From the Publisher
"The enigmatic Anne Boleyn comes to life in this charming, brilliant portrayal by acclaimed British novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes... I was drawn into the story and absorbed from beginning to end, closing the book with a heartfelt sigh of satisfaction.
" - Reading Adventures
"Brief Gaudy Hour is a novel that captures the spirit and essence of Anne Boleyn, and it's a novel that any historical fiction enthusiast will enjoy and ponder over for days to come.
" - The Mystic Castle
"In short, I loved this book. BRIEF GAUDY HOUR by Margaret Campbell Barnes is a rare treat that brings life and love out of the history books and right into the reader's heart. " - Romance Reader at Heart
"Margaret Campbell Barnes has written a powerful book that brought me to tears. No matter what I thought of Anne Boleyn and the machinations to help her gain power, the book itself is an excellent tale of the history of those times. " - The Romance Studio
"If you're one of the few people on earth who hasn't read a historical novel about Anne Boleyn, this one would be an excellent one to start with; if you've read many novels about the queen, this one is a worthy addition to your list." - Reading, Raving and Rantin
"What author Margaret Campbell Barnes does is create a sympathetic and complex character in Anne. The Queen who only ruled for three years wasn't without faults by any means but she was also very much a pawn and paid for her actions dearly." - Bookgirl's Nightstand
"From a person who loves historical fiction and has read numerous pieces of Tudor fiction, A Brief Gaudy Hour was a refreshing approach to a known tale. Even those who aren't versed in or naturally drawn to historical fiction will find this a brilliant story and character portrayal." - Armchair Interviews
"The narrative is beautiful and the history of the court and the people are very intriguing." - Ramblings on Romance
"Definitely read this one if you want a different take on Anne Boleyn; I found it very refreshing. " - Revisiting the Moon's Library
Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 1
NAN! NAN! COME IN and be fitted for your new dresses to go to Court!"
"Nan! Come and answer your father's letter."
"Nan, child, don't stand toute égarée in the garden. Your turn has come."
Simonette's sharp French voice shrilled first from one open casement and then from another as she bustled through the Castle rooms stirring up waves of preparation for the launching of her pupil on the chancy sea of life. Simonette, in the Boleyns' service, was the perfect governess. For her, this day, years of exasperation and devotion were terminated in triumph. Tears might come after. But here was the proud moment in which to produce the young thing she had made.
Yet the girl to whom she called still lingered on the terrace watching the giddy flight of butterflies above the drowsing knott garden. For her, as for them, the gaudy hour of life was being born. Bright as their painted wings, heady as the hot perfume of the flowers.
Full of golden promise, and transient as the summer day.
All that was spirited in Anne Boleyn thrilled to the prospect of the brilliant future; but, being intelligent and sensitive beyond her years, she spared an ungrasping moment for a savouring of the past. The happy, innocent past-so wisely filled with graceful pursuits and the joy of burgeoning appreciations. Before the flurry of dressmakers and the glitter of courts obsessed her, she must look her fill upon this Kentish garden, stamping the impress of its happy recollections upon her heart. The lovely lawns where she had been wont to play with her brother and sister, the stately trees beneath which her father walked, the yew arbours cunningly devised for dalliance where her cousin, Thomas Wyatt, read aloud his poems and made love to her.
To Anne the gardens of Hever meant more than all the stately ancestral pleasances of Blickling Hall, or her late mother's home at Rochford. They would be as a salve when she went forth into the unknown, and something beautiful to come back to. She would sit sometimes and remember them when she was in France.
For Anne was fiercely sure now that she would go to France.
In his letter from London, her father did not actually promise it. He merely summoned her to Court, saying that Queen Katherine would be graciously pleased to receive her. But when he was last home he had hinted that he was striving for this honour to be granted her-the honour of being chosen to go to Paris in the train of the King's sister, who was betrothed to Louis the Twelfth. It seemed an incredible thing to happen when one was barely eighteen. But Sir Thomas Boleyn was Henry Tudor's ambassador to the French Court, and ambitious for his children. And, of them all, Anne had his heart.
Goaded by the urgency of her governess's voice, Anne turned at last. Her dark eyes were starry with excitement, and her right hand clutched the Ambassador's parchment to her bosom. But her left hand lay quietly hidden in the green folds of her gown.
As she went up the wide steps and through the great hall, the older servants smiled at her indulgently. Already there was a great carrying hither and thither of chests and coffers for her journey. George Boleyn, her brother, brushing aside a welter of hounds, caught her boyishly by the shoulders and hugged her. "Your turn at last!" he exulted, just as Simonette had done. "And I am to take you to London."
That was the keystone to her happiness. At present there would be no pain of parting from her youthful circle, no loneliness to mar her good fortune. Of all creatures in the world, this brother, but a few years older than herself, was dearest. His was the laughter, the crazy gaiety that had leavened the cultured companionship of their mutual friends. They would all be there; not in the gardens at Hever, but at Greenwich, Windsor, or Westminster. For a little while longer they would be together-with their swift wit, their shared passion for music, their versifying, their dancing, and their endless discussions. Thomas Wyatt and George and their friends who already had places about the King, Wyatt's sister Margaret, and her own sister Mary, who was more beautiful, if a little more stolid, than the rest.
"Why should Mary, who is younger, have gone first?" demanded George, following the trend of her unspoken thought.
Anne shrugged. She knew that the same resentment had been smouldering in her governess's breast during these last few months of quiet preparation. But now, today, it mattered nothing. "Mary went first," she said. "But I may go farther."
"You mean with the royal bride to France?"
To save her face in case of any future contretemps, Anne laughed a gay denial of her hopes. "Oh, I have been promised nothing!" she temporized.
The glances of brother and sister met and held with that intimate understanding which was between them. Then the young man's eyes shifted and were momentarily hooded.
"Mary has blossomed out. She has been noticed at Court," he remarked uneasily.
But Anne's thoughts were centred on her own destiny. She took little heed of his unwonted gravity. "It is scarcely surprising. Our mother was accounted one of the loveliest women present when the Queen first came from Aragon," she reminded him lightly, a little enviously perhaps. For although Anne was by far the more accomplished of the Ambassador's two daughters, Mary was the acknowledged beauty.
Back in the room where she worked at her books, Anne unrolled the letter which had so suddenly changed her quiet life. "May I answer it myself, Simonette?" she asked gravely of her waiting governess.
"Bien sûr, ma chère."
"In French or English?"
"They say that the Princess Mary, although but a child, writes equally well in either, as well as in Spanish. The Tudors like their women to be educated. And you know which his Excellency, your father, would prefer."
Anne assimilated the hint that, with an eye to advancement, her letter might be shown in higher circles. "And you think my French is good enough?" she enquired anxiously.
The tall, shrewd woman standing by the writing desk smiled with the assurance of one whose task has been conscientiously performed. "I have every confidence in your ability, Nan. And who knows but what one day you may have to write to yet more important people?"
With a deft movement of her right hand Anne jerked the blank waiting parchment towards her and took up a quill. Seated with the sunshine illuminating her dutifully bent head, she poured out her filial gratitude, understanding fully for the first time why Sir Thomas and Simonette had made her work so hard at music and at languages. In her letter she expressed eager appreciation of the promised privilege of conversing with so great a queen as Katherine of Aragon. And, mindful of the difficulties and temptations that bestrew a young girl's path in such exalted places, she made a spontaneous promise to her father. "I am resolved to lead as holy a life as you may please to desire of me," she wrote. "Indeed, my love for you is founded on so firm a basis it can never be impaired."
It never occurred to her to question what he might desire of her nor what vast forces might shake the basis of that love, and little did she realize, as her quill moved on, the solace her naïve promise would be to an affectionate man caught in the net of his own worldly ambitions. A man who already knew parental qualms for his younger daughter.
When the letter was sealed and dispatched, Anne delivered herself up to the chattering seamstresses. Half-basted dresses had already been cut from materials far finer than any she had previously possessed. Brocades and velvets had been reverently lifted from the dower chests of her Howard ancestors, and refashioned to the full, flamboyant mode.