Review: To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd

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.

I’ve had this book and the one following, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, sitting in my TBR stack for a long time – I mean – check out those covers! I offered to review the third in the series, Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I, knowing it would mean I’d have to read the first two ;). Look for reviews of the other two coming soon.

Sandra sucked me into the world of England, in a time period I don’t think I’ve ever read before. Romance and intrigue. Treason and loyalty. Faith and fear. All come together as she weaves a masterful tale surrounding one of Henry VIII’s wives – one who ultimately lost her head*. Literally.

Meg spends her life in service to Anne, doing her best to keep her dear friend safe from those who would do her harm. Anne leads the charge – as much as a woman with the ear of the king can – away from Catholicism and into a reformation that, eventually, leads to others separating from the Catholic Church [and the Church of England] and into denominations as we know them today. She is instrumental in seeing the Holy Writ translated into English so everyone can read it, not just the priests.

Though I already knew the outcome, the romantic in me loved the relationship between Anne and Henry, until it started to devolve, of course. My heart broke for Meg. Deep inside, she wanted nothing more than to be free to love Will Ogilvy – her childhood sweetheart and only love. Will has become a priest and Meg serves Anne and has no dowry, leaving their love as secondary to their other pursuits, no matter how much they might have wished otherwise.

Despite all the mayhem and death, beheadings, seemingly false accusations of adultery and treason, Sandra manages to give something of a happy ending in a way that very pleasantly surprised me, but I won’t spoil it here :D.

Reading The Secret Keeper has already commenced and will be reviewed shortly – and after that Roses Have Thorns, the story of Elizabeth I – daughter of Anne and Henry. I only hope Meg makes an appearance or two :).

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars

*The story is based on a true one, so no need for a spoiler alert there ;).