emperor. Wars, the Reformation, and family drama kept these two men, Henry VIII and Charles V, busy and at each other’s throats. They would sometimes join and fight for one another’s causes, showing the importance of international politics. With each new scenario, their relationship would shift, either for the best or the worst. Richard Heath has combined the stories of these two monarchs, these “frenemies,” into one joint biography, “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I have read many books about Henry VIII, but Charles V was a side character in many of these books. When I saw this book, learning more about Charles V intrigued me.

Heath begins his book with Henry VIII, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was never destined to become king, but when his eldest brother, Arthur, died unexpectantly, he became the next King of England. In contrast, Charles V was destined to become King of Spain as he was the only son of King Philip I, King of Castile, and Queen Juana of Castile and Aragon. Henry VIII had multiple wives and one legitimate son who would not live long as king. In contrast, Charles V had one wife, Isabella of Portugal, and numerous children, including the next King of Spain, Philip II.

Henry VIII and Charles V had similar ideals and were raised to be devout Christians, even if the way they fought for their faith was different. Charles V’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon, was Henry VIII’s first wife. The two monarchs and their respective countries, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and England, enjoyed close relationships. However, the 16th century was notorious for its ever-shifting political landscape, especially concerning the wars in France, and Italy, that involved King Francis I, the Pope, and Suleiman the Magnificient.

To untangle the messy political dilemma of the 16th century in a dual biography is quite a feat, which Heath does well. I wish he had included a chart to break down the different treaties and wars he chose to highlight in this book because I needed help figuring out which war was which and what each treaty agreed to do. Overall, I think if you want a decent introduction to the life of Charles V and how his relationship with Henry VIII changed over time, I would recommend you read “Henry VIII and Charles V: Rival Monarchs, Uneasy Allies” by Richard Heath.

Book Review: “The Granddaughters of Edward III” by Kathryn Warner

Granddaughters of Edward IIIWhen we think about the legacy of Edward III, we often think about a warrior king who became king after his father, Edward II’s disastrous fall from grace. We know about his sons that he had with his beloved wife, Philippa of Hainault: Edward the Black Prince, Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, John of Gaunt 1st Duke of Lancaster, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. Famously, we get the 15th-century conflict known as the Wars of the Roses through the descendants of Edward III. However, the male descendants only tell half the story of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault’s legacy in England and throughout Europe. In her latest book, “The Granddaughters of Edward III,” Kathryn Warner examines the lives of Edward III’s female descendants to better appreciate the strength of this group of branches of the Plantagenet family tree.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for more books about the Plantagenets, and I know a bit about Edward III’s sons but not much about his granddaughters.

Warner has chosen to take a joint biography approach to this book by focusing on nine out of eleven of Edward III’s granddaughters. These eleven granddaughters were the daughters of Lionel Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Isabella Woodstock, Edmund of Langley, and Thomas of Woodstock. The eleven granddaughters of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault were: Philippa of Clarence, Philippa of Lancaster, Elizabeth of Lancaster, Marie de Coucy, Philippa de Coucy, Catalina of Lancaster, Constance of York, Joan Beaufort, Anne of Gloucester, Joan of Gloucester, and Isabel of Gloucester.

These women were not just great ladies in England, but in the case of Philippa of Lancaster and Catalina of Lancaster, they were Queens of Portugal and Castile, respectively. Philippa of Lancaster ushered in the Illustrious Generation in the history of the royal family of Portugal. Catalina married her mother’s mortal enemy to create a stronger connection between England and Castile. Back in England, the remaining granddaughters had to deal with rebellions against King Henry IV, resulting in husbands and sons being beheaded. One had married her former brother-in-law when her husband died, and another had an affair with the king’s half-brother, resulting in the birth of an illegitimate daughter. A granddaughter had her marriage annulled when her husband decided to marry a lady-in-waiting. One began her life as an illegitimate child and would end up being the grandmother to two Kings of England.

Warner has been able to take the stories of these eleven women who shared a grandfather and show how their tales transformed England, Castile, and Portugal forever. The amount of love and attention she dedicated to this book is admirable. I appreciate how Warner could give readers who only understood the English side of these tales a better understanding of the political situations in Castile and Portugal. If you want a book with brand new medieval heroines with a connection to the Plantagenet dynasty, I highly recommend you read “The Granddaughters of Edward III” by Kathryn Warner.

Book Review: “Gloriana: Elizabeth I and the Art of Queenship” by Linda Collins and Siobhan Clarke

glorianaA queen locked in a struggle of being a single woman and the sole ruler of her kingdom must create the image that would help lead her divided country to a golden age. This image must comfort her people while showing strength and perseverance to her enemies who would try to take the throne from her. Elizabeth I worked hard with artists, poets, playwrights, and musicians to create the almost mythological image of “Gloriana,” the virgin goddess. Linda Collins and Siobhan Clarke explore how this image was created throughout Elizabeth’s reign in their latest book, “Gloriana: Elizabeth I and the Art of Queenship.”

When you first see the title of this book, you would assume that it will be yet another biography with art sprinkled in. You would be wrong. This book focuses solely on the different forms of artwork that built the Gloriana persona over the decades of Elizabeth I’s reign and how we perceive the pieces of art centuries later. Each section of this book discusses a particular aspect of Elizabeth’s reign while examining how art changed with a different artist or courtier highlighted, alongside portraits and miniatures thoroughly inspected for the symbolism hidden in plain sight.

I love examining Tudor-era artwork on my own to try and crack the code behind the symbols they chose to use, especially Elizabethan portraits, particularly The Rainbow Portrait. Collins and Clarke’s examination of the symbolism in each portrait and miniature, including dendrochronology to determine when paintings might have been painted, was captivating and enlightening. It reminded me of a history class I took in college about art history, which I have fond memories of learning about how art changed up to the Renaissance. I found it equally fascinating that they chose to highlight the life of Nicholas Hilliard, who does not get enough attention as a Tudor artist compared to Hans Holbein the Younger.

However, Collins and Clarke examine more than just the typical portraits, paintings, and miniatures. The myth of Gloriana would not have survived without poets, musicians, and playwrights, like Edmund Spenser, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, and William Shakespeare. It was a multi-faceted effort to promote the Elizabethan propaganda that allowed Elizabeth not only to survive but for England to thrive.

“Gloriana: Elizabeth I and the Art of Queenship” by Linda Collins and Siobhan Clarke is a delightful book for any Tudor or art nerd in your life; informative, educational, and easy to read. Each page will give you a better understanding of Elizabeth I’s reign, her propaganda, and the myth of Gloriana.

Book Review: “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” by Amy Licence

16th century womenWhen we think of the phrase “16th-century women,” we often consider those from royal or noble houses throughout Europe. We tend to think of women like the six wives of Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots, and others associated who made an impact during the Renaissance and the Reformation. However, the 16th century did not stop at the borders of Europe; it extended all over the globe. There are many stories of women from all over the world and from different social classes that can help us understand how the world changed in the 16th century. Amy Licence took this concept and decided to write her latest book about a variety of women from around the world who lived in the 16th century, “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard that Licence was writing this book, it intrigued me. I wanted to know more stories from the 16th century from all around the world.

“The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” is a collection of 100 mini-biographies of women from every walk of life and every corner of the globe. Licence has decided to organize this particular book in chronological order, with the date emphasis on the significant events of their lives. Staying true to her word, she writes about women from different countries, like Japan, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico, Poland, Chile, Morocco, and Burma, to name a few.

What I loved the most about this book is the diversity of figures that Licence chose to include in this journey from 1500 to 1600. They were not just queens, princesses, and noblewomen. Licence included women who would have been seen as outsiders in everyday society, such as prostitutes during the Banquet of Chestnuts, Margaret Drummond, Ellen Sadler, and La Malinche. There were those whose appearance made them outsiders, like Aura Soltana, Elena/Eleno de Cespedes, and Tognina Gonsalvus. Some women stood up for what they believed was right, such as Cecily Bodenham, abbess of Wilton Abbey, Lady Nata of Japan, Margaret Cheney, Sayyida al-Hurra, and Beatriz de Luna.

Some women suffered horrendous tragedies beyond their control, like Suphankanlaya, whose husband was killed in an angry rage, Amy Robsart, and an unknown woman who dealt with a tsunami in Chile. Others were women who had nasty reputations associated with their lives, such as Elizabeth Bathory, Mary Frith, and the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley. We also see female artists, authors, fictional figures, and those who sat for portraits.

Licence has painted a colorful picture of the 16th century with the 100 miniature biographies she chose to include in this book. This book may highlight only a select few stories of the century, but they were new and enthralling tales of women I had never heard of, which broadened my understanding of the era. An informative, refreshing, and unique approach to the 16th century, “The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women” by Amy Licence is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to discover new tales from the past.

Book Review: “Educating the Tudors” by Amy McElroy

63112680._SX318_ (1)When we think of the word “education,” images of sitting in school rooms for hours, listening to lectures, and doing endless homework pop into our minds. Our modern education system tends to focus on math, science, language arts, and history as the core subjects we study, with music and physical education as something that we in America call an “elective.” But have you ever wondered what education looked like in the past? How did the Tudors pass on their knowledge to future generations? What subjects did the Tudors consider essential, and how did the amount of education you received change depending on your class? Amy McElroy explores these questions in her book, “Educating the Tudors.”

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard about this book, it grabbed my attention because although many books about the Tudors have talked about elements of education, I have yet to see a book about Tudor education. I was curious to see how the rise of humanism would affect Tudor education throughout the 16th- century.

Before we dive into the differences in classes regarding education, McElroy gives her readers a breakdown of the different types of schools and what subjects each school teaches, including the trivium and quadrivium. She then dives into the Tudor monarchs and their education, starting with King Henry VIII, the first monarch in England to receive a humanist education. With royal children and their education, we are introduced to their royal tutors, like Giles Duwes, Bernard Andre, John Palsgrave, Roger Ascham, Desiderius Erasmus, and John Picton.

McElroy takes her readers on an educational journey through the different social classes, like nobility, gentry, and knights, to the common people. As she points out, the lower you get on the social ladder, the less critical education is to have a career. With the introduction of the printing press and the Reformation, the way students were taught and discussed religious issues changed throughout the 16th century. I loved learning about the popular books of the time, the different instruments and dances that were enjoyed, and what games were played during down times.

For McElroy’s first book, I found it very educational, informative, and easy to read. Her passion for humanism and the evolution of Tudor education exudes on each page. I took pages of notes about this book, and I learned so much from this debut. I cannot wait to see what Amy McElroy will write about next. To learn more about how the Tudors approached education and humanism, you should check out “Educating the Tudors” by Amy McElroy.

Book Review: “The Forgotten Sister” by Nicola Cornick

52024957The year is 1560, and a young woman hatches a way to escape her loveless marriage. Her name is Amy Robsart, and she is the wife of Robert Dudley, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorites at court. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned, and the consequences reverberate throughout the centuries. Lizzie Kingdom, a television star, struggles to find her way in life. When tragedy strikes when her friend Dudley’s wife is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, the scandal breaks, threatening to ruin Lizzie’s life and reputation. A deadly secret from the past and an encounter with a mysterious young man will forever transform the lives of these two women from different centuries. Will Lizzie Kingdom discover the truth before it is too late? This mystery is masterfully told in Nicola Cornick’s Tudor novel, “The Forgotten Sister.”

After browsing the shelves one day, I found this book in my local Barnes and Noble. This is my second Nicola Cornick novel; the first was “The Last Daughter of York,” I have enjoyed both equally.

Like “The Last Daughter of York,” “The Forgotten Sister” is a dual timeline book in which one story takes place in Tudor England and the other in modern England. We begin with the ghost of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, wandering Cumnor Hall, waiting for someone to release her from her curse. Flash forward to the modern day, where Lizzie Kingdom is attending the wedding of her best friend, Dudley Lester, and his wife, Amelia. There, Lizzie comes into contact with a glass orb that, with her psychometry, allows her to see the history of an object. The sphere gives Lizzie a somewhat unsettling vision, but it is not clear to her what the meaning behind the vision.

Ten years later, Dudley and Amelia are going through a rocky divorce when Amelia is found at the bottom of a staircase, dead, just like her ancestor Amy Robsart. Dudley is suspect number one, with Lizzie as his accessory after the fact, just like what happened in Tudor England, since Lizzie and Dudley are so close. Lizzie is concerned about restoring her reputation until he encounters Amelia’s brother Johnny and Amelia’s half-brother Arthur. Johnny has a psychic connection to Amelia and wants to solve the mystery surrounding her death and the death of their ancestor Amy Robsart.

I am not usually a big fan of books with supernatural elements, but this one grabbed my attention. It kept my attention to the very end because even though I knew the basis of the Amy Robsart case, I wasn’t sure how it would tie into the modern case of Amelia’s death. I think telling Amy Robsart’s story from her perspective is a unique twist, and she pairs rather nicely with the contemporary protagonist Lizzie Kingdom, based on Elizabeth I.

If you want an enthralling mystery that spans centuries and is a delight for modern readers and Tudor nerds alike, you should check out “The Forgotten Sister” by Nicola Cornick.

Book Review: “Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason” by Helene Harrison

63193745 (1)The struggle to be a king or queen in any country during Europe’s medieval or early modern era was only the beginning. They are either the next in line to the throne and inherit the crown, or they sometimes fight to the death to wear it. After the king or queen settles into ruling their respective countries, the real challenge emerges as they have to deal with rebellions and those who commit treason against their monarch. Take, for example, what happened during the reign of Elizabeth I. We consider her reign the “Golden Age” in English history. Still, she had to deal with numerous rebellions and conspiracies surrounding her viewpoints on religion and how she dealt with her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. In her first book, “Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason,” Helene Harrison takes an in-depth look at each rebellion and how they left a mark on Elizabeth I’s reign.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. When I heard about this title online, I was intrigued since many of these rebellions have been covered in books about Mary Queen of Scots or biographies about Elizabeth I. Still, this is the first time I have seen a book about Elizabethan conspiracies.

Harrison begins by showing how early Tudor rebellions shaped the reigns of Elizabeth’s family and how the early uprisings affected her time as Queen of England. Beginning with her grandfather, King Henry VII, and the pretenders’ rebellions of Lambert Simnel and Perkins Warbeck, we see how important it was to take action against those who threatened to overthrow the Tudors before they even began their rule in earnest. Under Henry VIII, we see the Pilgrimage of Grace, protesting against Protestantism and for the return of Catholicism after the break from Rome. Elizabeth is considered one of the main actors behind the Wyatt Rebellion of 1554 under her sister Queen Mary I.

These previous events would help shape how Elizabeth I dealt with the five significant rebellions during her reign. These five rebellions were: the Northern Rising, Ridolfi Plot, Throckmorton Plot, Babington Plot, and the Essex Rebellion. Four of the five rebellions had something to do with Mary Queen of Scots and the battle between Protestantism versus Catholicism. In contrast, the Essex Rebellion, the final rebellion Elizabeth I dealt with, was more about a spoiled courtier not getting his way in life and blaming it on Elizabeth.

Harrison does not do a typical overview of each rebellion. Instead, she takes a deep dive into the timeline of each event, who was involved, and how they came crashing down. Each rebellion had a unique signature, from espionage and intrigue to acts of treason and secret codes. Every experience taught Elizabeth a different lesson about what it meant to be a ruler of England. I found this book informative and well-written. I learned new elements of each rebellion, which I thought I knew pretty well. For her first book, Helene Harrison does a great job sharing her points and showing how these rebellions shaped Elizabeth I’s reign. Suppose you want a book that explains the different power struggles Elizabeth I had to deal with during her reign. In that case, I recommend reading “Elizabethan Rebellions: Conspiracy, Intrigue, and Treason” by Helene Harrison.

Book Review: “Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother” by Gareth Russell

63140301The House of Windsor has been attracting worldwide attention in recent decades with scandals, deaths, weddings, and the birth of royal children. As living symbols of England, the Windsors are seen as an above-average family with numerous jobs and responsibilities. We know their names; King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Prince (now King) Charles, Princess Diana, and Prince William. We know their stories from the numerous books, tabloids, and documentaries about their lives, but what about their lives when they go home to relax? Gareth Russell peels back the gilded curtain to explore the life of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, lovingly known as the Queen Mother, in his latest biography, “Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.”

This is not my usual area of interest, especially for my blog, but I have always wanted to learn more about the House of Windsor. A few years ago, I read “The King’s Speech” about King George VI, and I wanted to learn more about his wife, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. When Gareth Russell announced that he was writing this biography about the Queen Mother, it sounded enchanting, and I wanted to read it.

This biography is not like your typical biography. It goes in chronological order, but unlike others that include copious details of the person’s life, Russell decided to give his readers a different experience by telling the Queen Mother’s story in 101 vignettes, one for each year of her life. It is a unique and fun way to tell the tale of a member of the royal family, especially Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who lived through both World Wars and saw her husband and daughter become King and Queen of England, respectively.

The short stories of her life as a young Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon were heartfelt and full of personality. I learned some fun facts about her early life, such as George VI had to propose to Elizabeth three separate times until she said yes, to the relief of George’s mother, Queen Mary. Elizabeth had a colorful way of looking at life and was not afraid to speak her mind, especially after a few cocktails or what she would call “drinky-poos.” Her life drastically changed when her brother-in-law Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, leaving the throne to his brother George VI and Elizabeth, the new King and Queen of England.

As Queen of England and later the Queen Mother, we see her tenacity and humorous side emerge as Elizabeth could be herself. She was a lover of life, and even though she had feuds with members of her family, such as Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana, she truly loved and fought for her family until the very end of her long life.

Russell does a magnificent job telling the story of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother thoughtfully and engagingly. The stories included in this book range from utterly hysterical to gut-wrenching, with every other emotion in between. Another masterpiece by Gareth Russell, “Do Let’s Have Another Drink: The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother,” is the perfect gift for fans of the English Royal Family.

Book Review: “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli

63226327._SY475_What if you found information about a mysterious portrait that would radically change how we view history forever? Who would you tell? When Zara Rossi entered the Ancient Manuscripts Room at the Papal Archives in Rome, she never imagined how a single letter would change her life and the Tudor community. Each piece of the puzzle unlocks a new story from the past and allows Zara to explore the remarkable tale of this masterpiece. Follow the clues with Zara Rossi to solve this mystery from the past in Sandra Vasoli’s latest book, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel.”

Thank you, Sandra Vasoli and GreyLondon Press, for sending me a copy of this novel. I am always looking for a new way to incorporate Tudor history into a story, so when I heard the description of this particular book, I was captivated.

Zara Rossi begins her adventure into the past by going to the Ancient Manuscripts Room and the Papal Archives, which is an immense honor as you have to be invited even to have a chance to go into the Archives. She is looking for personal letters of Pope Clement VII to find his reaction to Henry VIII’s split from Rome. Instead, she found a letter from the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Villiers de L’lsle-Adam, about a double portrait of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

As Zara uncovers the tale with each clue in the modern age, Vasoli introduces her audience to a colorful cast of characters that span centuries. Starting in the 16th century, we are introduced to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, his advisors, Hans Holbein the Younger, and the Court Astronomer Nikolaus Kratzer. We also become acquainted with the Order of St. John and rebellious Catholics horrified by this painting. But, we do not stay in the 16th century for long as Vasoli transports her readers to the middle of an 18th-century swashbuckling pirate adventure in the Caribbean that ends up in France with a murder, a trip on the Titanic with a fashion designer for the rich and famous, and an encounter with scoundrels from World War II at Hever Castle.

Vasoli created a complex yet spectacular story of pursuing the truth that will rock the academic world with vibrant characters and compelling cases. Zara is a main character that I could personally relate to, and while I was reading, I was hoping she would find her way to not only the truth about the painting but for her to be happy with her family and friends. Her desire to uncover the truth, no matter the cost, is genuinely admirable. I wanted to know if Zara would ever find the truth, but at the same time, I did not want the story to end.

Vasoli created a masterpiece by not only creating a thought-provoking fictitious double portrait of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn but a novel that is unlike anything I have read. It’s a love letter to the past and those who pursue the truth behind even the smallest fragment left by our ancestors. If you want a thrilling Tudor-based historical fiction novel, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli is a must-read.