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The Tudor Court #2

A Wider World

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Memories are all he has…

Now they could save his life.

Returning to England after almost five years in exile, Robin Lewis is arrested and charged with heresy by the dying Queen Mary. As he is escorted to the Tower of London, Robin spins a tale for his captor, revisiting his life under three Tudor monarchs and wondering how he will be judged—not just by the queen, but by the God he stopped serving long ago.

When every moment counts, will his stories last long enough for him to be saved by Mary's heir, the young Queen Elizabeth?

302 pages, Paperback

Published April 25, 2021

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About the author

Karen Heenan

7 books53 followers
As an only child, Karen Heenan learned young that boredom was the ultimate enemy. Shortly after, she discovered perpetual motion and has rarely been seen holding still since.

Since discovering books, she has rarely been without one in her hand and several more in her head. Her first series, The Tudor Court, stemmed from a lifelong interest in British history, but she's now turned her gaze closer to home and is writing stories set in her hometown of Philadelphia.

Karen lives in Lansdowne, PA, just outside Philadelphia, where she grows much of her own food and makes her own clothes. She is accompanied on her quest for self-sufficiency by a very patient husband and an ever-changing number of cats.

One constant: she is always writing her next book.

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Tony Riches.
Author 25 books436 followers
April 26, 2021
In 1558, during the last weeks of the reign of Queen Mary, we travel with the unlucky, fifty-year-old Robin Lewis, found guilty of heresy. Under escort from wintry Winterset in Yorkshire, he is on his way to meet his fate at the to the Tower of London.

In a great opening sentence, reminiscent of George R. R. Martin, Robin mutters, ‘They said I would not end well.’ The young captain of his escort, William Hawkins, has one quality which might delay the inevitable end. He becomes intrigued by Robin’s story of a troubled childhood, and life at the court of Henry VIII – and so did I.

I particularly liked the way incidental characters are used to add depth and richness, and an understated complexity of back-story which is handled with great storytelling skill.

Evocative and poignant, this book is a worthy companion to Karen Heenan’s enthralling novel ‘Songbird’. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Rosalyn Briar.
Author 6 books63 followers
May 4, 2021
Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

A Wider World is a wonderful piece of historical fiction!

I loved the way the chapters were set up as Robin told his stories. I felt immersed in both parts of history which was fascinating to see from Robin's POV. It gave a broad scope of what was happening during

You can tell that so much care and research went into crafting this tale. From the historical background and tension down to the fine details of the language and clothing, the author did a fantastic job of bringing it all to life. The way the author wove this character into the real history with real historical figures was fascinating!

This story is perfect for anyone who loves historical fiction.
Profile Image for Bjørn.
Author 4 books123 followers
February 19, 2021
After Songbird became one of my books of the year, I was very excited to read the next offering from Karen Heenan – and I was lucky enough to receive a free ARC. It didn't affect the review below, although it should, because I had to beg for that ARC for way too long. It was worth it.

On the superficial level, Robin seemed to be the least interesting character in Songbird (although not the most irritating, that honour belongs to Bess). So, obviously, Heenan gave him a whole book and it turned out that his life – the book has a dual timeline, as Robin gets arrested and tells his life story to the captor to keep them both entertained – made for a great book. Self-conscious references to Scheherezade are completely justified. As the story unfolded, I was at first slightly irritated by the interruptions, i.e. reminders that I'm not just reading Robin's memoir but it has an ending we're inevitably heading towards. As I continued reading, and was reminded who Will The Captor was, I found myself torn, unable to decide which timeline excited me more.

As much as I dislike the word "unputdownable", once I got into the book it turned out to be, well, unputdownable. Tom and Bess make an appearance, this time presented from Robin's point of view, which is wonderful for a fan of Songbird. The actual Tudors, again, remain in the background, with the young Elizabeth I given the most space – ooh, at least three paragraphs. An outsider at a time when it was safer not to stand out too much; a man too open-minded for his own good; a rags-to-riches-to-the-Tower story. And, of course, the wife…

A minor complaint I have is that apparently no matter how many times I ask, the next book in the series is still not written yet. There are authors who should write as fast as I read and Karen Heenan is among them. An outstanding follow-up to an outstanding debut.
Profile Image for Michele Quirke.
Author 2 books121 followers
April 26, 2021
As a fan of Karen Heenan's debut novel, Songbird, I was excited to revisit the Tudor Court and see some old friends in A Wider World. I'll be honest though, Robin was not my favorite character so I was a bit unsure how much I'd enjoy a story told from his point of view. I'm happy to report, however, that my reservations were both unwarranted and unjustified. Robin's story turned out to be quite engaging and though it took me some time to warm up to him, by the end he became just as beloved a character as Bess and Tom from Songbird. (Also, even though this book is able to stand alone, it was super fun seeing those two again!)

First of all, I must say that Karen's writing style remains just as wonderful as I remember it. She truly has a way with words and it's obvious that she put much time, devotion, and research into this book. Not only did we get a look at court life during the reign of Henry VIII, but we also got to travel Europe alongside Robin and Seb. I particularly enjoyed the time he spent in Italy. I've added seeing the mist on a gondola ride to my bucket list!

There were a few parts of Robin's story that were a bit slow, but overall listening to his recollection of his life was quite enjoyable. I liked how the chapters went back and forth between his reminiscences and the present. I think one of my top favorite characters in A Wider World was Will Hawkins, which surprised me considering who his father was.

All in all, A Wider World is a marvelous story packed with history, interesting characters, and top notch writing. I highly recommend it to all historical fiction lovers-particularly fans of Tudor England!
Profile Image for Marian Thorpe.
Author 10 books78 followers
April 25, 2021
Can stories save a life?

Robin Lewis, once a musician in Henry VIII’s court, now a man of letters and secrets, stands charged with heresy by Mary Tudor. Only a journey of a few days separates him from inevitable execution, but journeys are liminal spaces where anything can happen. Especially when one has a mind as agile and subtle as Robin Lewis’s.

In this second book in the author’s Tudor Court collection, author Karen Heenan has taken the prickly, almost-unlikeable Robin, a supporting character in her first book Songbird, and told his rich story with consummate skill. Or, rather, Robin tells his own story, because the book is built around his reminiscences. But these aren’t the memories of a man considering his life in the face of mortality: there is a purpose to Robin’s storytelling, a fish to be caught in the net he is weaving.

With prose as close to perfect as it comes, and settings and history thoroughly researched but conveyed with a light touch, A Wider World is not only a different look at Tudor history, but a study of a man whose childhood shaped him into a wary, self-serving boy. Watching – or rather hearing – Robin’s clear-eyed examination of his own life and the experiences that transform him into the educated, introspective, and deeply honourable man he becomes makes Heenan’s book one of the finest character studies I know.

Characters from Songbird make brief appearances, enough to tie the books together, but A Wider World stands on its own. It’s the best book I’ve read this year, bar none. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Allison.
Author 11 books143 followers
August 22, 2021
Brilliantly researched, expansive, ambitious, and tender, starring a complex character who I both wanted to shout at and also rooted for throughout.

A Wider World gives an intimate look at aspects of Tudor history that too often get glossed over or relegated to footnotes, and it was a joy to spend time thinking through their complexities with people that either were real or felt real on the page.

Plus Tudor bisexuality, which I didn’t know to expect and was delighted to find! (Tudor aromanticism too? maybe? hard to know as the language didn’t exist for these characters, but I know what I read and the bi aro vibes were strong and wonderful.)

Karen Heenan knows her stuff, and fans of Tudor-era histfic will really enjoy this!
Profile Image for Olesya Gilmore.
Author 1 book184 followers
June 2, 2021
Karen Heenan’s A WIDER WORLD is a fascinating and incredibly unique character study.

Robin Lewis, a secondary character in Heenan’s first installment of the Tudor Court series, is a self-made man who has lost his way and his God and, on top of that, is about to lose his head. In the style of Scheherazade, Robin tells the story of his life in Tudor England and beyond — out in the wide, wide world — to his captor...while taken to his execution.

It is not a story of the royal court or of its monarchs or of political intrigue, as so many novels set in Tudor England are. Rather, it is the story of one man and his struggles with his past and his God, the tension between his ambition and his desire for the quiet life, and generally, what he wants his life and legacy to be. It is the story of one man’s journey through life — and all its consequent joys and disappointments. Unlike in SONGBIRD, where we get a very youthful voice in Bess, Robin is prickly, he is arrogant, he is selfish, he is mature for his years and frequently stuck in his own head. But that’s exactly what makes him so real. It’s not that you connect with him, it’s that you will recognize parts of yourself and humanity in him. He is real for me as few characters are.

While I wanted Robin to be more involved in court life, to have a more prominent seat for all those salacious Tudor conspiracies, and for the story to move at a slightly faster pace, this was a five star read for me — because of Robin! The man is a conundrum! He simply does not fit into any pre-conceived notions of what a man or a character should be. He wants to be involved in the world, he wants to travel, but he is also a self-professed introvert. He likes his life the way it is, with his books and his rosemary bushes, and his quiet — much like myself. I recognized this tension as my own, ambition vs. withdrawal from the world, extroversion vs. introversion, kindness vs. prickliness.

Heenan surprises and impresses me every time with her incredible passion, not only for this historical period, but for books and learning — things close to Robin’s heart. And my own! Heenan’s writing style is sparse yet beautifully detailed, so that without spending much time, she miraculously places you into the past...without you even noticing. This is Heenan’s talent, to tell a story cleanly and evocatively, both at the same time.

Fans of SONGBIRD will recognize several beloved characters in this novel — I smiled so very wide every time Bess and Tom entered a scene. I wish Heenan could have spent a little more time on them, as they flitted in and out too fast for me. It would definitely be helpful to read SONGBIRD first, to more appreciate some of the subplots and characters in A WIDER WORLD. But I was also introduced to some unforgettable characters — like Seb and my love, Margaery Lewis. As soon as this lady jumped onto the page, I was enchanted.

I am counting down the days to Margaery’s own story, in Heenan’s third installment of the Tudor Court series.

Thanks so much to the author for the lovely ARC of A WIDER WORLD!
Profile Image for Mary Yarde.
Author 6 books135 followers
July 26, 2021

Robin Lewis has lived a fascinating life. But is it fascinating enough to save that life?

Never knowing his real parents, and having escaped an abusive childhood into the safety and security of the church, Robin Lewis has risen through the ranks of the Tudor court, ending up as one of Cromwell’s men. A meteoric rise indeed for a man of such lowly status, and one which didn’t come about without making some potentially dangerous enemies for his future.

It is a rare thing indeed when a book has you torn between racing through its pages, and really not wanting to get to the final chapter for fear of what might happen there. But that’s what happened to me here. I’ll confess, I could very easily have looked up some key dates to see where we were in the overall timeframe of Queen Mary’s reign, but what would have been the fun in that? Instead, this read in parts more like a thriller than a historical novel, with excellent pacing throughout.

If we are being honest, the dissolution of the monasteries, and the politics of the Reformation, are not always the most interesting or explored element of Tudor history. After all, when you have all the swirling drama of Henry VIII’s court, why would you leave that? But that is exactly what Karen Heenan has done here, by instead following Robin. The main characters of the court are there, but mostly in the background, save for a few conversations with Cromwell, when Lewis is in his service, or the young Princess Elizabeth. But they are only there for a few pages, and then we are back to the main focus: Robin, and his travels, both home and abroad. And by keeping tight focus on Robin, with his own religious and personal struggles, we get a real sense of what was happening for the ordinary people during this tumultuous time.

In the 1500s, following the ‘wrong’ religion didn’t just brand you an outsider; you were a heretic, and potentially heading for the most terrible punishment of being burned alive. Robin is, as we all would be, keen to avoid this, and knows that if he can just delay his journey to the Tower of London, fate may just be kind, bringing about another change in monarch just in time to save his life, with Robin being the same religion as the soon-to-be Queen Elizabeth. But is there time?

He has a past connection with the father of the man sent to bring him to London, William Hawkins, and he decides to tell the young man the story of his life, from a terrible childhood, through his student days, and his roles at court, both as a choir-boy and then in the households of Wolsey and Cromwell. Robin has had quite the adventure…

As he tells his tale to his captor, we are transported too, from Yorkshire, to London, overseas through Europe, and finally back to England, meeting the people who helped transform Robin’s life over the years, from the monk who cared for him in Italy, to his loyal servant Seb, and the beautiful Bianca, who allows the young Robin into her home in Chelsea, and access to her and her brother’s vast library. Each of them, along with the monks who helped raise him, shaped Robin and his view on the world, and when we’re given the chance to meet some of them again later in the book, it’s interesting to see how personal relationships have shifted with the great religious changes. Robin was brought up by the brothers, and was then part of their undoing: it’s a complicated reunion.

The dual time-line structure, of sorts, never falls into the trap of having one element you want to rush through to get to the other. In Robin’s stories, there is such rich detail of an almost ‘ordinary’ life in the Tudor court, if there could be such a thing, and in the present, we see the frosty relationship between him and Will beginning to thaw, as the younger man sees that perhaps not everything is as black-and-white as he has been trained to believe.

As the two time-lines converge, we reach the days before Robin is due to sail back to England, believing things to be safer, with Queen Mary not long for the world. Which of course, brings us to where the ‘present’ begins at the start of the book, as Will arrives to escort his prisoner to London.

It’s no lie to say that I was absolutely hooked on this story throughout. There is sufficient detail to show that the author has done substantial research, including the books which these intelligent men and women would have on their shelves. A running theme throughout the book is Robin’s love for education, for learning, and for his books, and his joy at finding new libraries to visit is evident. All of this research never weighs the story down though, rather, it enriches it.

There are some very ‘big’ themes explored in the book: religion, of course, but also race, the status of women, and romantic relationships. But these are dealt with in such a way that you hardly notice. It’s a wonderfully-written tale, and cleverly done, to deal with such heavy themes with a lightness of touch.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a sumptuous Tudor tale, and in particular a different perspective, I would certainly recommend this.

Review by Jennifer C. Wilson.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Profile Image for Sydney Young.
1,045 reviews83 followers
June 2, 2021
Fiction that’s New and Old at the same time; just right.

This book reads so much like Biographical Fiction that I couldn’t wait for the author’s note to see what sources she drew upon. Well imagined and increasingly fraught, it explores an England I’ve loved for a long time, and with such great characters.

I wondered, at first, if I wanted to read another book about a man which read as if biographical fiction during the Tudor years. After all, being a huge Hilary Mantel fan, I read the final Cromwell installment last year. Would we be covering the same territory?

Thankfully, the answer was no! This book covered fresh ground. Though Cromwell makes some appearances, this is absolutely Rob’s story. I think of it as some of the “new” historical fiction which explores more thoughts and actions than in past times. Explores them in a credible, plausible way, while relatable to our modern mindsets and curiosities. I’d encourage you, if you are interested but aren’t absolutely hooked at the beginning, read on. For me there was a moment when, boom!, I sat up and took great notice. I won’t say more, for a discovery of Rob’s evolution is so much fun.

So the book will appeal to the contemporary crowd, but with an evocative Tudor setting. The author does
such a good job with this era, I feel I’m breathing in that space. And, the book gains speed as it goes, so I found myself needing to hurry to the end.

There is a little fun with some returning characters, though they don’t dominate. Instead, the book is peopled with new and interesting, complex characters. It left me wanting to return to the world again! You definitely don’t have to read the first book in order to enjoy this one.

In the end, A Wider Word was a great read, while solidifying my Karen Heenan fandom. Recommend!
Profile Image for Laury.
Author 8 books46 followers
May 5, 2021
This is a powerhouse of a novel. I will compare it to Wolf Hall, not in its ambition, but in the worthy confidence of the author's voice and hold on the characters. If Heenan was finding her author's voice in the wonderful Songbird, she has come out onto the stage in full force with A Wider World. Prickly Robin of Songbird, superior, learned, and distant is the centre of this story. Bess and Tom saw something in him in Songbird and Heenan shows you what they came to know in A Wider World.

Robin has, late in life, been sentenced to death by a dying Queen Mary. A man has come to bring him to London for his execution and Robin tries to delay the journey until Mary's death and Elizabeth takes the throne so he might be spared. Both in style and in reference, the book recalls Scheherazade in A Thousand Nights and a Night. Framed in alternating chapters, one depicts the progress of the journey to London and the other the story of his life he tells along the way. In this novel, unlike Songbird, Robin has been present for every turn in Henry VIII's career. He has seen it all and regales his captor and us with rich and sometimes heartbreaking detail. But Robin does not simply tell these stories in an effort to delay the trip and save his life. Rather, like Scheherazade, they are meant to create a sense of intimacy, empathy, and attachment in the man who holds his life in his hands....and the reader, too.
Profile Image for Heidi Malagisi.
256 reviews11 followers
August 4, 2021
The year is 1558, and Queen Mary I is dying. England is engaged in a war between the Reformation and Catholicism. Caught in the middle is an older man named Robin Lewis, who is being taken to London to face his death as a heretic. Fearful that his story may never be told, Robin Lewis tells his captor his tale through the reigns of three Tudor rulers, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. Can his story save his life from certain destruction, or is Robin doomed for all eternity? This is the premise of Karen Heenan’s second book in The Tudor Court series, “A Wider World.”

I want to thank Karen Heenan for sending me a copy of this book. I really enjoyed her first novel, “Songbird,” so I was looking forward to seeing where Heenan would take the series.

We have met Robin Lewis in “Songbird” as the rival of Bess and the stuck-up kid in Music. We don’t see much of his story in the first novel. Heenan has decided to take this side character that is a bit polarizing and write a novel about his life, which I love.

It is a bold choice to start a novel with the protagonist being sentenced to death for being a heretic, but the way Heenan structures this story is brilliant. Heenan begins her novel with Robin’s arrest and his captor, William Hawkins, taking him from the countryside to London to be locked in the Tower. Robin acts like a Tudor Scheherazade to delay the inevitable, telling his story through flashbacks to Hawkins.

What makes this story so unique are those flashbacks that are so vivid and filled with men and women that shaped Robin into the man that he became. Robin is a bookworm who prefers the company of texts to other people, so to see him interact with others is just a delight. They include brothers of a monastery, a servant named Seb, and a beautiful Italian woman named Bianca, who shared Robin’s love of learning. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tudor novel without famous figures such as Wolsey, Cromwell, and Holbein. Heenan uses these figures as secondary characters to enhance Robin’s story.

At the heart of this novel is the dissolution of the monasteries and Robin’s travels abroad, especially his stops in Italy. Although Cromwell forces Robin to help dissolve the monasteries, his past with monks makes him question the assignment he has been given. Robin’s faith and his relationships with the church in England and Italy are very distinct and shape how he views the charges brought against him at the beginning of this novel.

Heenan has once again made a delightful tale of struggles inside the Tudor court by someone on the sidelines. The blending of English history with elements from other cultures was inspiring. Weave current events with a character’s past is extremely difficult, yet Heenan does it seamlessly. This enchanting novel is the perfect sequel to “Songbird.” If you are a fan of Tudor historical fiction, “A Wider World” is a must-read.
Profile Image for D.K. Marley.
Author 7 books84 followers
May 11, 2021
After giving a resounding five stars for Songbird by Karen Heenan, her first book in The Tudor Court Series, I’ve had to take a step back from the next book, A Wider World. While the story continues with one of the characters introduced in Songbird, a young minstrel called Robin, who comes into contact with Bess and Tom through his own servitude to Cardinal Wolsey, I must say that I had a hard time connecting with his character. I was completely lost within the first few chapters as each chapter flip-flopped back and forth in time, from his beginnings back and forth to his current situation. I think it might be a good idea for a person to read Songbird first, and then A Wider World, to get some kind of bearing, which perhaps is what Ms Heenan wants in the first place. After pushing though the story, I came to the conclusion that I just particularly did not like Robin’s character and I think that is the reason that I did not enjoy his story. The opening quote at chapter one is “He that is discontented in one place will seldom be happy in another,” and I think this Ms Heenan portrays this quite well in his story. I want to like the character and enjoy his journey when I read a book, and I did not connect with him at all.
That all being said, Ms Heenan is a gifted writer and does well in her descriptives and immersion in history and revealing to us as readers another world... and in Robin’s case, several worlds as he travels the continent and becomes acquainted with the ‘wider world’. For Ms Heenan’s skill alone in offering a well-told story, another view of Tudor life, I give this book four stars. I received this copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Eva Seyler.
Author 5 books50 followers
May 30, 2021
I really, really loved Songbird, the first book in Karen Heenan's Tudor Court series, so I was glad to revisit that world again in A Wider World.

Robin features in Songbird as a side character, and I was really interested to read more about him, since in Songbird you kind of want to shake him one minute and hug him the next. As so often in real life, Robin is complex, and his prickliness hides a lot of pain. A Wider World gives us an intimate glimpse into the circumstances of his early life that shaped him into the man he is. I really loved getting that backstory, as well as following him onward as he explores his world.

I also really enjoyed the structure of the story, which has a Scheherezade feel: Robin buying time before his execution by telling stories to his prison guard.

Highly recommend, and I'm really looking forward to the next installment of this series that's due out next year!
Profile Image for Deborah Klée.
Author 4 books10 followers
February 1, 2022
I very much enjoyed Karen Heenan's debut novel Songbird, the first in this Tudor Court trilogy. The character Robin made an appearance in that book and even then I sensed more to his character. He intrigued me and so when I learned that Robin was the main character in A Wider World I was keen to read his story.

A Wider World is in my opinion Heenan's best novel to date although I have not yet read the third book in this series - I suspect her writing just gets stronger and stronger. This is a beautifully written novel, well researched with a gripping tale. Robin's complex and multi layered character is skilfully revealed to the reader.

I did not want to leave Robin. I am disappointed that the next book in this series is not from his POV but I expect I will love it just the same as the story takes up from the POV of Robin's new wife.

Fans of C.J. Sampson's Shardlake series will enjoy Heenan's trilogy. I am looking forward to reading the next book - Lady in Waiting.
Profile Image for Maria Johnson.
Author 3 books20 followers
March 31, 2022
Well researched, exquisitely written with a beautifully developed character. I absolutely loved the first novel in Heenan's series, Songbird, so it was no surprise to me to love this second novel. It is a sequel but as it focuses on a different character than the first book, it could be read as a stand-alone.

Secretary Robin Lewis is fighting for his life, on a journey to the Tower. Along the way he shares his story with his captor, Will Hawkins, in the hope of somehow averting his fate. Beautiful, moving and set in stunning scenery. Also, as a Protestant Christian myself, I particularly enjoyed the fascinating insight to the dissolution and the sad reality of what happened to the monks and to the ordinary people who depended on the monasteries for their livelihoods. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Helen Hollick.
Author 38 books504 followers
April 21, 2021
A Wider World tells the story of Robin Lewis, who features in the author's debut novel, Songbird. That novel centres around Bess and her childhood friend Tom, but this new book gives us Robin's story both before and after his life coincided with theirs. I'm happy to say that Bess and Tom do make an appearance, but this is Robin's tale, and he's the one telling it.

I liked the structure of the book especially. We go back and forth between Robin in the present, as an older man, and Robin in his youth. Once you've been drawn into the two timelines, it is beautifully revealed that it was not the author's idea to present the story this way, but Robin's himself. And, there's a very good reason why he's doing it, too. I won't say more because it would be a bit of a spoiler.

The skilful presentation of the story is not all down to Robin, though, for Ms Heenan is a natural storyteller, writing scenes which have perfect shape and pace. She has a great way of using first-person narrative so that we see through Robin's eyes. There's actually very little use of the personal pronoun 'I' which means that we are not watching him, we are seeing what he sees.

And what we see is a wonderfully realistic Tudor world. The author's research was clearly diligent but it sits lightly on the page and there is masterful and delicate placing of information, for example when Robin pinches his candle and puts it in his satchel when he has finished his work. There is no need to tell us that folk carried their own candles from place to place; that one tiny action revealed the fact.

Ms Heenan is an American and uses US spellings which I don't mind at all because, and here's the crucial thing, her characters inhabit their Tudor world absolutely and the dialogue is spot on. Robin thinks, acts and speaks like a Tudor Englishman and he is so very real. He is a man of faith; prayer restores him. Though raised a Catholic, as were all of his generation, he sees the merits of some of the Lutheran ideas. And we see how often even those who were drawn to the new faith took comfort in the old.

Just as with Songbird, we see the workings of the court but the main characters are not the historical figures. It was fascinating to see how the offices of the likes of Cromwell operated. And we are shown very clearly how the decisions, especially of the capricious Tudor monarchs, affected the lives of the ordinary people and in particular the fate of the monks who were turned out of the dissolved monasteries. That said, there are also moments of great commentary about the more famous history: something I'd not thought about before was that, in bringing Anne of Cleves to Henry, Cromwell held up a mirror to the ageing king, showing him a suitable bride for a man of his years, failing health and looks. And Henry didn't like it.

The author has a lovely economy of words which nevertheless conveys a whole picture. Robin staggers slightly on the solid ground when disembarking from the ship and we know exactly what she means. A monk hugs him but wraps his hands round Robin's midriff while Robin places his chin on top of the monk's head and thus we know the difference in the men's heights. Other phrases made me smile: when Robin describes a young girl as being 'refreshing' the reply comes from her grandmother, 'Like cold water to the face.' When he's drunk, Ned falls across the bed 'like a tree', which perfectly describes the motion. Ned is Robin's friend and, in fact, is such a well-drawn character generally. A scene where he finds a borrowed shirt of Robin's which he'd forgotten to give back was a lovely vignette which summed him up and made me smile in affection for him, despite his questionable habits! In fact, Ned is such a rounded character that his older self is changed, but also recognisable as the man he once was.
Another constant in Robin's life is his manservant, Seb, who also grows up and older as the novel progresses. Towards the end there is a lovely scene where Seb goes off 'muttering' and we know exactly how he is feeling because we've spent so much time with him. (I won't say why he was muttering - that'd be another spoiler.)

In Songbird, Robin was introduced as quite a prickly, unpopular character, who developed and grew and managed to make friends. But here we discover that he doesn't understand why people love/are interested in him. He knows he's stand-offish and so he thinks no one should like him but he forgets about his vulnerable side and that others can see it. There is a joy in watching him as he learns to accept that people love him and towards the end of the book there is a jokey discussion about getting rid of Robin's beard. Again, no spoilers, but in that small moment Robin is super-aware that he's not alone and never has been. It is quite a skill to present a character in a first-person narrative and yet allow the reader, through that character, to see him as others do. Songbird was a confident and excellent debut and now Ms Heenan goes from strength to strength with this new book. There is a third book in the offing and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
Profile Image for Sarah.
20 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2022
Robin was a surprising main character. In Songbird he was a some what unlikeable side character. This book gives such a good insight to his past and present situation. I couldn't help but start to like him and root for his survival.
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12 reviews38 followers
September 7, 2022
I gobble up every Plantagenet and Tudor book I can, leaning more toward the historical novels. These two books are among my very favorites. They are totally unique and it was refreshing to find entirely new tales down this path I have traveled countless times. There is such attention to detail that you can’t help but love her characters from the start and from there they just bloom. I can’t wait for the next book 📚
5 reviews
May 17, 2022
Slow start to this book, but it's worth sticking it out. She should have started with our hero's arrest instead of just after it.
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