The Dead Queens Club

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I loved this book!  I'm a huge fan of Tudor England and anything to do with Henry VIII and this retelling was perfect.  The voice of Cleves was perfect for a modern version of her and the story kept you entertained, despite already knowing what happened to the real wives of Henry Tudor.  Definitely adding this one to my must-buy list.
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While I found the idea of basing a book on Henry the VIIIth and his wives intriguing in concept, I think the book was just a mess.

First of all, the grammar and typos were really hard to get past.  Secondly, 6 wives (or girlfriends in this case) is just too much.  There should be at least 2 books to give them all their due.  The overachievers camp and pranking stories were distracting.

And the whole thing really doesn't make sense without the overarching historical and religious themes.  It might work if it was set at a boarding school.  For example, I went to an episcopal boarding school, but I wasn't particularly religious.  Some kids opted out of attending chapel and instead went to Catholic mass on Sundays.  That might work.  Or maybe you could make it about people who follow a particular team religiously.

On the other hand, I don't know how you replace the main theme of Henry needing an heir...

Regardless, this attempt just doesn't work.  It's convoluted and over the top.  I did like some of the characters, though...
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Captivating, suspenseful, entertaining novel! This beautiful thriller kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading it! Would highly recommend to those who enjoy this genre.
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I loved this book. It is no perfect by any means but I loved its message and how things play out. This is such a great novel about perils of toxic masculinity. It also explores important feminist themes, including girl-on-girl hate and girl friendship. It lacked a bit on the intersectional front, though. 

I assume those who are into history and know of Henry VIII and his wives will be intrigued and yes, there are many references to historical figures, events and details. I loved most of them, although I admit it felt jarring when it comes to names. Some of the names are taken directly from history and it took me a bit away from the story. 

All in all, a really relevant story and a great exploration of toxic masculinity. What I liked is that we experience many of those things from the MC's eyes; she grows throughout the novel so much. And the ending is perfect.
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I think this story might have worked better as a comedy. Watch this teenage boy burn his way through a line of increasingly wrong girlfriends. I really thought that's where it was going for the first third. Changing to an investigation of suspicious accidents was a hard pivot, thematically and tonally. THe first third was relatively light. Murder and toxic masculinity and savior complexes are much heavier and darker. And characters that had previously appeared frivolous or intense suddenly became unhinged.
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Not only is this book immensely fun, it’s super clear to me the Henry VIII nerd that Hannah Capin seriously knows her stuff. I really enjoyed catching all the historical name references, but there were plenty of other, more subtle details sprinkled throughout that were just amazing. Lina having a jar of pomegranate seeds in her dorm fridge? Perfect.

In addition to appealing to my history geek side, this also adds in a heaping dose of girl power, feminism, whatever you want to call it and gives Henry’s queens a chance to take back their power, because let’s face it, he may have been fascinating and even charming, but Henry was a real dick. History may not have always been kind to the women in his life, but this book sets up a scenario where they are given a chance to shine.

Altogether, what we have is a book that is clever, fun and totally satisfying. My reading this year has started pretty well, but this easily seizes the top spot.
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The Dead Queens Club takes the historical facts of King Henry VIII and his six wives and translates it into a Contemporary Young Adult novel set in a high school. No, high school Henry is not married to six girls, but he has had six girlfriends in the last two years. Including our main protagonist, Annie Marck “Cleves”, girlfriend number four, and best friend to Henry. When she hears a rumor that Henry is possibly responsible for the deaths of two of his ex-girlfriends, Cleves investigates to help clear his name. Is the most popular boy in school the funny partner in crime she knows? Or is he a guy with anger management issues who takes revenge on his cheating girlfriends?

The Dead Queens Club cleverly names all of it’s characters after their true life namesakes and incorporates familiar places from Tudor history into this small town. I’ll admit to once again using Wikipedia to give myself a quick history lesson on each wife (and if they kept their head or not) and found that I relished watching the mystery unfold more because of that knowledge. Setting Henry VIII’s relationships in a high school certainly had it’s challenges but I thought Hannah Capin did a GREAT job at intertwining and creating original scenarios while still maintaining their historical references. It wasn’t just the names and places that were similar, but each person’s relationship with Henry, down to his advisors who fed him false information to turn him against his wives, were represented in this book. Once you know the history (as I did with my quick Wikipedia exploration) you have a few aha! moments where you stop and admire the machinations and manipulations the author took to make that reference happen.

Lancaster High had all of the drama and gossip you’d imagine from a high school setting and even though the pace was kind of slow I was surprised at how well the political intrigue of the Tudor court translated into the cliques and capers of high school life. Cleves rides on the edge of any clique although her friendship with Henry puts her in the elite circle. She is blinded for a long while by that friendship, his magnetic personality, and his lies, but the other girls, even though catty and mean, help her see the truth.

Even though The Dead Queen’s Club had a contemporary setting I found myself enjoying it like I do historical fiction, yet it was easy to read and didn’t bog down as some historical fiction does. Cleves was probably one of Henry’s least impressive wives, yet in this novel she was the catalyst for the readers emotions to dip and surge. She was so torn between her “best friend” Henry and this other Henry that her friends were trying to make her see. Who was the real boy? Well, if you know your history you know the answer to that question. But there is so much more to this novel than the historical facts. There are emotions, discoveries, and the realization that people just sometimes suck. The story, however, didn’t.  ❤️❤️❤️❤️

I received a free copy of this ARC for my honest review and it was honest!
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Now, don’t send me off to the guillotine but when I was watching The Tudors all those years ago, I fell in love with Anne Boleyn and her story.. it was probably how great of an actress Natalie Dormer was in it but I was completely captivated by this obviously wronged woman whose only crime was loving a psychotic man. I hated what happened to her so much that when Jane appeared (Ugh, Jane Seymour) I stopped watching the show. Yes, I know Katharine of Aragon got the shitty end of the stick first but.. I just felt that Henry was truly in love with Anne before he went all nutty and emulated the Queen of Hearts with the whole off with her head thing. 

I truly loved how much The Dead Queens Club with it’s channeling of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girls just managed to tell a story where the women finally get the last word in the story. I adored how this book was all about feminism and women finally winning. This book didn’t let a man like Henry whose charming personality hid what was such an obvious psychotic persona. 

So thanks to this author for reawakening my obsession with all things Tudor! And to Netgalley and the publishers for sending this book to me in exchange for an honest review.
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King Henry VIII and his six wives step out of history and take on high school teen drama in The Dead Queens Club. I have to say I do really like the title and that it is used later on in the book. Unfortunately being the second Henry VIII adaptation that I have read, I can now say that I am not a fan of books based on him. I think the author did well at turning these historical figures into prom king and queens and naming the characters to fit them. I also liked all of the references in her "possible future day jobs" such as "#24601 Life Without Parole" and "#1984" though they didn't seem to have anything to do with the Tudors. I'd say the last 80% was pretty good as the reader starts to see the girls banding together and be all "girl power." That way it didn't end with just broken hearts...and rolling heads. In my opinion I wasn't a fan of the content, but that's not to say that it was a badly written book or that the plot didn't work. It just wasn't for me.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Rating 4/5

I loved this! It was like watching The Mean Girls again but with Tudor actors! The drama here was unreal and I am VERY glad I was not part of any of it! I laughed so much and enjoyed this immensely!
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Thank you NetGalley and Inkyard Press for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

This book, although having a very interesting premise was not for me. The humour and the pacing turned me completely off and the plot was all over the place. 

I did not connect with any of the characters at all and in that lies my overall distaste for this book as I tend to like more character driven books.
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4.5 stars.

The sordid tale of King Henry VIII and his six wives is probably the one most well-known to those with even only a passing interest in English history. As an Anglophile myself, I grew up reading Antonia Fraser's The Six Wives of Henry VIII alongside other titles more obscure on the topic, and heartily enjoyed the many popular TV adaptations. I tended to avoid the fictional stuff, an inclination cemented by viewing the movie of The Other Boleyn Girl. It was so terrible that, for once, Natalie Portman's acting was the highlight of a movie for me (and she was quite good in it, don't get me wrong, but the lack of historical rigor was appalling!) Most historical fiction about the six queens tends to follow some weird agenda, such as Ford Madox Ford's attempt at redeeming Katherine Howard by pretending she was Anne Boleyn in The Fifth Queen. I did, however, give in and read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall because Booker, and found it, while an excellent portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, a somewhat tedious read.

All this is by way of saying that I've read tons and tons of books on the subject and consumed so much film and TV on it, that when I watched the Mark Rylance-starring version of Wolf Hall, it was actually a shock to me to realize for the first time what a monster Henry VIII was. It was as if some BBC producer got tired of everyone pretending that Henry was just a quirky horndog and decided to finally put his sociopathy front and center (and God bless you, BBC producer, for doing it.) Pretty much everything ever written or filmed about Henry before the Beeb's Wolf Hall tried to justify his actions because romance or religion or monarchy or whatever, but guys, he sucked, and nearly everything good that came out of his reign happened almost in spite of him. 

And this is where we circle round to The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin. It takes the story of Henry and his queens and transplants it to a small-town Indiana high school in the modern day (and frankly, if you're trying to reshape history to fit your own agenda, this is the way to do it, by changing the scenario entirely so that it makes sense to pick and choose what you carry over.) Our narrator is Annie Marck, the adopted Asian daughter of Cleveland professors, who is the best friend of Henry, the most popular guy in Lancaster, Indiana. As the book opens, Henry is dating Annie's other best friend, Katie Howard, while Annie, an aspiring journalist, is constantly thwarted by her nemesis, editor-in-chief of the high school paper, Cat Parr. When Katie dies at a party in the woods, Annie must start to confront Henry's terrible dating history and, more sinisterly, the death of yet another of his exes, Anna Boleyn.

While modern and feminist, TDQC hews quite closely to the history, performing a remarkable feat in repotting this Tudor drama into the hothouse of an American high school. Ms Capin clearly knows her stuff, and readers will find themselves absorbing actual history almost unwittingly, as we're carried along by the narrative. Her portrayals of Katherine Howard, especially, and (Jane) Parker (Boleyn) Rochford are both loving and illuminating. I have to admit that it took me a while to get really comfortable with Annie's first person POV, as she's a decidedly idiosyncratic personality, but that's sort of the point, that she's the quirky one. And also? A teenager. Ms Capin does a really terrific job of taking these archetypes and pinning them on to actual teenage personalities.

I really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading more from Ms Capin, perhaps with more non-white characters (tho I'm going to pretend that Lina is a brown Latina, because if Annie can be Chinese, why not?) I especially recommend it to everyone tired of Henry VIII being given a pass on being a bad dude. It doesn't fix what he did, but it does help people see better the truth of his court, quite an accomplishment for an ostensibly YA novel.
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A modern historical retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives, The Dead Queens Club feels like a cathartic answer to one wondering what would happen if Henry got what he deserved. Relevant even in a contemporary context, the novel is told from the point of Henry's best friend (as well as girlfriend #4) Annie, as in Anne of Cleves, who takes way too long to realize that her womanizing best friend may also be a literal ladykiller. Occasionally jumping back and forth on a two-year timeline, the story comes during the time of #5 and continues into #6, merging a murder mystery-ish plot with a girl-squad-seeks-justice plot.

Annie, aka Cleves, has known Henry for a couple of years from summer camp, and when she moves to Lancaster, Indiana from Cleveland, she is readily accepted by the popular kids (mostly because Henry rules the school), and finds an easy friendship with Parker and Katie, the latter being #5. Her friendship with Henry is formed on a mutual love for pranks, and doing daredevil things. She has been with him through all of his breakups and though she calls herself a feminist, she has a glaring blindspot when it comes to him, and is much more ready to accept that Anna Boleyn may have accidentally caused her own and her brother's death.

She finds it unfair, though, that the general consensus in the school is vitriol towards Anna, (even though she herself calls her a boyfriend-stealer) and tries to mend the dead girl's reputation through her position as a correspondent on the school newspaper (also, BTW, I loved how the chapter titles are framed like headlines). When Katie, too, dies 'accidentally', Cleves is devastated and is frustrated over how the school once again tarnishes Katie's image and thinks she had it coming. As the novel progresses, she is roped into Parker's scheme to get justice for Katie, and eventually has to contend with the fact that Henry is shady AF. Bonus: they make a girl squad out of the living 'queens' + Parker in order to get the truth.

As a retelling, it works really well to translate the story from its historical context to a modern one - there are plenty of references that tie it back, as well as little nods to the fates of the original people. The names being similar, or in some cases, same as historical figures warranted at least one joke about history repeating itself, but maybe that's just me. Annie is a wonderful narrator with some quippy lines, and the best part about the book - she keeps the book lively with her sarcastic and dry humor, and is human in that she finds it difficult to believe her best friend could be a killer (still, shouldn't have taken her 400 pages to open her eyes!) and struggles with her feminism (a lot) but grows through the book. The other girls in her squad, though archetypes in some ways, are well-fleshed out characters, and the friendship and solidarity between them is played so well. It also touches upon consent and slut-shaming, in a topical manner.

With regards to the murder aspect, I still feel it wasn't as clean as it made it out to be. For a supposed 'crime of passion' it was too easily dismissed as accidental, and I don't think Henry was charming enough to make even investigators not suspect him (especially not a second time). It would have probably made more sense if his father was bribing officials or something, to be honest. The drama may have been a bit exaggerated for a high school setting, even if it was entertaining. The ending, though, is satisfactory enough to make the book an enjoyable read overall.
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Let me start by saying I would (and no doubt will) read it again a dozen times. I’ve been looking for some really good contemps to get me out of this weird struggle I’ve had getting into them lately. NO TROUBLE GETTING INTO THIS ONE. Just enough touches of humor balanced with the murder-y vibes to make it impossible to put down. Some of the moments felt like they were trying a tad too hard but I overall really enjoyed where this story went. And, I mean, you can’t go wrong with a main character like Cleves. You just can’t.
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I really enjoyed this story on its own but the dedication in the back made me enjoy it even more! I noticed a few similar names from history and didn’t think much of it at first but then it all started to make sense. The story is great and has an interesting vibe to it through out. The main character’s kept me laughing out right in many spots.
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I was extremely lucky to receive a digital ARC of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

I’m always a sucker for stories based on Tudor-era drama, especially when it’s focused more on the many women screwed over by Henry VIII instead of just Henry VIII. This book did that in so many ways, but it’s definitely an odd little (well, big – over 450+ pages) book that might not be for everyone.

It took me a little white to get into this book because it bounced around a lot. We enter the story while Henry is dating Katie, aka Catherine Howard, Wife #5. We learn first about how our protagonist, “Cleves” (aka Anne of Cleves, Wife #4) first met Henry and became his best friend, even after their short romantic relationship ended. We go back and forth from the present timeline, where Cleves is friends with Katie and Henry still likes her, but is suspicious that she might be cheating, and we slowly learn more about how Cleves met him at Over-Achiever summer camp before moving to the same town as him, as well as how things ended with girlfriends one through three.

I had a lot of fun matching the characters with their real-life counterparts. They’re not hidden, obviously, but there are some details, like the fact that Lina (girlfriend #1, Lina Aràgon, aka Catherine of Aragon) is the daughter of Isabella Castille and Ferdinand Aràgon, aka Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, that are fun to notice if you know some of the history of the characters. It was also interesting to see how author Hannah Capin modernized different things, like how Lina is still religious and beloved by the people, but now that just means she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage and everyone is Team Lina when Anna (Anne) Boleyn enters the pictures.

Things were darker than I expected – for instance, without too many spoilers, people die or died before the story started, just like the actual historical people. Sure, not everyone died – one guy who’s supposedly involved with one of the girlfriends isn’t actually drawn and quartered, but he does drop out of school and move “to Alaska to get a job on a fishing boat or a pipeline or something where you might make bank, but you’ll probably die in some heinous winching incident that’s essentially modern-day drawing and quartering,” (pages 209 – 210 of the eARC). It’s the little things like that that amused me.

And there’s a lot to find amusing in this book – Cleves, our protagonist, is a very sarcastic person. Sometimes the humor can feel over the top and like it’s trying a little too hard, but for the most part, I enjoyed it. It’s definitely an element that some people might not enjoy as much, though. Same with the way things take a turn in the second half of the book and it almost becomes a quasi-mystery, or at least a “prove that Henry is horrible” quest, since he has a habit of losing girlfriends to various things, like moving away and dying. It threw me a little, just like how I was surprised with how many flashback scenes we got in the first 50 or so pages, but it didn’t derail things for me.

I think that people could really enjoy this odd retelling/high school drama/pseudo-murder mystery story, as long as they know what they’re getting into. It has a lot of feminism, from defending girls who are sex shamed and vilified and such, to also acknowledging that girls can do bad things like “steal” boyfriends and are still victims of other crimes, even if they’re not perfect. I liked that aspect, even if it felt like it was a bit anvilicious at times – for teenagers and young adults who haven’t been exposed to feminist theory as much as I have, it might bring up some good points that they hadn’t though about, and that’s always a good thing.

This book took me a while to read, mainly because I had it in PDF form, which is annoying to read on Adobe Digital Editions, but also because it really was a big book, and there were some things that didn’t always work, but ultimately, I enjoyed this debut. Capin already has a 2020 book listed on Goodreads – another retelling, this time Macbeth with some #MeToo elements – and I already know I’ll be checking that out as soon as possible.
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The book is narrated by Annie "Cleaves" Marek, Henry's 4th wife, or in this case girlfriend. The book starts in the middle of the story. Henry is know with girlfriend number 5, Katie Howard. We get flashbacks to the other girlfriends and it can get a little confusing to be honest. The chapters aren't marked whether they are in the past or present so you have to figure it out for yourself. 

The first half of the book switches between Cleaves talking about the past and the present which leads up to homecoming, where the 5th girlfriend is disposed of.

I'm pretty much assuming everybody knows about Henry and his 6 wives at this point. He divorced them and two of them were beheaded because Henry was a big asshole. A quick wikipedia search will tell you all you need to know. So where the book really lost me was at the half way point where it turns into a murder mystery type book. If you know your history, you know who did the murder in this book. So the murder mystery angle doesn't work here, The characters don't know for sure, but we the readers do. It becomes somewhat tedious honestly.

I also felt that the tone of this book just didn't work for me. It was very parody like. The book didn't take itself really seriously despite being based on real events that were pretty serious. A more dramatic take on this that dealt with the themes of slut shaming and toxic masculinity would have been fantastic. It tries to address this but with the goofy tone it takes, it doesn't work.

The characters were all stereotypes. This worked for some of them. I liked Parker. She was very over the top but I liked her the same way I like Blair from Gossip Girl. She's ridiculous but that's why you love her. I did not feel the same about our main character. Cleaves was your typical quirky girl. She says witty things that really aren't witty. She claims to be a hardcore feminist but demonstrates this by kind scolding Henry when he says something sexist...and that's about it. Henry is awful but he's suppose to be. Unfortunately, it take Cleaves up until page 415 to realize this. They are best friends for some reason. She helps pull pranks on his girlfriends when he thinks they are cheating, all while claiming to be a feminist. He's cheated multiple times but she just rolls her eyes. That's Henry for ya! I'm not sure why they needed to be best friends in this book. I think you could have had most of the book be the same if she was just an ex girlfriend and not his best friend.

In conclusion, this book was entertaining enough to keep me reading but I had my problems with it. Especially the second half. I think there are some people that will really like this spoofy tongue in check retelling but it just wasn't for me
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This review was posted on Magical Reads and Goodreads on January 26, 2019.

The Dead Queens Club really snuck up and me; I truly did not expect to like it as much as I did. This book has just the right amount of drama and outrageousness. Hannah Capin wrote the drama of Henry VIII and his six wives so seamlessly into a modern high school setting, you won't even be able to recognize all the references.

What I loved the most about this book was the writing. Cleves's snarkiness is the best and entirely my sense of humor. Also, Capin writes the characters so incredibly well. You'll find yourself falling in love (just a little) with Henry, and being manipulated by him, just like Cleves. I was genuinely so caught up in the drama that I was almost convinced by his lies; it was great feeling this way. I mean, not being manipulated by an angry liar, but really feeling what the main character is going through is such a good marker of excellent writing.

And you'd think that in a book with so much drama between girls, there would be a lot of slut-shaming and double standards. There's not. Cleves calls out pretty much double standard, things said by Henry and the other girls. She talks often about not liking Anna, but when people act like she was just an overreacting bitch, she rebuts with remarks of not reducing girls to a two-dimensional standard. When people only bring up Katie to talk about her sex life, she shuts them down. This book is definitely a great example of girls supporting girls.

I'd like to think that I know a decent amount about this whole debacle because we covered it pretty heavily in school (what with the whole, let's break off from Catholicism! thing). However, there are still so many gaps in my knowledge. Only after I went on Wikipedia after finishing the book did I realize some of the references because some of them are so subtle.

I do think what this book lacked was representation. Cleves and her sister are both adopted (from China and Malawi, respectively), so there's that, but it's brought up twice so it's easy to forget. This book is based on England and set in the Midwest, but we're already reimagining so much of it, so I do think it could have done better in the representation factor.

Overall, this book was such a fun read; it was dramatic without being overbearing and scornful without crossing into slut-shaming. I definitely recommend it if you're a fan of Trouble is a Friend of Mine or Sarah Rees Brennan's books. The drama was such a trip, the plot so enticing, and the characters great to follow. If you're looking for a hilarious, fun ride of a novel, I totally suggest you pick The Dead Queens Club up, but be warned, you won't be able to put it down.
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This is such a spot-on retelling of the history of King Henry VIII, right down to certain quotes from different characters. It’s not even just the girls and Henry that are reminiscent of people from Tudor history. It’s everyone.
Add to that the entertaining first-person narration from a snarky protagonist.

The only thing that didn’t quite work for me about this book is the way that people actually do die in this, even though it’s set during modern day, and it’s treated like a totally normal thing. That sort of took away from the story a little bit, because it was trying to be thriller-y but also...not.
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I felt like THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB started slow, but in all, I give this 3.5 stars out of 5. This book is insanely unique. You will not forget it. 

THINGS I LIKED
1. The twists. You'd think a book based on very well known history wouldn't be twisty, but there were enough surprises to keep me going. And even though I knew the history, some things truly surprised me when they occurred. 
2. The funny historical references. At some point, Parker Rochford (based on Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, who was George Boleyn's wife) tells Lina (based on Catherine of Aragon) "You and Henry dated for like, twenty five years!" It was cleverly done (most of the time). 
3. Katie Howard. Poor Katie. And Katheryn Howard in general. 

THINGS I DIDN'T LOVE
1. I couldn't quite get a read on Cleves or her humor. 
2. I'm a journalist by nature so I always get a little cranky with journalism based plots that are so very obviously not following journalistic standards. Sorry, Cleves, but Cat Parr was right on that one. 
3. So much backstory to begin with. I liked that Cleves hadn't grown up with all of these people and was an outsider, but goodness, it took a long time to get through all of that and camp with Henry to the GOOD STUFF. The first 50% of the book was slow, and I read the last 50% in one sitting.
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