Series Review – The Six Lives of Henry VIII

The Six Lives of Henry VIII Series

by Leigh Jenkins
Genres: Tudor England, Historical Fiction, Royalty, Alternative History

I had fond memories of reading the first three books of this series a few years ago, so I decided to reread them and finish out the series while I was on vacation. In general, the ideas are clever and many of them are supported by history. It’s always interesting to read “what if” and alternate universe stories.

Unfortunately, the series has its ups and downs, with fabulous entries and horrendous ones. However, the individual books in the series play off of real history, so you don’t need to read them all, nor do you need to read them in order.

The books are all rather short, coming in at an average of 200 pages. Also, I found enough errors throughout the books that I’m knocking off a star. So, the series as a whole earns 3 stars.


Catherine the InquisitorTitle: Catherine the Inquisitor, #1
Release Date: November 28, 2011
Pages: 202
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Synopsis:  He killed his wives, broke from Catholicism and founded his own church. But history could have been quite different for Henry the VIII, as author Leigh Jenkins proves in this alternative history series, if only one key moment had changed in each of his marriages.

The first book of the series, Catherine the Inquisitor, explores how life would have been different if Henry and Catherine’s first child, a boy named Henry, had lived instead of died less than six weeks after his birth. With his much sought after heir, Henry would feel no need to create the Church of England or travel down the destructive path that led to his wives’ murders. But would that have been best for England?

Jenkins delves inside one of history’s greatest enigmas – the mind of King Henry the VIII of England. This intense, often poignant, look at King Henry shows that, with a twist of fate, England could have remembered a very different king.

Review: Catherine the Inquisitor was one of the most plausible, as well as one of the most polished, of the series. I felt the ideas were well supported by real history, especially Catherine’s piety and zealousness.

It makes sense that Henry (her son) would follow in his mother’s footsteps, considering she chose his mentors, but it’s a little hard to believe that Mary would so openly defy them.

The ending seems overly convenient and anti-climactic, and I wish that the story would have continued a little longer, as the end seems rather abrupt.

As a side-note, the one major error I noticed in the book was the incorrect, continual reference to King Louis of France by the feminine version of his name, Louise.

Overall, I’d recommend Catherine the Inquisitor. It’s interesting and worth a read.


Anne the SaintTitle: Anne the Saint, #2
Release Date: January 19, 2012
Pages: 112
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Synopsis: He killed his wives, broke from Catholicism and founded his own church. But history could have been quite different for Henry the VIII, as author Leigh Jenkins proves in this alternative history series, if only one key moment had changed in each of his marriages.

The second book in the series, Anne the Saint, focuses on the fate of Anne Boleyn. History tells us that Henry the VIII, in his quest for a son, makes Anne his new queen. In real life, Anne births one of the most powerful queens in British history, but fails to produce a male heir to the crown. But how could Henry’s life – and history itself – have been different if she had succeeded in giving him the one thing he desired above all else – a son?

Jenkins delves inside one of history’s greatest enigmas – the mind of King Henry the VIII of England. This intense, often poignant, look at King Henry shows that, with a twist of fate, England could have remembered a very different king.

Review: Anne the Saint is interesting, but seemed less plausible to me than the first book. While I’ve seen mentions of Anne being interested in helping the poor affected by the closing of the monasteries, it’s never mentioned as a passion.

Granted, with an AU retelling, things get changed, but that aspect of the storyline is less supported by history than others.

That said, the story flowed well, and I greatly enjoyed it. There were a few errors that I noticed as I read, but not quite enough to knock off a star.

I’d definitely recommend Anne the Saint. It’s a delightful story.


Jane the ConfidantTitle: Jane the Confidant, #3
Release Date: July 8, 2012
Pages: 190
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Synopsis: He killed his wives, broke from Catholicism and founded his own church. But history could have been quite different for Henry the VIII, as author Leigh Jenkins proves in this alternative history series, if only one key moment had changed in each of his marriages.

The third book of the series, Jane the Confidant, explores how life would have been different if Jane Seymour had survived her first pregnancy. With a son in the cradle and a queen by his side, Henry takes on one of the greatest challenges of his life – the Pilgrimage of Grace. As England descends into civil war, Henry does all he can to protect his family and his throne.

Jenkins delves inside one of history’s greatest enigmas – the mind of King Henry the VIII of England. This intense, often poignant, look at King Henry shows that, with a twist of fate, England could have remembered a very different king.

Review: Jane the Confidant was mostly plausible, and I can see where various aspects of real history could support its storyline. Unfortunately, there were many errors throughout the book, including switching between past and present tense several times which I found rather annoying, so I knocked off a star.

Although a small detail, I was also bothered by Henry mentioning that “the doctors had assured me it was tuberculosis”. Tuberculosis wouldn’t be identified and named as such for almost 300 years.

The one aspect of the book that I found impossible to believe was that the spy could operate without a trace in a court that thrived on intrigue. At the very least, the servants were likely to gossip.

Ultimately, while I enjoyed the portrayal of Mary and Elizabeth in Jane the Confidant, I didn’t really care for the story. It was one of my least favorite of the series. I feel this one could easily be skipped.


Anne the WarriorTitle: Anne the Warrior, #4
Release Date: April 11, 2014
Pages: 233
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★★★
Synopsis: He killed his wives, broke from Catholicism and founded his own church. But history could have been quite different for Henry the VIII, as author Leigh Jenkins proves in this alternative history series, if only one key moment had changed in each of his marriages.

The fourth book in the series, Anne the Warrior, looks at how history could have changed had Anne of Cleves remained married to Henry the VIII. In a time of war against the Catholic kingdoms of Europe, Henry and his advisors cannot risk alienating Anne’s brother and one of England’s few allies. But could this queen, one who so horrified Henry, actually be the queen he has been searching for?

Jenkins delves inside one of history’s greatest enigmas – the mind of King Henry the VIII of England. This intense, often poignant, look at King Henry shows that, with a twist of fate, England could have remembered a very different king.

Review: Anne the Warrior is definitely my favorite book of the series. Anne of Cleves is so often ignored by history, despite being, in my opinion, the most successful of Henry VIII’s wives. After all, she did live comfortably in England after her divorce. It’s great to see her in the spotlight.

There are far fewer errors in this installment than in book 3, thankfully. I have to say, though, that I’ve never come across anything in my reading on Henry VIII and his wives that supports the idea of Anne being a warrior. I’ll admit that I’m not an expert on Anne of Cleves, so there may be something in history that I’m not aware of.

If you only read one book from this series, make it this one.


Kathryn the CleverTitle: Kathryn the Clever, #5
Release Date: October 11, 2015
Pages: 134
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Synopsis: He killed his wives, broke from Catholicism and founded his own church. But history could have been quite different for Henry the VIII, as author Leigh Jenkins proves in this alternative history series, if only one key moment had changed in each of his marriages.

The fifth book in the series, Kathryn the Clever, follows Kathryn Howard, the fifth wife of Henry the VIII. Kathryn has always been thought of as a silly, empty headed little girl, but could she be more? How might the history of England changed had Kathryn used her strengths and born Henry a much sought after son?

Jenkins delves inside one of history’s greatest enigmas – the mind of King Henry the VIII of England. This intense, often poignant, look at King Henry shows that, with a twist of fate, England could have remembered a very different king.

Review: While I understand that the point of Kathryn the Clever was to portray Kathryn Howard as something other than an “empty-headed little girl”, the cruel, conniving creature she’s portrayed as in this book seems unlikely. I forget which book it was, but I read one where Kathryn is pushed into an adulterous relationship by her uncle in an effort to conceive an heir to the throne. That Kathryn, a poor teenager being taken advantage of, is far more plausible given her real history.

Unlike the other books in the series, anyone with any knowledge of the real history of Kathryn Howard could foresee where this book was headed. There isn’t any surprise in the ending.

Like book three, errors abound in this installment, including a handful of endnotes that seem to be left over from editing. Overall, this is my least favorite book of the series; it’s another one that can be skipped.


Katherine the MartyrTitle: Katherine the Martyr, #6
Release Date: September 19, 2016
Pages: 148
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
Synopsis: He killed his wives, broke from Catholicism and founded his own church. But history could have been quite different for Henry the VIII, as author Leigh Jenkins proves in this alternative history series, if only one key moment had changed in each of his marriages.

The final book of the series, Katherine the Martyr, looks at the marriage of Henry to his final wife, Katherine Parr. Katherine’s Lutheran leanings often troubled her husband the king – what would have happened if he had taken the final step in ensuring her silence?

Jenkins delves inside one of history’s greatest enigmas – the mind of King Henry the VIII of England. This intense, often poignant, look at King Henry shows that, with a twist of fate, England could have remembered a very different king.

Review: Katherine the Martyr is the least plausible in the series, in my opinion. In real life, Katherine was always very smart in her dealings with Henry and was able to navigate his mercurial temper, if not with ease, then at least with some skill. In this book, she simply plows along, heedless of the consequences of her actions.

I found the absence of Katherine’s nursing of Henry in this story to be a little odd, as there’s no real reason given for that omission.

Once again, I found quite a few errors as I read, and an editing endnote remained.

While I wouldn’t push for someone to read Katherine the Martyr, I wouldn’t discourage them from doing so.


About the Author

Leigh Jenkins was born in Charlotte, NC and grew up with a love of history, particularly for the American Revolution. It wasn’t until she visited England as a teenager that she discovered her love of Tudor history, particularly a fascination with King Henry the VIII. Jenkins other love is Disney, she works as a travel writer and consultant for Walt Disney World with Kids and visits the parks as often as possible. Currently Jenkins lives in her hometown of Charlotte with her husband.

Author links: Goodreads | Amazon Author Page


Disclaimer: These review are based on eBooks I purchased through Amazon in 2012 and 2018.

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