book review · historical · historical fiction · trilogy · Tudor

Book Review – Nest of Ashes

October 1537

At a time of most supreme triumph, the moment of her greatest glory, security and power, a Queen of England lies dying.

Through dreams of fever and fantasy, Jane Seymour, third and most beloved wife of King Henry VIII remembers her childhood, the path forged to the Tudor Court; a path forged in flame and ashes. Through the fug of memory, Jane sees herself, a quiet, overlooked girl, who to others seemed pale of face and character, who discovered a terrible secret that one day would rain destruction upon her family.

Nest of Ashes is Book One in The Phoenix Trilogy: Story of Jane Seymour, by G. Lawrence.

The author’s thanks are due to Julia Gibbs, proof reader of this work of fiction, and to Larch Gallagher, the cover artist.

My Review

I’ve always loved historical fiction and have two favourite periods that never fail to catch my attention. The first is WWII and the other is The Tudors. As author Gemma Lawrence states, there is so little told about Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. It’s a huge understatement to say I was intrigued as to how she would portray a story based on someone about whom so little actual “history” is known. Indeed, following Anne Boleyn as Henry’s queen must surely have been a daunting time for Jane, after all was not Anne the original viper in the nest that led to the break with Rome and to Henry’s marriage with the dignified and most-popular Katherine of Aragon.

Nest of Ashes is the first in a trilogy of Jane Seymour’s life, and it is probably in book one where the author has the most scope to create Jane’s story. The author’s has imagined situations from Jane’s early years that are in keeping with the world she inhabits, its traditions and customs. So believable is her creation that you could be forgiven for thinking it is not historic fact, and so engaging is the story that you are instantly drawn into its fictional realm. The very best of both worlds.

When we meet Jane, she is the only daughter (so far) born to the Seymour couple. Her plain appearance marks her out as a disappointment to her mother who had longed for a daughter to grace the King’s Court as she had once done herself. As such, Jane becomes almost invisible to them, particularly when her brother Thomas is around. For Thomas can do no wrong, and despite Jane’s objections to the contrary, it is always she who is on the receiving end of any punishment. Knowing what we do about Jane’s future, it felt as though Karma was watching over her: the invisible daughter who would be queen.

Jane’s world is shaken for the first time when her beloved brother Edward takes a wife, Catherine. This beautiful and vivacious young woman is everything Jane’s mother had hoped for in a daughter, and the Seymour household is soon captivated by her charms. For Jane, that charm quickly wears off when she realises Catherine is not the sweet young woman she professes to be, but rather is intent on seducing Jane’s (and her husband, Edward’s) father. From here on, all doubt as to Catherine’s true nature is cast aside, and Jane sees her only as making a cuckold of her brother. Being invisible to everyone else in the household, Jane has no-one to tell, let alone anyone who might believe her. Confronting Catherine only makes things worse for her.

Jane can only hope her brother will find a place for her at Court, away from her family and the lies she has to ignore daily. When Edward does come through for her, and Jane is called serve Mary, the King’s sister, only then does her mother recognise how much she relied on Jane.

Jane arrives at Court, quiet and reserved and not at all confident of her position. It is her shy nature that catches the eye of Queen Katherine, who takes a liking to the young woman and appoints Jane to her own staff.

Jane’s mother is torn between fury and pride; Jane has usurped her own position at Court and without all the fuss and fancy. She begs Jane to meet with her cousin, Anne Boleyn, which she reluctantly agrees to; they are never going to be close but who would have thought they would be rivals for the King’s affections?

Jane’s future at Court is about to change her life and the history books. Forever.

As Nest of Ashes came to an end, my appetite for the next book only increased. In today’s society we are used to binge-watching complete series, so biding my time until the next instalment will be a challenge. Suffice it to say, I’m ready when you are, Gemma Lawrence! (No pressure LOL)

I received a copy of this book as part of the review-a-book challenge. What a wise move that was on my part.

As always,