Book Review: At the Mercy of the Queen, by Anne Clinard Barnhill

at_the_mercy_coverThis summer I was inspired to read a handful of books about English courts and palaces because my family went on a trip to England and Ireland. I toured the famous Hampton Court; the exact setting of this enthralling novel, and the Tower of London; the haunting location of Queen Anne of Boleyn’s execution. It was amazing to be able to visit the places described in this book! I felt like if I turned the corner into the great dining hall, I was going to walk in on a lively feast and celebration complete with dancing and music.

Now, I won’t spill too many details or secrets (as there are many in this mischievous novel), but I will give you a brief summary of the novel. This story follows Lady Margaret Shelton, who suddenly finds herself in the midst of King Henry’s lively court when her cousin Anne Boleyn becomes queen. Queen Anne immediately finds Lady Margaret Shelton (Pretty Madge) to be charming and very becoming, and invites her to become her lady in waiting. The men at court become enraptured by her beauty, but none more than Sir Henry Norris who begs the king to grant her to him for marriage. However, Margaret finds Sir Norris intimidating, forceful, and cruel. And then, there’s Sir Arthur Brandon, whose comedic, mocking manner seems to irritate Margaret. That is, until Sir Brandon rescues her from a very terrible situation. Is Margaret forced to marry her reproachful betrothed? Or will Queen Anne finally convince the king to break their ties? Lady Margaret Shelton helps the queen through her shaky marriage, births, miscarriages, and even her execution. And when Queen Anne begs Margaret to do something completely horrifying and completely against Margaret’s wishes, will Margaret consent? Or will she risk committing treason against the queen? Read my new favorite novel of all time to find out what happens!

My favorite part of the story is when Lady Margaret Shelton realizes that she’s madly in love with Sir Arthur Brandon. The two, while visiting a banquet house, step inside a room where Arthur declares his love for Margaret. When he asks Margaret if she returns his love and she hesitates, Arthur warns her that if she doesn’t say she loves him, he will leave and she will never see him again. Margaret runs to him and claims her love for him and the two share a passionate embrace. I love this scene because it is so romantic and dramatic. Can’t you see this scene in a movie? I definitely can 
I really did not have a least favorite part of the story, or a part I didn’t like. It was all amazing, thoroughly thought through, and connected!

I definitely recommend this book to teenage girls who are hopeless romantics and interested in English court life. This passionate love story is sure to make you want to visit Hampton Court!

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

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