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At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Posted By Claire on January 3, 2012

I was very very excited about reading this Anne Boleyn novel because I have come to know Anne Clinard Barnhill through both The Anne Boleyn Files and Anne Boleyn Fellowship site. I knew, first-hand, just how much research had gone into the writing of this novel so was dying to read Anne’s take on Anne Boleyn’s story.

Anne Clinard Barnhill is descended from the Shelton family – Sir John Shelton, his wife Anne Boleyn (sister of Thomas Boleyn and aunt of Queen Anne Boleyn) and their daughter Margaret, or Madge Shelton – and it was her research into her roots which inspired this novel. At the Mercy of the Queen is the story of Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall told through the eyes of her cousin, Madge Shelton, who is chosen to serve the new Queen as a lady-in-waiting. The stories of the two women run in parallel as Madge tries to help Anne Boleyn keep the love of Henry VIII while also trying to keep her love for Arthur Brandon, the illegitimate son of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, a secret and the lecherous Sir Henry Norris at arm’s length.

Country girl Madge has to keep her wits about her at the dangerous Tudor court and depend on the advice of her friend, poet Thomas Wyatt. Madge becomes a trusted confidant of Anne Boleyn and is eventually forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for her Queen and cousin by agreeing to become mistress to the King in an attempt to keep the Queen in favour. Will Arthur’s love for her be strong enough to cope with her betrayal and how will she avoid marriage to Norris, a rich gentleman and courtier? When Anne Boleyn falls from power in May 1536, Madge sacrifices herself again by choosing to stay at her mistress’s side and go into the Tower with Anne, not knowing whether she’ll ever see Arthur again or whether she’ll survive the bloody events. She puts her queen first and is faithful to the bitter end. Will Madge get a happy ending?

I don’t want to say too much about the storyline as I don’t want to spoil it for you. We all know how Anne’s story ends but this novel gives Madge’s story and also Madge’s insight into Anne, her story and her feelings. You know a novelist is doing a good job when you feel empathy with the characters and your emotions are roused by the events and their feelings. Anne Clinard Barnhill does an amazing job at bringing Madge to life and you end up willing her and Arthur to have a happy ending. I felt sick for her when Anne Boleyn asked her to sleep with the King but also empathised with the desperate Queen clutching at straws to keep her King. The novel has all the right ingredients – intrigue, love, passion, hatred, jealousy, death, suspense… – and is a thrilling read. The reader is taken down a rollercoaster of emotions and I was sad when the journey came to an end and I finished the book, I do hope Anne will write more!

The novel is historical fiction and mixes history with fiction. Many of the events took place and many of the characters are real historical characters, but some are not and I didn’t mind it at all. Anne Clinard Barnhill used artistic licence, but with care and respect and so I didn’t mind. It was obvious that she felt strongly about her characters and was committed to telling their story, and a thrilling story it was. If you have enjoyed the novels of Jean Plaidy then you are sure to enjoy this one and I would highly recommend it.

My copy was an advance reading copy so was missing the reading group discussion, questions, a conversation with the author and recommended reading, but those will obviously add to the reading experience.


At the Mercy of the Queen is released today, the 3rd January 2012, and here are the details:-
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (January 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312662130
ISBN-13: 978-0312662134
Available at – click here to order and read a sample – or from Amazon UK – click here, or from your favourite book seller.


10 Responses to “At the Mercy of the Queen: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Anne Clinard Barnhill”

  1. Niki says:

    Congratulations on your new release Anne! very exciting.

  2. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thanks again, Claire, for these kinds words–I’m so happy you enjoyed the book! And Niki, thank you as well–it is very exciting!

  3. Trish says:

    I just downloaded it to read on my Kindle! Can’t wait, it looks like a page turner!

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thanks, Trish! Hope you like it!

  5. Trish says:

    I just finished the book this morning and I’m so sad it had to end! I would have read it in one sitting if not for my 2 year old requiring my attention! ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next.

  6. Anne Barnhill says:

    Wow! THanks Trish–that was very fast, especially considering you have a 2 year old!

  7. Catherine says:

    I have just finished reading your book Anne, best book I have read in months! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Anne Barnhill says:

    Wow, Catherine, thank you so much! You have made my day!

  9. vienna says:

    I can also recommend the brand new novel THE LAST TUDOR by Charlotte St George if you wish to read about Annes daughter Elizabeth available at

  10. Louise says:

    I feel sorry for all the men who died with Anne, including the innocent, decent, well liked Henry Norris.

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