Picks and Pans Review: The Boleyn Inheritance

updated 12/18/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/18/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Philippa Gregory

Gregory's ribald, unsentimental fiction charts the faltering reign of Henry VIII within the context of his relationships with two wives and an aristocratic schemer. In this sequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, inspired by Anne and Mary Boleyn, Henry has grown grossly unattractive. When fourth wife Anne of Cleves—in reality drab and dull, but here an attractive survivor—inadvertently insults the King's virility, she dooms the marriage. In cahoots with the conniving Duke of Norfolk, half-mad Jane Rocheford plays on Henry's insecurity to steer him towards the duke's niece Katherine Howard, a flirty teenager. The novel's chewy pleasure lies less in historical accuracy than in its gossipy approach to the Tudors' lust and greed.

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