Review: The Concubine by Norah Lofts

The Concubine
by Norah Lofts

Rating:  5/5

Let me start this review by saying that this is the BEST novel I’ve ever read on Anne Boleyn. Like EVER.

I shant bore you with a summary since everyone and their dog knows the story of Anne Boleyn. I will say that Lofts portrayal of Anne seems to me to be the most believable and that this is actually the first novel that I’ve read where I felt empathy for Anne. Anne chose the motto, “The Most Happy”, but her story seems to be far from happy.

From this novel I learned a few things that had never really been focused on before. The heartbreak Anne experienced in her teens when Cardinal Wolsey dashed her hopes of marrying the first and only real love of her life, Henry Percy, was a turning point in Anne’s life. Gone was the romantic, lively girl who only wanted to be a simple Knight’s wife (she says she would rather be Henry’s Countess than Henry’s Queen) – in her place a hardened, spiteful woman emerges. Anne vowed then and there to revenge the wrong Wolsey had done her and she would live her life dedicated to that mission.

Anne Boleyn & Cardinal Wolsey

Another thing I didn’t realize is how quickly Henry’s love for Anne dies after she finally surrenders to him. After all those years of dragging him along, the night he had been dreaming of for seven long years fails to live up to the hype and he’s pissed! I’m not sure what he expected given that Anne was still a virgin, but Henry lost whatever had attracted him in the first place instantly that night.

There are also a few differences with historical facts in this novel that have me confused. It was written in 1963, so I’m thinking it may have to do with when it was written and what new facts came to light after:

• Lofts had Anne’s mother dead before Anne met Henry. Her mother was actually still alive 2 years after her execution.
• Lofts speaks of Henry having had an affair with Anne’s mother. I had never heard that before – I wonder if there is any truth to that.
• In Lofts version, Anne miscarries after getting the news that Henry was dying from a fall, but I’ve also read that she miscarries after finding Jane Seymour sitting on Henry’s knee. Also, Lofts suggests that the baby she was carrying was not Henry’s. Supposedly Anne had miscarried Henry’s baby months ago, but was afraid to tell him, so she needed to get pregnant again to keep her lie.

If you have any thoughts as to the above, I would love to hear what you think!

Overall, The Concubine is an engrossing and riveting novel of an enchanting woman and I most highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get to know the real story of Anne Boleyn.

Purchase The ConcubineAmazon US | Amazon UK



  1. Hmmm, I had not heard of this one. I will have to look for it when my book pile shrinks a bit.
    thank you

  2. This is the second time I have read a review on this book and both times the same thing.... the best book on Anne Boleyn Yet! I am running off to order it now! thanks!

  3. Amy, Joanna Denny suggests in her biography of Anne, that her mother had died, and Thomas Boleyn had remarried. As for the miscarriages, The Tudors uses both versions in the series. Anne has one miscarriage when she sees Jane on Henry's knee, and again when she's further along after the he's injured. It is fact that she miscarried twice after having Elizabeth. As for the rumors about Henry and Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, Hilary Mantel repeats that rumor in Wolf Hall. I've never read that anywhere in a biography of Anne. Even David Starkey doesn't mention it.

    I'm not surprised that Henry went off Anne so quickly. He always seemed to me one of those men who want what they can't have.

  4. I can't help you with any of your questions, but I also thought this book was really well done. I liked that Lofts assumed we already knew a certain amount about the Tudors and the times and didn't rehash things.


  5. I have this one and enjoyed it as well. It and Maxwell's "The Secret Diary of AB" are my two favorites on her.

    I also have seen it suggested that Anne's mother died and Thomas remarried at some point before Anne met Henry - and then I've seen instances where her mother is still alive.

  6. I've also heard that Henry had an affair w/Anne's mother and sister but had not heard that her mother died and that her father had taken another wife. I felt connected with Anne when I read "The Other Boleyn" ...even before the movie was made. Feel like Henry was just a "pig"...spoiled brat as well. After can you marry your brother's wife for over 20 years and then put her aside for Anne and then expect him to stay happy with any women. I really do not know why history holds "henry" up so was his women who really reformed foreign and church policies...and he gets all the credit. Oh well...I'll have to check this novel out...thanks, Roberta

  7. This sounds so good. I want it =D
    Great review!

  8. I've tried three of Loft's lesser known books with *meh* success (three stars), and I'd like to try at least one more. I think this will be it. Library has it (woohoo).

  9. This sounds like one of the best novels about Anne Boleyn. The wierdest thing is that I was talking about her with my cousin the other day and we both want to read a good book about her. I said I was going to ask you what you recommended and here I find the perfect book for us to read.

    Thanks Amy, you're great!
    I hope you're having a good weekend!

  10. I don't think I've heard of this one. Thanks for putting it on my radar!

    I just finished Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which deals with the same period of time. She also mentions that Henry VIII lost his virginity to Anne Boleyn's mother. And I trust Mantel's research :-)

  11. I have never heard of this book, but I am adding it to the TBR pile :)

  12. Here's a credible site on The Tudor history. I took a class on Tudor history with Retha Warnicke (who consulted on the making of "The Other Boleyn" girl) at Arizona State University..

    I would look at this site and the wikipedia pages for more credible info.

  13. Here's Retha Warnicke's personal page

  14. Hummm. I feel I have to read this just because of the questions it has raised. I'll look for it.

  15. Seriously? Best ever? Hmm, I might actually have this one somewhere on my TBR piles, I'll have to look.

  16. This book would feed into my obsession with Anne Boleyn very nicely! I hadn't yet heard of this one, but it seems to have little bit of a different take on Boleyn's life. Very interesting. I will definitely be picking this one up soon. Thanks!

  17. I sincerely doubt, after doing a lot of research on Henry VIII for my 2 nonfiction books, ROYAL AFFAIRS and NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES that he had an affair with Elizabeth Howard Boleyn. Mantel makes full use of her literary license in a few places (in the novel Mary Boleyn's son is likely Henry's bastard, though that, too, is historically unlikely). Mantel's research is impressive, but remember, she's writing a novel, and juicy speculations are red meat to historical novelists! That's where the fiction part of historical fiction comes into play.

    Also, while Anne Boleyn did miscarry twice after Elizabeth was born, seeing Jane sitting on Henry's lap and Henry's fall from his horse and being knocked unconscious both took place within days of each other and were "responsible" for the same miscarriage; they were not two separate events that led to 2 separate miscarriages.

  18. Actually there is a mention of Anne Boleyn love for that lad 'Henry Percy'.

    Wasn't he hanged to death also? Oh God! My memory is fading.. I need to re-read the oNLY book I have read! The one i mentioned in my last coment.. I will remember this book..


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