Literary critics will point out that Gregory's style is not based upon her literary prowess and descriptions. Gregory is able to engage the reader with a solid voice with the main character Mary Boleyn to the infamous Anne Boleyn. The heroine, Mary has her faults and her positive traits that allows her to be a well rounded character.
She is thrust into the bed of King Henry the VIII after it is learned that the Queen and him fear they will never bear a male heir. You will notice that Gregory excels at displaying the status of women as pawns during this time period through Mary's explanation of events. She was recently married to a courtier, but it hardly mattered as the Boleyn and Howard family (Mary's mother belonged to the powerful Howard family) cared first and foremost about their advancement in the court and their female daughters were merely pawns in this game.
Mary falls in love with the King, but everything goes awry. She gives him two children, but King Henry is fickle and starts to lose interest when the family throws Anne into the mix ensuring that he keeps himself interested in a Boleyn girl, any Boleyn really.
What happens after the failed extra marital affair is where the story truly begins. Mary at one point attempts to rekindle her relationship with her husband, but the fates have other plans in store for her. When she finally finds love, it becomes one of the best moments in the novel. He is simple, stoic, neither flashy nor grand and offers Mary the one thing she desires most and that is independence and an identity, which she wasn't afforded being a Boleyn sister.
It's difficult to see how Mary wants to be loyal to the Queen, but is forced to betray her due to the hold that her family has on her. Even her depiction of Anne's ascension to the throne is enough to make one shudder. The historical theories that are inserted are believable and the historical setting is seen as a backdrop, a detail, not something to become fixated and lecture the reader on. Any event of significance or social custom is slyly introduced so that the flow of the story is not broken.
This book is a must read for historical readers, readers who seek a strong female voice (with flaws mind you), and those who mistakenly saw the movie, before reading the book. You will not be disappointed.