Thursday, August 4, 2011
Book Review: To Die For by Sandra Byrd/5 Stars
To Die For, is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne's favor rises and falls, so does Meg's. And though she's pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it.
Meg's childhood flirtation with a boy on a neighboring estate turns to true love early on. When he is called to follow the Lord and be a priest she turns her back on both the man and his God. Slowly, though, both woo her back through the heady times of the English reformation. In the midst of it, Meg finds her place in history, her own calling to the Lord that she must follow, too, with consequences of her own. Each character in the book is tested to figure out what love really means, and what, in this life, is worth dying for.
Though much of Meg's story is fictionalized, it is drawn from known facts. The Wyatt family and the Boleyn family were neighbors and friends, and perhaps even distant cousins. Meg's brother, Thomas Wyatt, wooed Anne Boleyn and ultimately came very close to the axe blade for it. Two Wyatt sisters attended Anne at her death, and at her death, she gave one of them her jeweled prayer book—Meg.
Sandra Byrd has been on my favorite authors list since I read her first adult novel back in 2008--Let Them Eat Cake. Ever since then, her books have become ones that I pick up immediately without a second thought because I know they will be that good. To Die For was no exception, and now that Sandra has made this transition into the world of Christian historical fiction, I have no idea how she'll ever be able to choose between writing it or contemporary fiction in the future!
So, with all that said, let me just tell you how exquisite this book was! Breathtaking, majestic, heartbreaking, and anguishing...all of those words poured into my mind as I read the glorious, but tragic, story of Anne Boleyn. Only this wasn't a story just about Anne and her love for Henry VIII; it also included Anne's faithful childhood friend, Meg Wyatt. Truly, until this book, I had never heard anything about Meg Wyatt, and I can't remember when I last read a book that showed what true loyalty and constant friendship is all about. Meg had so many opportunities to leave the court life, to withdraw as one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting, but she remained faithful to her call to serve until the very end. I pitied her unfortunate relationships with her father and brother, but her circumstances were true to the time period. Women had nothing back then, unless it was provided through a man, and were extremely restricted in the decisions they made, particularly in regards to marriage. How glad I am that society has progressed since then--I am far too strong-willed to have survived!
This novel was written so masterfully that I can’t count the number of times I had to look at the front cover to be sure that I was actually reading a book by Sandra! She grasped the Tudor period and its customs so well that I felt fully immersed its culture. The language of that time was so eloquent and proper that people didn’t spout off the first thing that came to their mind. It was a time where words had the power to sentence a man to death, so one had to be extra careful of what was spoken and how it could potentially be interpreted. Also, the descriptions of the food and clothing were enough to make me drool! Multiple-course feasts, hundreds of castles and palaces, and dresses with golden threads woven through the cloth portrayed the extreme wealth and grandeur of the King of England and his courtiers. Sandra skillfully captured every aspect of this grand era in such a way that I felt like a part of the story. That, my friends, makes her one talented author. :o)
I haven't the slightest clue what Sandra has up her sleeve for her next novel, but I know one thing...it can't get here quick enough! For those (like me) who can't get enough of Tudor history, England, or The Royals in general, this stunning book would make an excellent addition to your reading fare, and I guarantee you won't be disappointed. To Die For was one of the best novels I've had the pleasure of reading all year, and has earned a well-deserved place on my keeper shelf. Highly Recommended!
**Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.