The Boleyn Inheritance is not the first of Philippa Gregory's books I've read. But right now, after finishing it a couple of days ago, it's my favourite.
In this one, the focus shifts to Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn, wife of George and sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn.
Each chapter is told by each of the three women, as their story unfolds.
Anne of Cleves comes across as a thoughtful young woman, with a lot more wits about her than realised by the court.
And even Katherine Howard is not as stupid as everybody thinks. Unfortunately for her, she is young, 14 at the start of the story, and not 17 when she faces death by beheading, and she doesn't see the plotting that goes on at court behind her back.
Jane Boleyn is the more complex of the three characters. She betrayed her husband and sister-in-law when she became a witness against them, accusing them of sleeping together so that Anne Boleyn could become pregnant and give the king the son he so desperately wanted. At the start of this book, we find Jane brought back to court by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, chief manipulator, who is portayed as using the women of the family to bring riches and advancement to the Howard family.
This is historical fiction of course, but I was surprised to find in Wikipedia that some of the detail was historically accurate. Like the fact that Katherine Howard, imprisoned in the Tower of London, practised putting her head on the block while awaiting her execution.
Philippa Gregory doesn't take us into the thoughts of the male protagonists, and they don't come out good. Henry VIII appears as a fat monster, with a festering leg wound that smells almost worse than his constant farts. I'm still watching my box set of the Tudors - I've reached the point where Henry has annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves and is about to marry Katherine Howard. But Jonathan Rhys Meyers is still as good looking as ever. Maybe he's not a method actor, or maybe he just couldn't put on the weight. But he does portray the utter selfishness and self-absorption of the King beautifully.
Given the choice between the TV series and the books, I'd pick the books, but they do complement each other very well, it has to be said.