Posted By Claire on July 6, 2014
The tagline of The May Bride is “Marrying the King was Jane Seymour’s destiny and her revenge” which leads readers to believe that this novel will be about Jane Seymour’s marriage to Henry VIII – wrong! The novel is actually about Katherine Filiol’s marriage to Jane Seymour’s brother Edward and Jane’s friendship with Katherine.
The story is told in the first person, through Jane’s eyes and opens in the May that Edward brings home his 21 year-old bride Katherine, a woman who had a major impact on her 15 year-old sister-in-law. Suzannah Dunn describes how captivated and “won over” Jane is by Katherine, who brings light and life to the Seymour household. As Edward Seymour concentrates on his career away from home at court, Jane and Katherine become best friends and confidantes. However, trouble is brewing and Jane’s illusions are shattered when Edward makes shocking accusations against his wife and father, and puts his wife aside. His treatment of Katherine has a major effect on Jane and she is still reeling from events when she joins Catherine of Aragon’s household and sees Henry VIII put Catherine aside to marry Anne Boleyn. Of course, we all know Jane’s story and at the end she becomes the May Bride, marrying a man who has put aside two wives.
The first three quarters of the novel are brilliant. I couldn’t put the book down. I found Katherine as captivating a character as Jane did and I loved the dynamics of the relationships in the book and seeing all of the events through the younger Jane’s eyes, as she struggles to come to terms with everything. However, the last quarter of the book lost me. The pace suddenly quickens and we travel through time too fast in my opinion. We keep jumping and all of a sudden we go from Jane seeing Henry VIII put Catherine aside for Anne to Anne being executed and Jane being the one Henry VIII is marrying. The pace was perfect until that point and then it was as if Dunn got bored or was pressured to finish the book quickly. I would have preferred the book to have been split into two parts, with the story leaving us with Jane serving Anne and then for a second novel to explore her relationship with the new queen and then the blossoming of her relationship with the King. That’s just me though and I’d still recommend the novel as I found it gripping until the final part.
We don’t know for sure why Edward Seymour put Katherine aside, or what happened to her, and I did enjoy Suzannah Dunn’s take on the story.
I didn’t stand a chance: looking back over thirteen years, that’s what I see. In the very first instant, I was won over, and of course I was: I was fifteen and had been nowhere and done nothing, whereas Katherine was twenty-one and yellow-silk-clad and just married to the golden boy…
Jane Seymour is a shy, dutiful fifteen-year-old when her eldest brother, Edward, brings his bride home to Wolf Hall. Katherine Filliol is the perfect match for Edward, as well as being a breath of fresh air for the Seymour family, and Jane is captivated by the older girl. Over the course of a long, hot country summer, the two become close friends and allies, while Edward is busy building alliances at court and advancing his career.
However, only two years later, the family is torn apart by a dreadful allegation made by Edward against his wife. The repercussions for all the Seymours are incalculable, not least for Katherine herself. When Jane is sent away, to serve Katharine of Aragon, she is forced to witness another wife being put aside, with terrible consequences. Changed forever by what happened to Katherine Filliol, Jane comes to understand that in a world where power is held entirely by men, there is a way in which she can still hold true to herself.
Hardcover: 320 pages (UK), 352 pages (US)
Publisher: Little, Brown (13 Mar 2014, UK), Pegasus (October 15, 2014 US)
ISBN-10: 1408704684 (UK), 1605986305 (US)
ISBN-13: 978-1408704684 (UK), 978-1605986302 (US)
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.