This is one of several e-shorts – short stories published exclusively in ebook format – which form part of Alison Weir’s new series on the wives of Henry VIII, Six Tudor Queens. I hadn’t had much interest in reading them until I noticed that this one, The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today, was (and still is, at the moment) free to download from Amazon. It seemed a good opportunity to see what they were like.
Having read the first two full-length novels in the series (on Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn) and with the third one, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, on my NetGalley shelf ready to start soon, this was the perfect time to read The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today because, chronologically, it provides a sort of bridge between the Anne Boleyn book and the Jane Seymour book.
The story is set in the modern day and is written from the perspective of historian Jo Maddox, who is taking a group of tourists around the Tower of London. Jo has arranged for a special guide to lead part of the tour and provide some history on Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, who was of course imprisoned and beheaded at the Tower. When the guide arrives, Jo is impressed by her resemblance to Anne herself – right down to the authentic Tudor costume and French accent. But then another dark-haired young woman catches her eye and Jo begins to feel as though she is seeing Anne Boleyn everywhere she looks.
This really is a very short story! I had expected it to be longer as the book was seventy pages long, but most of those seventy pages are actually devoted to the opening chapters of the first three Six Tudor Queens novels. I didn’t need to read these as I’ve already read the first two and am about to start the third, so the story itself is disappointingly short and can literally be read in just a few minutes. Maybe the other e-shorts in the series have more substance, which could explain why this one is being offered for free.
Having said that, the story is quite entertaining, providing some information on the history of the Tower and separating the facts about Anne Boleyn from the myths. There’s even some humour:
‘Didn’t Thomas Cromwell play a large part in bringing down Anne Boleyn?’ a guest asked.
‘Cromwell!’ The guide’s eyes flashed. ‘Oh yes! He hated me, for he feared I would ruin him. So he pre-empted me. He was a man without scruples.’
‘Not if you read Hilary Mantel!’ muttered one of the group.
The other e-shorts in the series so far are Arthur: Prince of the Roses, The Blackened Heart, The Chateau of Briis, The Grandmother’s Tale and The Unhappiest Lady in Christendom, all of which fit before or after one of the three main novels. It seems that they are currently not available outside the UK, although according to Alison Weir’s website her US publisher is including some of the stories in the paperback editions of the novels. I think that’s a better idea anyway as if all of the stories are as short as this one I don’t think it’s really worth spending money on buying them all separately. I’m not planning to read any more of them, but I’m looking forward to starting Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen.