Publisher and Publication Date: Poesy Quill Publishing. January 15, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Format: pdf copy/Kindle e-book copy.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from Poesy Quill Publishing. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction. Readers of Tudor history.
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About the Author:
Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian author, playwright and poet who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of three Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel, and Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters.
While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.
María de Salinas is dying.
Too ill to travel, she writes a letter to her daughter Katherine, the young duchess of Suffolk. A letter telling of her life: a life intertwined with her friend and cousin Catalina of Aragon, the youngest child of Isabel of Castile. It is a letter to help her daughter understand the choices she has made in her life, beginning from the time she keeps her vow to Catalina to share her life of exile in England.
Friendship, betrayal, hatred, forgiveness – All Manner of Things tells a story of how love wins out in the end.
Several reasons I love this story.
1. It is a continuation of the close bond and friendship between Catalina and María from the first book, The Duty of Daughters.
2. I love the opening paragraph. It is rich in descriptive detail that sets the tone for the story.
3. All Manner of Things shows that during this era women had little control of their lives. Their marriages were often arranged. Rare did a couple marry for love.
4. All Manner of Things is a woman’s story. I am deeply effected by their suffering during pregnancies and labor without modern knowledge and medicine. Their plight during labor may lead to death. Yet, they speak as if that is always a chance, always in their minds that this might happen. The women love men who do not honor or respect them. Yet, the women have no choice but to stay married and accept the hurtful arrangements. In this story, I saw more situations where women helped other women. Whether it was advice in love, marriage, or chastity. The women depended on other women. The men seem to be secondary characters.
5. María de Salinas is the narrator of All Manner of Things. In the first book, Beatriz the Latin teacher is the narrator. Both of these women are intelligent, wise, educated, and savvy. They are passionate but they both hold two key character traits. They are committed to their duty. They have strong restraint.
6. I love the perspective María has of Henry as a boy, youth, man, and king. She is a sharp observer.
While reading this story I wondered how much of Catalina’s experiences with men shaped her and her role to be Henry VIII’s wife?
“Love makes fools of us all.”
“In May day, when the lark began to rise…” the king sang.
The king is good at play-acting. A stone throw from the king but hidden from view, María lounged on her mantle, in a secluded bower in the parkland near Greenwich palace. He play-acts the good husband. Surely that means he cares about Catalina? In her self-imposed solitude, she sipped her wine and chewed at her chicken leg.
“Trolly lolly lolly lo, Sing trolly lolly lo! My love is to the greenwood gone,” the king sang now.
Catalina had sorrowed over the loss of her confessor and his return to Castile for weeks. Is it any wonder the king organises a day of merriment for his wife and court? Catalina had no notion that their departure from Greenwich palace would be interrupted by the arrival of Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Friar Tuck – or that a banquet would be prepared for their pleasure in this parkland – in a huge bower laid down with carpets and scattered cushions to sit upon. She had no choice but to put on a happy face for her husband – especially when the day was witnessed by foreign ambassadors. Si – the king is good at play-acting, but so is Catalina.
After the banquet when her head started to pound, María had taken possession of one of the smaller bowers, provided for those who wished privacy. After a little while by herself, María was not surprised to see Catalina approaching. She rose and curtseyed. Catalina gestured to her. “Pray sit down. I’ve told the others I am joining you for a time.”
María sat again, wondering what caused Catalina to speak to her in their shared tongue.
“A pleasant outing, don’t you think?” Catalina asked, sitting beside her.
“Si, very pleasant.” Hearing the king’s voice, María drew apart some of the bushes to peer out. His back towards them, the king stood with the Venetian ambassador, both them apparently admiring one of the bowers filled with singing birds of all descriptions. The organisation of this event must have taken days to prepare. Even the trees had been made more beautiful by the hanging of innumerable embroidered hawthorn leaves.
Thomas More broke away from the other courtiers, and began walking in their direction. María pulled back and released the bush. But he still noticed them. He ambled over and bowed to the queen.
Catalina laughed. “You have hunted out my hiding place, Tom.” She glanced at María. “I should say ‘our’. My good friend found it first. Would you like to join us?”
More bowed again. “I could not think of a greater pleasure.”
Watching him throw down his cloak and sit, María hoped no one else would seek them out. She sighed. Catalina’s time with me will likely be cut short as soon as the king realises her absence.
“Are you writing anything new, Tom?” Catalina asked More.
He laughed. “I am always scribbling something new.”
“You do not want to speak of it?”
“I refuse to weary my queen on a day as agreeable as today with talk of my unfinished works. If I did, I would risk my wife’s scolding.”
Catalina grinned. “Your wife scolds you?”
“Aye – she thinks I am but a foolish man at times.” He laughed again. “If she thinks it, she speaks it. But she also ensures a good, and peaceful home too – and I thank her for that. It is what I most need for the health of my soul.”
“I have spoken to Dame Alice over the years since your marriage. I delight in how she speaks her mind, and how much but she loves you, Tom.”
Catalina turned to draw aside some of the bush. She sighed. “I wish I could stay longer, but I too love my husband. It is time to make my return to him. I bid you good day, Thomas – please send my greeting to Dame Alice, and tell her I hope to see her soon. María, if you have enough of seclusion for the day, perchance you could come back soon? I am lonely for you.”
“I will return anon, my queen.”
María watched Catalina go, aware of More’s silence. At last, he spoke, “You do not wish to return?”
María met his curious eyes. “I will always wish to return to my queen. She knows me well – and understands my need to be away from people at times. Today was one such time. All the chatter hurt my head.”
More nodded. He looked out towards the milling courtiers. Music, laughter, talking men and women strangled any chance for a moment of silence. “Yes – the court is not a place for peace, or for the health of one’s soul.”
An accented voice called out her name and that of Thomas More. Master Erasmus shambled over to them. More helped María up from the ground and they greeted the old man outside of the bower. Leaning on his walking stick, Erasmus bowed over her hand before kissing her with relish. María had to restrain herself from wiping her mouth of his taste of mint leaves and garlic. But she liked Erasmus, and was always happy to speak to him.
“Such a delightful habit of the English! I never tire of it!” The elderly man spoke fast in French, his eyes creased up in laughter-lines.
She laughed, replying in the same tongue. “I remember you in the first year of the king’s reign. You sought out all the unwed girls.”
“The kiss of greeting is a good custom of England. But then the English have a lot to make up to us for their weather – and other bad habits.”
“Do we, my old friend?” More said with a laugh.
María glanced at More and back at Erasmus. “What do you speak of, Master?”
“Surely you know?” Erasmus shifted as if in pain. “I speak not of the home of our friend here. The home of Thomas More is a delight to visit. But there are English who dump upon their clay floors foul things. Their rushes conceal old bones, spittle, shit of dogs and cats, and everything under God’s good Heaven to make a stomach turn.” His face screwed up in disgust.
María smiled and gave a short laugh. “Once, those habits were shared by others. I remember my first days at the court of the king’s father. I was shocked time after time by the behaviour of the English nobility. But the queen has long stopped that kind of conduct at court.”
“Aye – conditions at court are greatly improved from the time of the old king. But, to my dismay, I find many other places are exactly the same as when I first came to England, when this King Henry was but a boy and still a prince at Eltham Palace.”
“You met him then?”
“I hoped to gain patronage of the old king, as is still a common pattern to my life. I wished to make myself known to Queen Elizabeth. Thomas, you must remember the day?”
“Aye – we walked together from my home to Eltham. Prince Henry, as he was then, was with his mother. What a beautiful woman she was.”
“Very beautiful – and a good woman too.” Maria sighed. “Our lives changed for the worse after her death.”
“Do you recall how she towered over most men – and stood eye to eye with her own husband?” asked Erasmus.
“Yes, she was tall, but it suited her,” said María. “Tell me, what of the king as a boy? I met him a few times when he was boy, but I am curious to hear what you thought of him, Master Erasmus?”
“From the outside, all his mother’s son. I remember he sailed his toy boat in the pond near the palace. In my mind’s eye, I can see the day still. The water shimmered like a bright mirror in the sun. A touch of breeze swelled its surface and ruffled the feathers of the swans.” He laughed. “Strange, is it not, the older you become, how rain spoils so few of our memories.”
María looked all around. The parkland seemed washed with gold by the lowering sun. Sunshine or rain, an increasing shroud of sorrow wound tighter around each new day. For years, she had no longer wished to look forward. She turned back to the comfort of Erasmus’ voice; it kept her safe in a past not her own.
“I did not know the boy crouching at the pond’s edge was a prince. Although, thinking back, there was a guard close to him. I thought him then a goodly made young lad.”
“Yes – I thought that too when I met him for the first time not long afterwards. He escorted the queen to her marriage with his brother.”
“The queen has been a good patron to me. She is a worthy daughter of the great Isabel of Castile.” Erasmus seemed to no longer want to speak of the past, but the present. María repressed a laugh. If I stay here for much longer, Erasmus will likely begin talking of a new book he wishes more coin from the queen to write.
“The queen is indeed her mother’s daughter.”
Daylight beginning to ebb, the wind turned even colder. María curtseyed to Erasmus and More with great respect. “I must be away and return to the queen. I bid you both good day – and hope to speak to you more very soon.”
She walked away, but cast a glance over her shoulder at the two men. Both of them were talking, and did not seem to care about the lengthening shadows – or that everyone around them began to ready to continue their interrupted journey. They were happy in their own world.