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Plain Jane - A Book Review

Many times, people think that all history books are boring, dry, and written as a non-fiction piece. That is very inaccurate. History can be entertaining and learned even through a piece of fiction. The historical fiction, Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) by Laurien Gardner, was a very enjoyable trip in history for me.

Henry VIII and his various wives have always intrigued me. The mystery, the romance, the court life, and the many lives that were entwined around this man has attracted many people. Ms. Gardner took just one small yet crucial part of the English king’s life and created a story surrounding the life of King Henry VIII’s third wife.

Though historically, Jane Seymour appeared on the scene as a lady’s maid to the new queen, Anne Boylen, this book actually examines what her life might have been like before she caught the eye of the king. She was not known for her beauty. In fact, she was rather plain. Ms. Gardner gives the reader a glimpse of what it might have been to a young girl who was not one to attract many suitors and whose hopes of marriage with little to no dowry was zero. The result would probably have been a small convent.

Connects are always good. Through many family connections, Jane ends up as a part of Queen Catherine’s court. She appears at the end of the drama between the king and, soon to be, ex-queen. She learns that the queen is kind and determined to hold her head high as her powerful husband brings before the whole country the issue of whether or not she was a virgin on their wedding night and as he publically flaunts his new mistress that he intends to make his new queen. Why? Catherine has only been able to give her husband a daughter and not the much desired son for the throne. Maybe a new wife will give him what he needs and wants.

Eventually, Jane becomes a part of the new queen’s court and through the close contact with the king begins to catch his eye. The book brings out why such a “plain” woman would catch the eye of a man who could have any woman he wished and usually did. His first wife was beautiful yet he felt should not have been his wife. His second wife that he did so much for to get turned out to be extremely temperamental though beautiful. His life became miserable. With only two daughters, one from Catherine and one from Anne, he has Anne executed for treason. But rest assured, his eyes have already caught Jane and planned to have her as his wife.

It is through Jane that he finally gets the son he longed for. Ironically, history tells us that this young man dies young and leaves the throne briefly in the hands of the “illegitimate” daughter of Catherine, Mary, before ending up with Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I, sitting on the throne and becoming more powerful than anyone ever had thought possible.

This was a very enjoyable read. It gave some insight into English court life and how all the players in the drama might have acted and felt. The author draws a lot on letters and documents to create a story of Jane Seymour that in the end gets you wanting to know more about all the people involved. At the end of the book, you want to know more about the child and what becomes of him.
I highly recommend this historical fiction as a good book to curl up with. I read it in two days and want to read more of Ms. Gardner’s work. Plain Jane: A Novel of Jane Seymour (Tudor Women Series) is a book worth getting.

Note: This book was purchased with my own money and not given to be by anyone for a review.

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