Published 2011, Howard Books (A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.), ISBN: 978-1-4391-8311-3, ISBN: 978-1-4391-8313-7 (ebook), 325 pages

To Die For is Sandra Byrd’s debut historical fiction novel.  Sandra has written several contemporary fiction and nonfiction novels.

Sandra enters the Tudor’s world with To Die For with Meg Wyatt and Anne Boleyn, best of friends, sneaking off alone for a forbidden horse ride without escort, for which Meg is beaten by her father.  Anne is home for a visit from the French court and will shortly return.

In the first few pages of To Die For, Sandra deftly illustrates the connection between the Wyatt and Boleyn families and the dynamics within Meg’s own family.  Meg’s father is uncompromising in his ambition to be equal to the lofty Oglivy and Boleyn stature.

After Meg’s opinionated conversation with a proposed suitor sends the man running, her father states in no uncertain terms Meg’s future.  Submission to her father’s choice of husband or incarceration is a remote, poverty stricken abbey.

Her mother is seriously ill, with Meg needed to care for her.  Meg’s older sister, Alice, is long married with a large brood.  Her brother, Thomas, tries to protect Meg but lacks the courage and, in any event, is sent to Cambridge  where he will remain for 8 years.  Unfortunately, he nurses an unrequited love for Anne Boleyn.

Accompanying Thomas is William Oglivy, for whom Meg has a tender affection.  Her hopes are dashed when Will announces he is studying to take priestly vows.  Meg’s love for Will remains steadfast even though marriage is now out of the question.  Later on, her love for William and her sense of duty to Anne will be tested.

Edmund, her second brother, is a narcissistic, cruel man conspiring for, much the same as his father, the advancement of the Wyatt family.   He cares nothing for Meg’s sentiments and, in fact, delights in torment of his sister.

Her dying mother advises Meg to stay often with her sister to avoid her father’s brutality.  Advice is all she can offer her daughter.

Anne Boleyn returns from the French court to attend her sister, Mary’s, wedding to William Carey.  A marriage that quickly becomes a sham as Henry VIII takes Mary as a mistress and she bears him two children.

In due course, Henry discards Mary and sets out to conquer Anne, who has returned from France, all the while attempting to divorce Katherine of Aragon.  Anne Boleyn’s resistance of Henry’s advances until they married and Henry’s resolution of his “Great Matter” has been the subject of countless historical fiction novels.

Meg is married by her father’s wishes to an ailing elderly man, whose inability to act as husband frees Meg to attend Anne at Court.  Upon his death after several years of illness, his nephew, Simon, with the collusion of Edmund, is quick to take up the mantle of suitor, an unwelcome proposition.

Yet Sandra Byrd has approached Anne’s life in a fresh, innovative fashion through the eyes of her friend, Meg, who vows to remain with Anne regardless of detrimental consequences of serving a Queen destined to plummet.

Sandra portrays Anne as a woman who schemed to become England’s queen, but in a less avaricious fashion than is commonly written.   Rather, Anne’s love for the king is depicted as genuine and her quest for refor1mation sincere. This is not to say Anne did not enjoy and utilize her stature; she did.  Anne’s ambitions are tempered by her religious beliefs.  To Die For attributes Anne with sowing the seeds for the roots of Reformation.

Meg rides the exhilarating ascension of Anne’s favor with the King by Anne’s side, but is aware Anne has dangerous enemies.   The warning signs of the King’s wandering attentions, witnessed in prior times, are evident.  She, herself, must tread carefully to avoid the same fate that awaits Anne.

To Die For is primarily the story of two women, powerless in their own right, who seek to govern their futures without forsaking their own principles and self-respect in a world with ever shifting loyalties, self-seeking  aggrandizement and fickle motives.

Sandra Byrd is the author is numerous Christian novels.  I’ve been asked if her Ladies in Waiting Series is Christian fiction.  The answer is yes and no.

In the 16th century, religion was paramount in everyone’s lives, from the lowest born to the highest.  Daily life was ruled by sacred doctrine.  So, yes, Christianity features prominently but, no, To Die For is not deemed strictly Christian fiction.  It is the story of the era, which includes people of staunch faith.

My rating:  4/5 Stars

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