A blog dedicated to my opinion on books

Friday, November 29, 2013

“Queen’s Gambit” by Elizabeth Fremantle

Title: “Queen’s Gambit”
Author: Elizabeth Fremantle
Publisher: Simon &Schuster
Year: 2013
Genre(s): historical fiction; some romance
Part of a Series: No.


Why I read it: I won a free copy in a Goodreads Giveaway

Summary: Katherine Parr has been widowed for the second time and she looks forward to a quiet life with her young stepdaughter, Meg. But a summons from Mary Tudor changes her fate. At court, Katherine meets her brother’s friend, Thomas Seymour, and catches the attention of the king, who is hunting for a new wife. Katherine is at first put off by Seymour and tries to ignore the king’s attention. She knows how dangerous Henry’s court is for his queens. But as her feelings for Seymour change, the king is determined to make her his next bride. He succeeds and Katherine finds herself playing a dangerous game involving not only herself but her stepdaughter, handmaiden and eventually her stepdaughter, the princess Elizabeth.

Review: I love the Tudor court. I wouldn’t want to live in the Tudor court, but I still love it. And I love to read books set there as much as I love to read historical fictions set in the early days of the United States…So when I saw this book on the Goodreads Giveaway, I figured: “Why not?”

Katherine Parr is not one of the wives often focused on. Actually, Anne Boleyn still manages to steal the spotlight centuries later. Her specter haunts Katherine—not literally, this is not a tale of ghosts. But her fate—as well as Catherine Howard’s—reminds Katherine why she needs to stay on the King’s good side. It adds tension.

Ms. Fremantle is very good at creating the tension at court and illustrating how precarious a position Katherine is in as Henry’s wife. And how she also is partly responsible for it as well, pushing her luck with the more conservative members of Henry’s court who have his ear. And daughters they would rather see as queen, putting power over the girl’s safety and welfare. Which means taking down Katherine at any cost, even her religion. Katherine has strong Protestant or Reformation leanings and wants to guide the country toward what she believes is the right belief. Ms. Fremantle does a good job showing Katherine Parr’s piety and devotion to her spiritual education.

When it comes to Katherine, I don’t find it to be much of a romance. Her feelings change for Thomas Seymour so fast, I don’t feel she’s in love. And she’s definitely not in love with Henry. Fremantle paints their marriage almost borderline abusive. Perhaps it was. Fremantle makes Henry both sympathetic yet scary. He is a man in pain who fears his own death as well as feeling guilt over what he’s done religion-wise. And a man who is angry over his own physical failings. Especially in the bedroom.

So Katherine really doesn’t have a romance, in my opinion. The one who gets the romance is her handmaiden, Dot. She falls for a young clerk at court named William Savage. And it is sweet, the type of romance I like. One where we see it grow, especially on Dot’s side. I definitely was rooting for those two!

The book is different for me in that Elizabeth is not cast in a positive light. Most books I’ve read set in Tudor times tend to portray her in good terms. Katherine, for the most part, likes Elizabeth. Dot doesn’t. But even in the sections in which we are in Katherine’s head, Elizabeth still comes off as manipulative and almost like a sociopath. It is quite interesting.

Bottom line: A good read about one of Henry’s overlooked queens.

Sex: Some, nothing graphic

Moonlight Musing

Who’s your favorite Tudor queen?

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