Last year, D.L. Bogdan's first novel, Secrets of The Tudor Court, released last year, we catch a glimpse of the not so nice character of Thomas Howard. Bogdan rewards her readers this year with another look at Thomas Howard with a prequel to Secrets, Rivals in The Tudor Court (Kensington, May 2011).
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was a key player both behind the scenes and not-so-behind the scenes during Henry VIII's reign. Tudor fans recognize his name as the one responsible for putting his two nieces under the King's nose, ripe for the plucking. After Henry tired of mistresses Mary Boleyn and Bessie Blount, Thomas saw that Henry had eyes for Mary Boleyn's sister, Anne. And of course the rest is history.. Anne becomes queen, fails to give Henry the male heir and is summarily executed on trumped up charges of adultery. Another niece becomes available, Kitty Howard, who moves on become another Queen Catherine to King Henry.
But who was this man, the formidable Thomas Norfolk? Behind the political movements and shrewd judgement, he is one powerful noble who managed to escape the axe, although he came close and was saved by Henry's death alone. In D.L. Bogdan's previous book, Secrets of the Tudor Court, Thomas's daughter Mary Howard was the focus of the story but the story held frightening glimpses of Thomas himself, who is better known simply as Norfolk.
Why did he seem to be so cruel to his family? He beat his wife, his children, and paid his servants to do it some more. Not a very likable creature indeed, and D.L. Bogdan take us back to Thomas's beginning as a child struggling to make up for his short stature. His desire to be the best soldier earns him recognition, and Queen Catherine of Aragon favors him as well as King Henry does. He always wants more though, and he brings his family down whomever stands in his way.
Bogdan brings us the story of Thomas as he becomes more and more powerful, while also looking at the women in his life. We are treated to a never before seen look at Thomas Howard as he is undeniably happy with his first wife Anne Plantagenet until tragedy strikes again and again. The hardened man takes another wife with Elizabeth Stafford and we hope that perhaps he can come full circle, but he becomes more and more hateful, especially as he takes on a mistress, Bess Holland. We get the point of views of Thomas, his wife Elizabeth, and his mistress Bess, as they all struggle to maintain their wicked triangle of love and hate in Thomas's cruel world. With the intermingling of their lives, Bogdan presents a page turning story of loyalty, treachery and ambition giving us the Tudor flair that fans love.