Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: To Die For by Sandra Byrd


To Die For by Sandra Byrd
Howard Books, 09 August 2011


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 started my foray into historical fiction with novels set in the middle ages, because I've always loved that era of history and have been fascinated with the English monarchy of the time. As a present to myself when I finished my last exam at university, I marched straight to the book shop and bought Kings and Queens of England by Antonia Fraser.  Yes, that was my way of celebrating the end of a Computer Science degree. 

But it's been some time since I read a medieval/renaissance setting due to having moved in preference from secular fiction to Christian fiction.

So when I saw a Christian fiction book about Anne Boleyn, I had to have it.

What a refreshing and delightful view of the Tudor court - and Anne Boleyn, Sandra Byrd has presented.   While the heroine of To Die For is in fact Meg Wyatt, a lady in waiting of Anne, we are closely acquainted with Anne throughout the book and it was a pleasure to read a less sinister account of Henry VIII's most famous queen.

Meg Wyatt is the childhood friend of Anne, and is swept along with her into the court of Henry VIII.  She is torn away from her love, Will Ogilvy, and has to rediscover God and His will for her in her life in service to Anne.

Sandra has carefully written her story to portray the evils of the day while sparing us of the debaucherous details so strongly present - and largely, required - of other novels written of the same period.  For this I am very grateful, because Sandra has provided me with a gorgeous story of an era I love, that I can enjoy without discomfort.

Anne's ending is heart wrenching, but Meg's is tearfully joyous.  To Die For had me utterly lost in the character's world and I couldn't put this book down.

Thank you Sandra - I will definitely be seeking out your other books!



Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

3 comments:

  1. My book club loved this one. A few had read Wolf Hall, so it was great to have both perspectives on this era. I am looking forward to others by Byrd. Thanks for your thoughts on this book.

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  2. Hi Beckie, thanks for your comments! I did really love this book. I agree it's good to read a different perspective on this period :)

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  3. Thank you, Beckie B. for choosing this book for your book club. I Skype with book clubs, if you're ever interested. And thank you, Helen, for the lovely, encouraging review and for posting it. Happy weekend, both of you!

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