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The King's Pleasure

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When it comes to historical fiction, especially about the Tudors, Alison Weir is usually one of the best authors. Unfortunately, this time she was a little less than successful with her fictional take on Henry VIII’s life. I found the book rather sluggish and lacking any real sparkle. It just seemed to be a superficial rehash of everything we already know about Henry without any of the insights (real or imagined) into his personality which are normally found in her fiction books. I also thought the book read more like a nonfiction book than one of fiction. Perhaps this larger than life monarch deserved more details, more dialogue, and more than one volume. 

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review it.
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Brilliantly written and well researched. Alison Weir is unrivaled in the historical genre especially depicting the life and times of King Henry VIII and his wives.  This book is a brilliant POV from Henry and captures the politics of the time.
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What can you say about Henry VIII that hasn’t already been said.  After writing about each of Henry’s wives from their point of view, Henry gets his turn. No new revelations come from his side of the story.  Henry comes across just as one would expect, at times generous and kind, and at other time vindictive and cruel. 

I think the biggest issue is not that there is no insight into Henry but rather the pacing of the book.  Wives 4-6 are covered in a very short period of time.  I also felt that more time was spent with the politics of the time.  While understanding the politics is important to understanding the rationale why each of the wives was treated as they were, I was looking for something that would focus more on the domestic life rather than  the political.
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Having been a huge fan of Alison Weir's 'Six Wives' series, I was overjoyed when I was given the opportunity through NetGalley and Ballantine to read an advanced digital copy of this title, which is from the perspective of Henry VIII himself. I'd like to thank both for providing me that access.

I'll start with the obvious - Weir's novels are always unrivaled for historical accuracy. When experiencing one of her works, readers can always be sure that if something is on the page, it has been meticulously researched and has basis in historical record. This book is no exception, which is both a credit and a drawback in some cases. I felt that the portions of the book that covered Henry's years with Catherine of Aragon - and, to some extent, Anne Boleyn - tended to read more like a straightforward recounting of a series of events rather than a fictionalized insight into his private thoughts. It felt like we were being told what happened, without being made to feel how Henry felt about any of it. Thankfully, this changes as the book gets further into the emotional side of his tempestuous relationship with Anne. It felt very much like watching a friend stay in a dysfunctional situation for the sake of passion, even when you can tell they aren't truly happy, It was the beginning in this book of the sort of personal perspective I was hoping to find, and thankfully continued to find as the book progressed past its somewhat slow start in the days of Henry's princehood and first marriage.

Possibly my favorite section of the entire book was the period between Jane Seymour's death and the arrival of Anna of Kleve in England, since it was a period of Henry's life not covered by any of the wives' books and included scenes with him that we never got to see from someone else's perspective in Weir's earlier novels. Those moments of just Henry, himself, without him acting through the lens of a woman, were very humanizing and interesting. I also loved the emotional choices made in Kathryn Howard's section, because I think it conveyed well something that many people who only know the basics of Henry's story don't think about: that it is highly likely that for all the importance history places on Anne Boleyn, Kathryn Howard's death probably affected Henry much more deeply. Weir fantastically portrays Henry's love and infatuation for Kathryn, his being blindsided by her betrayal, and his heartbreak over having to condemn her in a way that cuts right to the reader's bone in the best way. This turmoil also paves the way for a feeling of emotional comfort and release when Henry marries and lives out the rest of his days with Katherine Parr, which I think Weir also portrays beautifully. 

I do wish that there had been a bit more internal monologue/debate/angst over spiritual matters. As we all know, Henry considered himself a religious scholar and took his faith incredibly seriously, even as he dismantled the concept and practice of religion as the English people had known it. However, much of the decisions about religious reform as portrayed in the book are almost listed out like points on a timeline, not gone over as the life-altering, historically impactful, personally agonizing choices that he would have had to think through before coming to his conclusions. 

And down to the nitpicky details, I'll leave off with one bad and one good. For the bad: the  number of times he says some combination of "By St. George" and "[You/he/she/etc] has the sow by the right ear!" got so tiresome after only a few chapters. I understand there can be phrases that people are known for saying and say all the time, but in the context of reading it over and over in the same book for every exclamation, it just started to sound absurd. And for the good: although I'm sure there are some people who won't like the decision, I thought choosing to refer to him continuously as "Harry" throughout the book was a ultimately a clever one. It was a quick and easy way to familiarize him to the reader and bring through a bit of that "common touch" people were always saying he had, and I think it was the best option. 

While this is far from my favorite book Weir has written, it was well-done as always. I will continue to recommend her work to anyone interested in knowing more about the Tudor dynasty, because she simply can't be matched for great historical fiction with a solid foundation in research. With Weir, you can always tell that she truly lives and breathes the stories of these characters and is comfortable inside their world, which I will always appreciate.
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When we think about the Tudor dynasty, we often focus on the women in King Henry VIII’s life and his children, at least when it comes to novels. Writing about this larger-than-life figure, this notorious king and controversial figure in English history, are usually considered ambitious. Few have attempted to write a book about the king’s entire reign, but Alison Weir has embarked on this endeavor in her latest novel, “The King’s Pleasure: A Novel of Henry VIII.”

I want to thank Ballantine Books and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this novel. I have not read many books about the reign of King Henry VIII, except for “The Autobiography of King Henry VIII” by Margaret George, so when I heard that Alison Weir was writing a novel about the titular king, I knew I had to read it.

Weir begins her novel with a moment that must have been difficult for young Prince Henry or Harry as he is referred to in this book. His brother died recently, and his beloved mother, Elizabeth of York, just died, leaving Henry as King Henry VII’s only heir. Henry does not have the best relationship with his father, but he now must fill the void as the heir apparent after Arthur died, leaving his young wife, Katherine of Aragon, a widow. When King Henry VII died, Henry became King Henry VIII and selected a woman he had fallen for to become his queen, Katherine of Aragon. 

The bulk of this novel revolves around the relationships between Henry and his first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Weir is sympathetic toward Katherine of Aragon’s struggles, whereas her portrayal of Anne Boleyn may come across as a bit harsh. Jane Seymour is portrayed as a quiet and obedient queen, and Anna of Cleves’ focus is more on her looks and how Henry treated her more as a sister than a wife. Katherine Howard is someone Henry falls for hard and is devastated by her downfall, and Katherine Parr is the firebrand reformer who wants to heal Henry’s family at the end of his life. 

Weir also touches on the complex political web that Henry was involved in, not just in England but European politics of the 16th century. We also see how Henry interacted with his children and how the emotional weight of all of his decisions weighed on him. 

I think for how much of a challenge it is to write a novel about King Henry VIII, Alison Weir has done an admirable job in the king’s portrayal. I don’t necessarily agree with how some of the queens were portrayed, but I did enjoy this novel as a whole. I would suggest reading this novel before the Six Tudor Queens series to understand Henry’s perspective before his wives’ stories. If you have enjoyed the latest books about Henry VIII’s wives and his mother, Elizabeth of York, you should read “The King’s Pleasure: A Novel of Henry VIII” by Alison Weir.
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Beautifully written and pulls the reader in from the very beginning.  Loved this as a follow up to the books on is wives.  A very easy recommendation for my bookclub this fall and I look forward to their reactions.
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I enjoy reading about the Tudor era, and Alison Weir writes about it so well, filling in so many details. This time, the focus is on Henry VIII instead of his wives. It makes for an interesting read, although I found some sections regarding political maneuverings a bit slow going. Nonetheless, this is a book that will be enjoyed by those who are also interested in this period of history. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Note: I was given early access to this novel in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and Random House. Scheduled publication date: May 30, 2023.

This novel covers the life of the ever-notorious English King, Henry VIII by the well-respected historian, Alison Weir. It reminded me a bit of author Margaret George’s 1986 book, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII. They’re both long, they both look at unfolding events from Henry’s perspective, and both try to offer some insights into the man behind the reputation. I gave it four stars but 3.5 might be more precise. 

One of the reasons historical fiction is my favorite genre is because I’m interested in an author’s depiction of an actual historical person as a fully fleshed out human being, with speculation about why each behaved as they did — how their individual humanity ultimately impacted historical events. What were they thinking? What motivated them? How might they have been damaged by life circumstances? In my opinion, Weir did this very successfully in her six-novel series about Henry’s wives. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything new or particularly interesting about Weir’s exploration of Henry’s psyche. And I don't feel that I know or understand him any better. Instead, I felt I was reading an episodic survey recounting his life and reign, with all documented events included. And I particularly didn’t believe the way in which Weir seemed to give a big pass to Henry around the fall of Anne Boleyn. 

Overall, the novel felt like more of a blend of historical fiction and traditional biography. Lots of detail about politics, rival court factions, and building projects that did not seem to add to a better understanding of the man. Almost as though Weir (wearing her historian's hat) felt she had to include everything about Henry that had been historically documented. 

I also found some of the integration of historical documentation on the clumsy side. For example, Weir includes a few direct quotes from Henry taken from historical records. Only to me they felt stuck in because the language Henry actually used back in the 1500s (reflected in the direct quote) was nothing like the voice Weir gave him throughout the rest of the book. 

My understanding is that Weir began writing non-fiction long before becoming interested in historical fiction. So, maybe that makes it harder to let go of some of the facts and history she knows so intimately and focus more on the psychology and character of the King. And, as she explains in the Afterword, after writing novels each of Henry’s wives, she felt obligated to create one about Henry himself. Of course, the thing about diehard Tudor fans like me is that we NEVER get tired of reading about Henry and trying to understand him. Which is probably why so many historical fiction authors keep writing books about him. An audience will always be waiting to read them. Flaws and all.
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I’ve always been fascinated by all things King Henry VIII and I’ve read quite a bit about him, including Weir’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” and Margaret George’s “The Autobiography of Henry VIII.” Although I finished those years ago, I don’t believe that THE KING’S PLEASURE differed too much - or added much to the (totally bizarre) story of England’s most notorious king.

I did enjoy hearing the events from Henry’s point of view: he’s recounting his life’s choices and regrets on his deathbed, which does a lot to humanize him. The book begins when he’s a little boy, devastated by the loss of his mother and moves through time. It details his infatuation, and later, boredom, with each of his six wives, as well as the political goings-on during this lifespan. Therefore, THE KING’S PLEASURE is a bit of a chonker, and I had a difficult time focusing to getting through some of the less interesting phases of Henry’s life. 

That said, this book is obviously extensively researched and impeccably written. The descriptions of clothes, food, pageantry, etc. drop you right into the Tudor world. This book will appeal to historians and those curious about Henry VIII, particularly if they haven’t read other similar books.

A sincere thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an eARC of THE KING’S PLEAURE and the opportunity to give my honest feedback and opinion.

This review has been published on Goodreads and will be published on my Bookstagram, @watchskyeread, on publication day (May 30).
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On his deathbed, Henry VIII reflects on his life, how he will be remembered, and his good and evil deeds. Alison Weir is a historian so her books are well researched whether fiction or nonfiction, and after writing about his six wives, Weir is finally giving Fat Harry his day in court. This is not just a biography but also a history of the events that shaped Henry's reign. Even people who don't like history tend to be fascinated by the Tudors and Henry VIII in particular, and they don't realize that the only thing Henry is remembered for is being married six times and murdering two of his wives. Otherwise, he was a rather mediocre king, squandering the massive treasury left to him by his father on futile wars and entertainments, and enjoying himself with his friends rather that attending to matters of state. Obsessed with fathering sons, convinced that a woman couldn't be an effective ruler even though his advisers and fellow monarchs told him there was no reason that Mary couldn't be his heir and a successful queen (and even though the three longest reigning and most successful English monarchs WERE queens), Henry focused on the wrong things. Although I usually love the author's books, I was a little disappointed in this one. Weir deals rather gently with Henry and is sympathetic to him, compared with other biographers. She downplays the fact that due to his suspicious nature, Henry eventually executed almost all of his friends and relatives. He was also rather gullible and a notoriously bad judge of character - his motto should have been "it's not my fault." Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an eARC for review.
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I really enjoyed this book. I hope the author continues to write more books in the future. I can't wait to see what this author releases in the future.
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A little dry, although Alison Weir offers a few new tidbits about Henry Tudor. Watching a magnificent man tumbling into dissolution has always fascinated me about Henry , and seeing things from his point of view rather than that of his women was interesting. I had to force my way through some of the longer bits, but readers new to the Tudor saga will find much to hold their interest.
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A well-written tale that offers another historical fiction of King Henry VIII. I enjoyed this version of events, always a difficult task for writers who are attempting to write thoughts and feelings into historical characters long dead. Ms. Weir leads readers through Henry’s early years, through his marriage to Katherine, then Anne Boleyn, and four other marriages, and tackles some of the political turmoil of his reign.
The author builds a believable case for how Henry became the man who could dispose of so many wives, and the possible fears and ambition that drove him to war with the Pope and the Catholic Church, and his thirst for conquering France.
I’ve read other novels about this King and his wives, and found this one well researched and with nuances to his personality that added to the story. Entertaining and a delightful immersion into a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
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The King's Pleasure
by Alison Weir
Pub Date: 30 May 2023   

Having completed her Six Tudor Queens series of novels on the wives of Henry VIII, extensively researched and written from each queen's point of view, Alison Weir now gives Henry himself a voice, telling the story of his remarkable thirty-six-year reign and his six marriages.

Young Henry began his rule as a magnificent and chivalrous Renaissance prince who embodied every virtue. He had all the qualities to make a triumph of his kingship, yet we remember only the violence. Henry famously broke with the pope, founding the Church of England and launching a religious revolution that divided his kingdom. He beheaded two of his wives and cast aside two others. He died a suspicious, obese, disease-riddled tyrant, old before his time. His reign is remembered as one of dangerous intrigue and bloodshed—and yet the truth is far more complex.

The King's Pleasure brings to life the idealistic monarch who expanded Parliament, founded the Royal Navy, modernized medical training, composed music and poetry, and patronized the arts. A passionate man in search of true love, he was stymied by the imperative to produce a male heir, as much a victim of circumstance as his unhappy wives. Had fate been kinder to him, the history of England would have been very different.

Here is the story of the private man. To his contemporaries, he was a great king, a legend in his own lifetime. And he left an extraordinary legacy—a modern Britain.

Another fabulous book by by Alison Weir

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Is it wrong to call my experience reading this book a complete pleasure? If so, I am guilty. Hopefully, not of treason. As a fan of Alison Weir’s books, I was very excited to receive an early NetGalley copy of The King’s Pleasure. Alison Weir is one of the most notable and respected early modern British period historical historians. This is the first time Weir has written a book of fiction from the point of view of Henry the VIII. The other books I’ve read from her so far have been about the women of the period. If you’ve been wondering what was going on in Henry’s mind during his lifetime, then this is the right book for you. How did he feel when his friends and wives betrayed him? Did he really believe that Anne Boleyn was guilty on all charges? Was he quick to execute? There were a few important events in Henry’s life that were left out that I wish were in there but I understand the author had to make choices to keep the book concise. In this book, Henry is portrayed as a dynamic and nuanced ruler who didn’t expect to wear the crown himself. He saw himself as anointed by God. He also largely saw himself as a victim. For Tudor buffs and novices alike, I believe you will find this book worth reading. This ARC was given to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 4/5 stars.
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He was a ginger-haired second son, the athletic, charismatic “spare” to his overly serious elder brother. Henry VIII, nicknamed Harry in his youth, wasn’t born to be king, but he has come down in history as a larger-than-life monarch, known for his marriages and role in the English Reformation. In her newest biographical novel, royal expert Weir explores the viewpoint of this towering figure, beginning with the passing of his beloved mother, the subject of her previous book, The Last White Rose (2022). Henry inherits a wealthy kingdom and indulges in tourneys, feasts, and luxurious clothing, which Weir evokes in detailed scenes of jaw-dropping extravagance. In well-paced fashion, readers view his transformation from fun-loving Renaissance man consumed with his glorious image to an aging, tyrannical king desperate to ensure the succession. Weir meticulously illustrates his significant relationships with not just his six wives but also his political allies and rivals and such shrewd advisers as Wolsey and Cromwell. Readers of her Six Tudor Queens series won’t find unexpected revelations here, but this believable tale is a solid choice for historical fiction devotees.
(Reviewed for Booklist, 4/15/23 issue)
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Thank you to Goodreads for a copy of this book for my review.  
There is one author Alison Weir who has a total knowledge of the Tudor family.  I think she met king Henry VIII in another life.  Her writing gives you such a descriptive view of not only the characters but the actual history of the period in the 1500s.

This book gives the story of Henry the VIII's life from beginning to end..   It takes you thru the periods of each of his many wives. The struggles with religion and how he became head of the English church.  The struggle of producing an heir to the throne.  The struggles with his group of advisors and how some of them struggled with gaining power or changing religions. 

I totally enjoyed this book but I have a love of history.  There are so many characters in the story and you may get lost but take notes if it helps you.  If you want to read about Henry VIII and how he went thru so many wives from his point of view this is the book to read.  There are many books dealing with each wife so it a nice change of pace.
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It took me a little while to get into this because I am so used to reading the Tudor's from a Queen's perspective. It was great to see the struggle of young Henry before he became Henry the 8th and the power plays his dad made between him being King. Seeing the more personal touch that is known and well written but sometimes never mentioned learning wise really does help a lot. It is well written as each wife progressed/ mistress plus the internal struggle of Catholic versus protestant. This book should be on anyone's TBR list if they are interested in the Tudor times. If one isn't a addicted reader to the tudor times or Alison Weir I highly reccommend this book to start its a really fresh perspective and help brings in his whole life span ups downs regrets and all. Hes more than just the guy with six wives.

This ARC was given to me by netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Alison Weir's The Six Wives of Henry VIII was the driving factor in my subsequent obsession with the Tudor dynasty. I have read both fiction and non-fiction about this time since I picked up that book, many written by Weir. I liked The King's Pleasure. It was good. That is the reason I gave it 3 stars, it was good. It was not a book that I could not put down, it didn't approach things from a different angle, it was Henry VIII from his perspective, and it was good. If this was the first time I had read about him and his court, maybe it would have been 4 stars. 

Overall, if you can't get enough of Henry's struggle for a male heir, this is a view of that from his side. As this is about royals, there is plenty of court intrigue and of course, the different religious factions trying to outmaneuver each other for the king's favor.
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"What is extraordinary is that Henry was usually a very good husband. And he liked women – that's why he married so many of them! He was very tender to them, we know that he addressed them as "sweetheart." He was a good lover, he was very generous: the wives were given huge settlements of land and jewels – they were loaded with jewels. He was immensely considerate when they were pregnant. But, once he had fallen out of love... he just cut them off. He just withdrew. He abandoned them. They didn't even know he'd left them." - David Starkey on Henry VIII. 

Though I've encountered many stories told from the perspective on Henry's doomed wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) I've never seen one that attempts to both humanize and condemn the monarch the way Alison Weir does in The King's Pleasure. Weir paints a picture of a man who was desperate for love but incapable of escaping his own crippling fears of treachery. 

If you're looking for a fair or balanced view of any of his wives I suggest you look elsewhere (perhaps to Weir's series told from their point of view, though I haven't read it yet) as this story is told from Henry's (or Harry's as he's called throughout the novel) point of view alone. Beginning in his youth you follow him through his passionate affairs, his hunger for glory, his many failed attempts at expanding his realm and finally his devastating collapse into obesity and poor health. 

If you enjoy historical fiction you couldn't find a book more meticulously researched and engaging. It's a bit fast paced but it has to be in order to fit an entire life into under 600 pages. Overall, a wonderfully rich and compelling retelling of a story we all think we know. Though history tells us Henry was flawed (tremendously) he was also human and perhaps deserves the kinder eye of this particular retelling. 

Highly recommended.
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