Harper Collins, £16.99stg

Based on extensive historical research by author Philippa Gregory, 'The Other Boleyn Girl' is the story of Mary, younger sister of the tragic Anne Boleyn, who was queen of England for three short years in the 1500s.

Brought to King Henry VIII's court at the tender age of 14, Mary becomes lady in waiting to Queen Katherine. Despite being married, she captures the eye of the king and, encouraged by her ambitious family, becomes his mistress. As his chosen one, Mary is treated as the unofficial queen of the court and her family are rewarded with honours and grants of lands.

Although Mary bears him two children before she is cast aside, Henry's roving eye eventually alights on Anne. The fierce rivalry that exists between the two sisters is enflamed when the Boleyn family decides that Anne is to take her sisters' place in the king's affections – and that Mary must help her. As Anne schemes to become queen of England, Mary gradually becomes disillusioned with the machinations of court life and seeks an existence beyond the whims of a capricious king. Mary Boleyn – a young woman treated by her family as a pawn, her king as a whore, her sister as a pimp – comes to realise that ambition and power are worth little to her and so escapes the axe which claims her sister's life.

Vividly depicting the claustrophobia, power struggles and detail of life at the Tudor court, Philippa Gregory sheds light on a hitherto unknown episode in history. Set during the eventful mid-years of Henry VIII's reign, the Boleyns are portrayed in Machiavellian splendour as they manipulate their women for material gain, even the strong-minded Anne. 'The Other Boleyn Girl' is a richly detailed tale of politics and passion, greed – and ultimately – love.

Caroline Hennessy