Gregory feeds our fascination with the Tudors once again as she relates the stories of Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and fifth, Katherine Howard, tying them together with Lady Rochford, Jane Boleyn, Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law. Allowing her characters to speak in first person, Gregory imbues history with realism and human drama. As
in the finest of historical fiction, she doesn't skimp on history but infuses
it with humanity.

Jane Boleyn's greed and jealousy compel her to testify against her husband and her sister-in-law, Anne. She schemes to save her inheritance by sacrificing their lives, and eight years later she is still scheming. Jane attends the arrival of Anne of Cleves in London as the fourth queen. Twenty-four-year-old Anne will do anything to get away from her overbearing mother and brother and find a way to live life on her own terms. She's smart enough to known it's better to be divorced than wed.

At 15, Katherine Howard is young, vain and easily swayed by Lady Rochford (an eager spy for Katherine's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk) to oust Anne and gain Henry's favor. But an unhappy Katherine turns to Jane, who gives her advice that will lead to both their deaths. Each woman experiences the Boleyn inheritance -- some to survive, others to feel the ax. (Touchstone, Dec., 416 pp., $25.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin