To Die For is the story of Anne Boleyn’s life as seen through the eyes of her best friend, Meg Wyatt. It begins with the two young women pledging their loyalty to each other, no matter the consequences. Both have romantic aspirations, and Meg has already fallen deeply for a boy from a nearby estate. Will Ogilvy loves her, too, but feels called to become a priest. Meg, heartbroken, turns her back on God.
With no control over who she marries, Meg is married by proxy to a sick and elderly baron. But when Anne gains popularity in the English court, Meg is asked to join Anne there. As a lady-in-waiting, Meg watches King Henry VIII and Anne fall in love. He finds a way to twist Scripture in order to rid himself of the queen and take Anne as his wife. At first, life is exciting and promising, but without producing an heir, Anne’s favor with the king and others in court begins to wane. Deceit resides around every corner, and it’s difficult to know who to trust. At the same time, Meg continues to have her heart wrenched each time she’s in the presence of the priest she loves, but cannot have.
Anne agrees with the reformation of the church, supports the Bible being translated into English, and encourages change. Through Meg’s friendship with Anne and what she’s seeing, hearing, and experiencing, Meg feels drawn back to God. But the relationship between Anne and the king deteriorates, and with Meg’s own life is in jeopardy, she’s faced with difficult choices.
My review …
Although I’ve seen movies about Anne Boleyn, this is the first book I’ve read. I didn’t know what to expect, but given the opportunity to see her life through the eyes of another person was intriguing. To Die For is not only Anne’s story, it’s Meg’s. Although what happened in these two women’s lives is fictionalized, the story is richly filled with facts taken from extensive research done by the author. For instance, Meg and her family were friends of the Boleyns, and Meg’s brother, Thomas, did have feelings for Anne that almost cost him his life.
Like many people, I’ve known that King Henry VIII had his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled so he could marry Anne. Then, when he grew tired of her and frustrated because no heir had been produced, he found a way to have Anne beheaded so he could marry another. What I had not been aware of—or paid attention to—was Anne’s devotion to God and the influence she had on the reformation. I’d never thought of her as being compassionate or wanting to do the right thing.
To Die For is beautifully written—the pace is kept throughout. While the language used is inclusive of words used during that time period, the book never felt bogged down with them. Instead, the words enhanced the experience of being placed into the Tudor life. And while this story takes place in 1518-1536, readers can still relate to many similar struggles and challenges as the people in the novel face. Some things don’t change….
For instance, it’s often easy to blame God when things don’t go our way. When Will joins the priesthood, Meg initially holds God responsible for taking the man she loves away from her. She’s also had to deal with an abusive father and a brother (Edmund) who seems to hate her and who will do anything he can to make her life miserable. She’s forced to marry a man she doesn’t love. We watch Meg in her spiritual journey and discovery that God has an ultimate plan for her—as he does us. It’s not always clear—often times it’s initially muddy and confusing—but if we can trust him, we’ll be rewarded with more than what we could accomplish on our own.
Loyalty is a driving force in this story—loyalty to friends, lovers, family, and God. We all must make choices almost every day as to who or what we’re going to be loyal to—and then be willing to accept the blessings or consequences. Meg feels so strongly about her calling to be a true friend, she’s willing to set aside her personal dreams and risk her life to stay with Anne until the bitter end.
When I read a novel—along with being entertained—I want to be challenged, moved, or changed in some way. And Sandra Byrd has delivered with To Die For. I was literally moved to tears by this story and the beautiful friendship portrayed. I will never look at Anne Boleyn the same way again….
Sandra Byrd has published more than three dozen books in the Christian fiction and nonfiction market, including her series for adults, French Twist, which includes the Christy Award finalist Let Them Eat Cake (2007) and its sequels, Bon Appétit (2008) and Piéce de Résistance (2009). For over a decade, Sandra has shared her secrets with the many students she mentors through the Christian Writers Guild. She lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and two children.