The Audacity of Hope

It wasn’t just the struggles of these men and women that had moved me. Rather, it was their determination, their self-reliance, a relentless optimism in the face of hardship. It brought to mind a phrase that my pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., had once used in a sermon.

The audacity of hope.

That was the best of the American spirit, I thought—having the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of community to a nation torn by conflict; the gall to believe that despite personal setbacks, the loss of a job or an illness in the family or a childhood mired in poverty, we had some control—and therefore responsibility—over our own fate.

It was that audacity, I thought, that joined us as one people.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope (p. 356)

-Reading these words two nights before the 46th Presidential Inauguration was a profound experience. Although Barack Obama’s words above are aged fifteen years, they could be said anew in light of the past four years—perhaps especially 2020—as Americans.

Listening to President Biden’s many speeches yesterday, Barack Obama’s words resounded constantly in my mind. The joyful tears—the tears of relief—and the celebrations that rang in President Biden yesterday are the audacity of hope in action.

My friends and I have spent many hours discussing what we hoped a Biden presidency would mean for our country, and one day in, so many of our hopes are coming to fruition. A responsible reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. A commander-in-chief who understands the value of foreign relationships and allies. A man of science who strives to combat climate change. A man of humanity who will protect immigrants.

A leader who realizes that his number-one duty is to put people first, not just Americans or misguided, self-absorbed interests with short-term benefits and long-term consequences.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama is an inspiring book. I’ve sent many passages to loved ones, sharing how what Obama describes is poignant or reminds me of their spirit…which, in turn, reminds me of what there is within Obama that makes him an incredible leader. As a writer (like his speeches), Obama could be a tad long-winded at times, although enjoyably so. The Audacity of Hope is not a quick read, but it is a necessary read. Throughout the entire book, Obama referenced experiences at home (both literally and nationally) and abroad, and I think that makes the world feel a little bit smaller—like we all really are in this together.

And in that spirit of togetherness, even though our nation feels more fractured than ever (at least, in our lifetimes) the words of Barack Obama ring especially true. Normally, I’d write several more paragraphs explaining why others should read this book, but today, I think the words above are case enough. Americans definitely do have a spirit of perseverance in their dreams, both citizens and citizens-to-be alike. We are not all be as liberated as we deserve to be in the so-called Land of the Free, yet we are certainly brave enough in our hope to make it happen…we have the audacity of hope.

Book Review: Dear Professor by Donna Freitas

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley and am leaving this review voluntarily.

Dear Professor by Donna Freitas is a quick read. I finished the book in a single sitting, lasting less than an hour, and instantly sent a recommendation to a friend for her to read this book as well. For those of us who are recovering from any sort of abuse or assault or interpersonal trauma, I think Dear Professor is a must-read.

Donna Freitas frankly and eloquently describes her thoughts and feelings toward her former professor, who stalked and harassed her in her twenties. Now, two decades later, this open letter details her rage and entirely justifiableunforgiveness for the man who drastically changed the course of her life. Her fantasies about justice and concerns about speaking her piece to him once and for all are honest, and while society might call her sentiments “ugly” or “unkind,” as a survivor of abuse and sexual assault, I can only beseech Freitas to SAY IT AGAIN FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK!

I wholly believe that what Freitas says in her open letter includes many thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and concerns for all of us who have experienced trauma, especially cases which were followed by a lack or miscarriage of justice. As I read, I found myself rapidly highlighting passages, saving sentences for my journal and therapist that so perfectly put words to things I’ve felt for a decade. The author’s words gave me not only spot-on descriptions for my experiences, but also a sense of camaraderie—that even though I’ve never met Donna Freitas, I know she understands how I’ve felt and now feel, and that I’m not alone in a single piece of my journey.

I strongly recommend this book for survivors, and also the loved ones (partners, parents, siblings, friends…) of survivors. The diction throughout is masterful and raw, and every page is a much-needed, positive contribution to the current conversation about survivors’ rights and experiences.

If I could give Dear Professor a standing ovation, I would; alas, a five-star review will have to suffice.

Book Review: Vagina Problems by Lara Parker

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley and am leaving this review voluntarily.

As someone who has never shied away from calling it like it is—no matter what “it” is—Lara Parker’s Vagina Problems caught my attention instantly. It’s a catchy title, to be sure, but as I am someone with vagina problems, I wondered how Parker’s story and mine might be alike.

A blunt memoir of the harrowing journey to receive adequate medical care as well as an explanation for health issues spanning nearly half the author’s life, Vagina Problems is the book I quickly declared a “must read,” even posting about it on social media—“This book is AMAZING,” I said. “As a chronic illness gal, THIS is the book we need to rally around! If you have a vagina, enjoy vagina, or love someone with a vagina, READ IT”!

Vagina Problems is the type of book that makes the reader laugh; Parker is relatable and so incredibly human as she tells of her troubles, both physically and in her personal life. Vagina Problems is a book that will make the reader positively enraged because women still face so much uncertainty in the medical community, as well as disbelief. (Why are women so readily disregarded, told to “drink some wine” or declared “emotionally unstable” whenever we have a problem a man can’t readily fix?!) And Vagina Problems is exactly the book everyone who cares about vaginas (or, if they’re a misogynist and don’t care beyond the pleasure a vagina can provide) must read.

Lara Parker’s story of living with chronic pain—both as a struggling professional and someone who faces oh-so-many do-gooders who think they can use a cup of herbal tea to solve what medicine cannot—is the story of every single woman living with chronic pain and/or vagina problems. From struggling to be believed that yes, this pain is so much more than cramps to fighting for her right to proper medical care and compassion to trying to accept the reality that, unless something drastic changes, the way of life of a chronically-ill person won’t change, Parker is never afraid to share exactly how she feels or thinks. This is the sort of transparency we need in reading memoirs because it’s the type of storytelling that tells the reader we aren’t living through This or That alone. It tells the reader there is someone out there who gets it. And for potential readers with chronic illnesses or vagina problems, or both, I know you’ll appreciate this.

But I want to address the less-likely readers out there—those without chronic illnesses or vaginas.

As Parker addresses, both the medical community and our society know so much about male genitalia. However, very little is scientifically known or addressed about vaginas, vulvas, clitorises—a woman’s genitals. Even less is commonly known about the problems many women face with their genitals, and Parker’s book opens the door for this conversation. These are things we need to be talking about—as women, mothers, friends, spouses, girlfriends, yes, but also as the non-vagina-possessing counterparts. (I could say the same for heart disease in women versus men, but I’ll save that for another day.)

The reality that one’s organs could permanently influence one’s way of life is mind-boggling to all those who haven’t experienced it, and often, I think that’s why some folks will discount those experiences. “Oh, is it really that bad?” Yes, yes, it is, and we need to be educating ourselves and (as kindly as possible) others that there are many hidden, invisible-to-others ailments the human body can experience. Parker has plenty of experience with those, and her book is the perfect starting point for anyone who is curious about chronic illness or any long-term affliction.

And I say “any” because, as I read Vagina Problems, I was often reminded of my trauma.

Recently, I was diagnosed with Complex-PTSD, for many reasons—one of which is the repeated sexual assaults in my teenage years. My best friend and I have discussed these incidents. Once, she shared that it was hard for her to come to me with her problems because “They just don’t seem so big compared to what you’ve faced.”

I understood, and I do, but that doesn’t matter. I told her that if she’s in pain about something, that’s all that matters. I’m here for her, because I know what its like to not have anyone here for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple romantic squabble or a family crisis—if she’s in pain, I want to know. I may not be able to help, but if I can, I will.

The way Parker described the “barrier” between herself and her friends sans-vagina-problems, I feel a similar barrier in my social circle. I have challenges that my friends simply cannot—and may not ever—understand, and that can be isolating. It can be isolating to be crippled by something unseen, even temporarily. Moreover, it can be infuriating to be crippled by something that you can’t just show someone for them to fix. If I walked into a doctor’s office with a limb missing, they’d be on it like duck on a June bug. If I walked into happy hour naked, my friends would notice.

But if I walk into a room feeling like a part of me is missing, or that I’m completely exposed for all to see? Not everyone picks up on that.

Vagina Problems by Lara Parker is a fantastic book that depicts the life of someone with chronic, incurable pain, and the focus is on the physical. However, so much of what Parker said throughout reminded me of my emotional pain that I want everyone I know to read it, simply because she put words to things I’ve been struggling to describe for years…things I’d imagine many of us struggle to verbalize.

The quality of Vagina Problems that makes it truly remarkable, though, is the fact that I could sing its praises for hours and still have more to say. Everything about this book is helpful, even the aspects that aren’t strictly positive. I want to take my gynecologist a copy and discuss the ways I’ve felt that way in the past—both in his office and other doctors’ offices!—and ask how doctors and patients can be working together to change the narrative for women everywhere.

Vagina Problems by Lara Parker is a five-star book, a must-read for everyone, and a book I can’t wait to share with my daughter in fifteen years or so, so that she enters womanhood fully-equipped, both for the “What if?” for herself as well as with compassion for other women.

Book Review: Why Did Hitler Hate the Jews? by Peter den Hertog

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley and am leaving this review voluntarily.

Why Did Hitler Hate the Jews? by Peter den Hertog is the most fascinating book about Europe in the twentieth century I have ever read. Exceptionally well-researched and presented in a manner that is easy to comprehend, Why Did Hitler Hate the Jews? provides a plethora of historical evidence and scientific data to theoretically explain the psychological state of the famed dictator Adolf Hitler.

Peter den Hertog provides a thorough examination of political, sociological, and domestic factors that combined to create a “perfect storm” during Hitler’s youth and early adulthood, ultimately creating a dangerously paranoid man who changed the course of world history. The author sensitively explains facets of Hitler’s personality without glorifying the man, which is refreshing. As each element of Hitler’s life is presented for the reader, the author provides perfectly-cited research to assert his claims, providing documents from Hitler’s contemporaries (both familiar and professional) and posthumous historians alike. Instead of yet another speculative document, Why Did Hitler Hate the Jews? works in an investigative manner to answer the titular question so many of us have pondered.

This book is perfect for high-level secondary history classes as well as collegiate discussion; it also serves the amateur or hobbyist historian well when seeking factual reading about Adolf Hitler and the European stage which brought him to the forefront. I read this book in less than a week, so at times I found some of the chapters a tad repetitive as they continually reference their predecessors; however, if I were to read this book over the course of a month or semester, I would appreciate the repetition of facts and data.

I’m rating Why Did Hitler Hate the Jews? by Peter den Hertog five stars, and I wish I could give an additional one for the delicate manner in which he addressed the gruesome aspects of the Holocaust. For history buffs as well as individuals who simply want to understand a little more about Adolf Hitler, I declare this book a must-read.

Book Review: Brave(ish) by Margaret Davis Ghielmetti

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley and am leaving this review voluntarily.

When I began Brave(ish) by Margaret Davis Ghielmetti, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. My favorite genre has long been biographies/memoirs, but a book about traveling the world? That was a new one for me. Thankfully, Brave(ish) did not disappoint, and Ghielmetti’s book is far more than I ever could’ve hoped to read.

As Margaret follows her husband, Patrick, around the world for his job as a hotel General Manager, she played the role of Hostess perfectly—in many ways, reminding me of Bree Van de Kamp from ABC’s Desperate Housewives. Margaret felt obligated to fulfill these hosting duties and more in order to be the “perfect” spouse, but it was evident early on in the book that the duties weren’t fulfilling her in return. When Patrick is transferred from Paris to Egypt then Thailand, Margaret’s adoption of various values and customs from these cultures ultimately contributed to her realization that she striving for perfection isn’t the key to joy; rather, it’s authenticity.

On her journey to personal and spiritual enlightenment, Margaret combats not only her perfectionistic tendencies, but also her alcoholism. She realizes that filling herself with wine could never fill the void the perfectionism had left within her, and for the first time, she begins making true, lasting friendship (with plenty of disappointment along the way). While she explores the wonders of the world, she also explores herself and a potential new way of life, with her supportive, loving husband by her side.

In many ways, I felt like Margaret was telling me the story personally, as if it were one of her many “Trip Reports” sent via email to her loved ones around the world as she and her husband relocated. Brave(ish) is candid, with many relatable quips throughout. The author’s inclusion of detail—both of the world and her experiences with infertility, the loss of her parents, and loneliness alike—set this book apart from many memoirs I’ve read. Brave(ish) doesn’t shy away from Tough Topics; instead, Ghielmetti embraces them fully.

I’m awarding Brave(ish) five stars for Ghielmetti’s ability to immerse the reader in her perfectionism from the very first page, bringing the reader alongside her in the reflections and realizations on her journey. I’ve read dozens of memoirs and autobiographical works, but none like Brave(ish). I highly-recommend Brave(ish) for all readers, but especially women who struggle with “Type A Tendencies” or accepting that there is no such thing as the “perfect homemaker.”

And Margaret, if you ever see this review…congratulations on finally finishing your book. 😊 Your passion for the written word is evident. Keep writing.

Anne’s Legacy

As Tudorphiles know, today is the 464th anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death. Beheaded on Tower Green for accusations we, like her contemporaries, believe to be false and absurd. She was a woman with ambition, who lived and loved passionately.

Several months ago, my husband and I were doing one of those “100 Questions to Ask Your Partner” things. The question “Which historical figure would your partner most like to have dinner with?” came up, and immediately, Nick said, “Anne Boleyn.”

He’s right.

I’ve read more books, both nonfiction and historical fiction alike, depicting the life of Anne Boleyn than I can possibly count. As far as my reviews here on The Pensive Bookworm go, I’ve reviewed:

I’m currently reading The Scandal of Christendom by Gemma Lawrence as well. I’ve read a number of books about her family, such as Cor Rotto by Adrienne Dillard (see my interview with Dillard here) and The First Elizabeth by Carolly Erickson is in my To Be Read stack right next to my desk.

I’ll never claim to understand Anne Boleyn fully. From what I’ve read, I’m not sure Anne understood herself completely, which is simply another thing that makes her so incredibly relatable.

But what is her legacy?

In the sixteenth century, she was declared a harlot, a sorceress, and incestuous, no matter how few people believed these accusations. During her daughter’s reign, Anne’s narrative was somewhat rewritten by Elizabeth, who couldn’t quite bring herself to condemn her father but nonetheless mourned the mother she hardly recalled. And while I’ve long said that, on principle, I am Team Katherine of Aragon, I can’t deny that Anne was a wondrously complex woman (and I actually just had to correct myself – I typed “Anne is” not “Anne was.)

To me, Anne Boleyn’s legacy is in her passion. She believed in the Reformation, and she believed in knowledge. Some may paint Anne as a victim of circumstance, a poor woman who was pushed into a precarious position by the men in her life. But I don’t believe that for one moment. In Gemma Lawrence’s Above All Others series, Lawrence has depicted Anne as a woman who was drawn to King Henry VIII’s charismatic nature and who learned quickly how to handle his moods and preferences, how to humor him. A strong-willed, intelligent woman who is willing to humor the man in her life, rather than put her own pride above his feelings, is a woman who loves her partner. I believe Anne loved Henry, and eventually, she grew to fear him. She’d seen him cast Katherine aside for her; when Anne couldn’t provide a son, she ironically found herself in the same position as her predecessor. In this sense, Anne’s legacy is a reminder to be humble. She was passionate for her cause, but recklessly so.

As Jonathan Rhys Meyers said as Henry in ShowTime’s The Tudors, “Don’t you know that I can drag you down, as quickly as I raised you?” Whether or not Henry VIII truly said those exact words matters not; this theme was present in the latter years of his romance with Anne, and I believe she knew it.

Anne was a woman who was unafraid to make enemies, at least in her early years at the English Court. She did so boldly, too, as she says in her motto Aisi sera groigne qui groigne, which has helped me in many difficult times, as you can read about here. She made enemies often because she believed in something they didn’t, and she wouldn’t be swayed to please the masses. She made enemies because she was a woman loved someone who she shouldn’t have. She made enemies because she was a woman who spoke her opinion and publicly disagreed with men.

Anne was a woman who endured much of what women have been enduring for all time, and she found a way to thrive in spite of it.

I never knew Anne, of course, and there’s no way I could’ve. If I’d lived in the sixteenth century, I probably would have viewed her as a mistress, a whore for going after another woman’s husband, but there’s no way I could’ve ignored her brilliance. She was so much more than her sexuality or her desires, political, romantic, personal, or religious; she was a leader, a role model, and an inspiration.

As we Tudorphiles look back today, let us not forget to remember the way Anne looked forward, striving to create a better world for Christians, for the People, and for her daughter. She was a politician, yes, but also a mother, and seemingly one who loved her daughter, even though Elizabeth wasn’t the male she needed to bear to save her head.

Anne, may you rest in peace.

“Let Them Grumble”

If you know me, you know that I am a complete and total Tudorphile. Both of my kids are named after Tudor figures, and the person from history I’d most like to have a conversation with is Anne Boleyn. So, in a way, it’s only fitting that when I was dealing with a vexing situation last week, I found myself quoting Queen Anne’s motto.

Aisi sera groigne qui groigne.

Let them grumble; that is how it is going to be.

As a narcissistic abuse survivor, one of the hardest battles I have to fight is within my own mind. I’ve been conditioned that if my existence bothers someone, it’s my job to fix myself so that I no longer cause anyone anything except joy. It’s exhausting, and I sometimes will find myself going over and over a situation trying to find what I did that was wrong. If I put the situation on someone else, pretend that my best friend is in my shoes, and ask myself what I’d tell her, my answer is often, “You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything that justifies this reaction from them.”

But my conditioning tells me I don’t have permission to be innocent. Ever.

My conditioning tells me everything, every single thing that even remotely involves me, is 100% my fault and it is entirely on me to fix it. It can take months, sometimes years, for me to realize, “Nope, Olivia, THAT is not on you.”

Last week, I shared an opinion, and someone took it personally. Then, that someone’s friend got involved, both explaining to me how I was in the wrong.

Logically, I know that an opinion cannot be wrong. It may not be factual; it may not be kind. But an opinion is just that: an opinion. It is a person’s thoughts. They probably came to form that opinion based on life experiences, and for us Americans (and some in other countries), we are completely justified to speak our opinion.

However, even after I’d explained that I was merely sharing an opinion based on professional experiences and it wasn’t about or directed at any one single person, their insistence continued.

And continued.

And continued.

I stepped back from the situation and said, “You posted an opinion on the Internet. Someone took it personally. If they are going to berate you and patronize you for sharing thoughts about the industry you work in, that isn’t your problem. You don’t have to put up with it, listen to it, or apologize for it. Let them grumble… Wait, that sounds familiar.”

Two minutes with Google later, I’d found Anne’s motto, one I’ve read in countless historical fiction books. Let them grumble; that is how it is going to be.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Anne’s motto seems to be her version of The Serenity Prayer, something I’ve had hanging in my house as long as I’ve lived on my own. (Of course, I can’t help but remember my grandmother Joyce’s handwritten passage on the back of her own hanging prayer – “Lord, I tried, I failed, and I just don’t give a damn anymore”).

Let them grumble.

The same way Anne spoke her mind about the Church and Reformation, I have the right to speak my mind about my job and the experience it provides me.

That is how it is going to be.

The same way Anne met much discord for having an opinion that wasn’t the one of the Catholics or Katherine of Aragon’s supporters, I will meet discord for my opinions.

Just because someone grumbles, though, that doesn’t mean I have to adjust my course. If people want to grumble, if they’re looking for a fight, they can swing all they want.

And I can walk away. I can go on, continue living my life, and let them think less of me.

After all, as a child of narcissistic family abuse, my parents have effectively already rejected me for having a mind of my own that I refuse to let them control. So losing clout with someone on the Internet doesn’t make me think any less of myself. I’ve already thought as low of myself as I can (“My parents would rather choose alcohol/deceit over me? God, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be what they want me to be?” then, a year later, “Wait, if they prefer beer/lying to me, a person, my kids, my husband, then they are the ones missing out!”) so losing the esteem of a stranger, a friend, an in-law, or anyone else doesn’t matter to me.

I imagine Anne Boleyn would tell me that it isn’t what the people out there think of me, but what is in my heart that matters most.

That’s probably why I adore Rhett Butler so much, too. “Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.” (Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind)

It’s been a journey for me to overcome the pain of being rejected by my parents, then proceeding from “I’ll always be rejected” to “Oh, you think less of me now? Okay.”

And that’s it.

I don’t need the approval of others; I don’t need the back-patting, compliments, or flattery of others.

Is this what self-esteem looks like? Just maybe.

I’d like to say I got to this point in my healing with the help of a therapist, but the truth is, it was three people from literature and history.

Katherine of Aragon, for showing me how to stick to your beliefs, no matter the cost.

Anne Boleyn, for exemplifying The Serenity Prayer for a decade with everything she did.

And Rhett Butler, for teaching me how to say, “My dear, frankly, I don’t give a damn” before walking farther into the sunset of my destiny.

To the authors, I thank you.

Book Review: Above All Others by G. Lawrence

When I open the “Library” tab on my Kindle and see the abundance of books by Gemma Lawrence, I’m immediately taken to my happy place. Of the hundreds of books (both print and digital) I own, I don’t think I have so many by any one author. Lawrence’s attention to detail and well-researched historical fiction books of the Tudor period are simply wonderful, and Above All Others (Book Three of the Above All Others series of Anne Boleyn) did not disappoint.

Detailing Henry VIII’s courtship of Anne Boleyn and their many obstacles to wed, Above All Others follows Anne’s growing power at the English Court as well as in the Reformation by her influence over Henry. Her greatest foe, Cardinal Wolsey, is the center focus of much of this book as Anne and her faction work to undermine his hold on Henry (and thus Henry’s reluctance to abandon the Catholic Church). Along the way, the reader is able to follow Anne’s transformation into the assertive, opinionated, and occasionally-manipulative woman that changed the course of history—for religion, England, and the entire world.

Lawrence included a great deal of tension-building for the feud between Anne and the Cardinal, which at times was a bit more than I was able to enjoy as I read, but in retrospect, I appreciated. I was able to feel as taxed as Anne as the years-long struggle to end Henry’s marriage to Katherine as well as the hatred of Anne by so many of Katherine’s supporters. Furthermore, I am grateful for the lengthy depiction of this time in Anne’s life, as these years between her return to England and that of her union with Henry more than seven years later are so often glossed over in other works.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Anne’s personal transformation in this work, and the manner in which Lawrence gave insight into Anne’s own potential struggles with each “demanding” predicament were not only plausible, but made Anne even more sympathetic. For modern readers, regardless if you support Katherine’s cause or Anne’s, this insight allows you to see that no one would’ve behaved with perfect tranquility and acceptance, were they in Anne’s shoes—it’s simply not in human nature to do so. I feel that the author understands the true Anne Boleyn in a way so few others do.

Incredibly well-researched (as always), Above All Others follows La Petit Boulain (review here)and The Lady Anne (review here) as another realistic, factual, and insightful installment of the Above All Others series. These books can be found on Amazon.

Book Review: Will’s Journey by Deanna Edens

There are very few books I long to memorize every single word so I can relive the magic as I please. Will’s Journey is certainly at the top of the list.

As the third book in the Angels of the Appalachians series by Deanna Edens, Will’s Journey bittersweetly ties up the remaining loose ends of this wonderful series. For a score of 3/3, Edens once again delivers a book the leaves the reader longing for more time with the characters.

This book focuses on Annie’s relationship with good ol’ boy Will, who tells Annie many stories of his life throughout the twentieth century. These tales are so much more than history lessons or simply recalling a memory; they are stories of survival, mettle, and community. Told with a spark and quirk that only Will can manage, his adventures of the past will captivate the reader and leave you wanting for more, even long after you’ve finished the book.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone, especially on a personal note – Will’s character and the events of Will’s Journey inspired me to pursue my own short story series (Green Hills Stories; available on Amazon) last year. The love and joy of Will and his friendships within his community throughout his lifetime reminded me that there are wonderful little pockets of friendship in this otherwise brutal world, and I wanted to create one of my own. Although some of what Will shares is tragic, the will to survive of Will and his friends and family alike shines through in the most inspiring of ways.

Will’s Journey is available on Amazon.

Book Review: The Lady Anne by Gemma Lawrence

Gemma Lawrence has done it again!

The Lady Anne (Book Two of its series) was a fantastic page-turner. I actually found myself neglecting my professional duties to read this book – as is often the case when I have a new book by this author!

Following Anne Boleyn upon her return to England, this book guides the reader through the early days of Anne’s experiences at the Court of Henry VIII. In my past reading experiences of Tudor historical fiction, I’ve found many books choose to focus on the years of Henry’s Great Matter through Anne’s downfall, so it was refreshing to read about a different time in Anne’s life. The Lady Anne shows a fantastic attention to many facets of Anne’s personality as the author has interpreted them, such as her passion for Church Reform, family relationships (especially with her brother, George), and already-brewing disenchantment with Katherine of Aragon, who history tells us she will ultimately dethrone.

Through the scenes featuring matters relating to Church Reform, Lawrence gives us a wonderful opportunity to see that Anne is a very passionate person, yes, but also daring. When faced with opportunities that could threaten her life if she is discovered to be engaged in such, she plows ahead because she believes in her cause wholeheartedly. I believe this element of the book establishes an insightful foundation for Anne’s character – history tells us she is determined to be the Queen of England, and there are many parallels between this time of Anne’s life and the events about to unfold.

Of course, history also tells us that Anne will be accused of incest with her brother. The Lady Anne provides excellent context for the basis of these allegations, particularly where Lady Jane (George’s wife) is concerned. Anne perceives Jane as a threat early in their relationship, if for reasons she can’t quite identify. George dotes on Anne in a way Jane longs to experience; namely, lengthy conversations and quality time together. Although George and Anne’s bond is entirely appropriate and exactly what one would expect of a close sibling dynamic, Lawrence masterfully provides situations that would have been all too simple for naysayers to later use to muddy the waters in order to dispose of Anne.

Most significantly to me was the disdain Anne harbored for her mistress, Queen Katherine. As many of my followers may know, my husband and I named our daughter after Katherine of Aragon for her tenacity and prowess on the battlefield – we wanted to give our daughter a namesake that was strong in every way. If we lived in the sixteenth century, I can truly say we would have supported Katherine until her dying day, even if we were Reformers. That said, I certainly appreciated the obvious annoyance that Katherine’s desperation for a male child (even after menopause) caused Anne; frankly, I could see myself having the same opinion had I been there to witness it. Much of The Lady Anne takes place prior to Anne’s romance with Henry, and I think that’s why Anne’s dislike for Katherine is so important here – it shows that Anne disliked Katherine for personal reasons well before she had cause to for political ones. For this reason alone, this book is worth reading!

As I write this review, I am about 30% into Above All Others, Book Three of this series by Gemma Lawrence. Actually, as soon as I finish this review, I’m going to read a bit more of it while I nurse my baby Katherine, ha! I can safely say that The Lady Anne ends on a wonderful note to establish the action of the third book, and I highly-recommend this series to all fans of Tudor historical fiction.

The Lady Anne by Gemma Lawrence can be found on Amazon.