If you're looking for a sweep-you-away-into-another-world summer read then Phillippa Gregory's 'The Boleyn Inheritance' is a good choice for holiday packing.

A sequel to her popular 'The Other Boleyn Girl', which was set in the tumultuous court of King Henry VIII, 'The Boleyn Inheritance' picks up a few years after that book ended. Henry, once a charming, handsome prince, has become an overweight and sick king, half-way through his parade of six wives. Already gone: Katherine of Aragon (divorced), Anne Boleyn (beheaded) and Jane Seymour (died of puerperal fever after childbirth). Still to come - Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, both in this book, and Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr.

Picking up in 1539, 'The Boleyn Inheritance' is narrated by two of Henry's queens - Anne, who marries him to escape her family, and flighty Katherine, first cousin to Anne Boleyn, and Henry's fifth wife. A third narrator is Anne Boylen's sister-in-law, Jane Boleyn, who also featured in 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. Henry's court is as volatile as his own moods are mercurial and no one is safe during this time of political uncertainty and religious upheaval.

The narrators are well defined, three very different women with their own aims and ambitions, although mostly powerless in a world wholly run by men, especially the Machiavellian Duke of Norfolk. Gregory vividly portrays their days at court, how they are used as pawns in power struggles and the plotting and machinations that affect their lives. Despite the fact that we know what the future holds for many of these characters, Gregory still manages to hold the reader's attention to the very last page. Truly compelling.

Caroline Hennessy

Buy 'The Boleyn Inheritance' from the RTÉ eShop here.