A Review of Anne Clinnard Barnhill’s At The Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

“You do not understand-everyone wants power-to touch it, feel it, hold it like a flame in their own hand. And these At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyncursed knaves will do what they must for just a moment of such power. Tell the queen to beware-her troubles are not yet over…”

So warns Sir Arthur Brandon, lover of Lady Margaret Shelton, believed to be one of three known mistresses to King Henry VIII of England, who finds herself within the court intrigue of politics, passion, and power as a lady-in-waiting to her majesty Queen Anne Boleyn of England in Anne Clinnard Barnhill’s new novel At The Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. (St Martin’s Griffin Press and to be published on January 3, 2012)

Written with attention to detail of the customs and culture of that day, Barnhill does a wonderful job telling a fresh tale of perhaps England’s most infamous queen who is beheaded at her husband’s orders. Set in the turbulance of the mid-1530’s At the Mercy brings to life a woman who some believe was not a mistress to the Henry (her sister Mary was believed to be) yet who was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne.

There is a colorful cast of characters, many historical, who are written into a tense and passionate telling of a young woman who submits herself to the King at the Queen’s request so that he might be “turned back” to Her Majesty the Queen. And the plot is filled with twists and turns that will lead the reader to keep reading!

I appreciated this novel for its honest and passionate dialogue, tastefully well done love scenes, and a capturing of the court customs and mindset of mid-16th century England that reveals the power of the King and the rules that governed court life. Also of note is the way Barnhill develops the character of  Madge (Margaret) from a reictent girl to a forceful and passionate woman who speaks her mind.

While a great addition to the long tradition of work about Anne Boleyn (who really, I believe, appears as a supporting character at times in this book) it is also a story that has a familar ring to the struggle for power and place in our own situations. And the complication that love (and yes, passion) often causes.

I give At The Mercy a “4” on my rating scale, a ‘good’ read. And I recommend it for college classes devoted to both history and literature.

Note: I received a copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review of it. I was not required to write a positive review.


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