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 thoroughly enjoyed this rendition of what Anne Boleyn's life may have looked like during the time when Henry VIII reigned in English history. His loyalties suited himself, and I saw that coming even though I already knew how things would turn out.
Henry VIII did present in many ways as a narcissist and that was portrayed well in this novel. He was convincing when it suited him, though, and I loved how the author showed how sincerely he believed his own lies. In the end he only hurt himself by his fickleness regarding the many women he knew intimately. I felt a bit sorry for all of the women he used, for they truly had no real choice in the matter.
I appreciated the author's explanation at the end regarding historical details and how she made some small changes to make the story work for the reader. I was a bit grossed out at the end (the beheading part) but I suppose if her friend had been there and witnessed it the recollection of that would have been frightening and gross, so I dealt with it. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to gruesome descriptions.
Regarding Meg's love story that paralleled Anne's experience... I was enthralled. I felt all of the ups and downs in that relationship and grieved with Meg over some losses she'd experienced. The romantic elements in her story were compelling and those kisses were heated enough to make the reader experience her loss with an even sharper pain, and then rejoice with her when things turned around. I have to say that I appreciated how Meg's faithfulness to her friend Anne Boleyn was rewarded in the end with something she had always wanted but denied herself for a greater cause.
This novel was all that I'd hoped for and I highly recommend it. It's a thoroughly engaging story and very well written. The faith element and the historical information regarding Tyndale and Wycliff's writing made the story richer. I feel truly sorry for all of the people unjustly killed throughout history because of a lust for power and control from noblemen and kings alike. What frightening times those were as the wind shifted so quickly and so often that many people were destined to be caught up in the injustice of it all. I'm glad I didn't live back then.
To Die For was published by Howard Books/Simon & Schuster and was released in August 2011. A copy of the ARC was provided to me by the publicist in exchange for a fair review. The opinion expressed above is entirely my own.