Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
March 30, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Portrait of an Unknown Woman

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Vanora Bennett
publisher
William Morrow
genre
Fiction, Romance, History

We gave it a C+

Fans of historical novels will applaud Vanora Bennett’s thorough grasp of 16th-century England, when Henry VIII drove a rift between Protestants and Catholics with his desire to marry Ann Boleyn. Bennett’s Portrait of an Unknown Woman centers on the brilliant Meg, Thomas More’s ward and the object of German painter Hans Holbein’s desire. Alas for Holbein, this is a bodice-ripping romance. So Meg loves another who is not what he seems. Bennett has a rich imagination, but her writing is plodding at best and histrionic at worst. She writes of Meg experiencing ”hot, wet passion,” but the reader, after one too many overwrought sentences, is more likely to feel slimed. C+

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