Summary: When twelve-year-old Katherine Howard comes to live in the Duchess of Norfolk’s household, poor relation Cat Tilney is deeply suspicious of her. The two girls couldn’t be more different: Cat, watchful and ambitious; Katherine, interested only in clothes and boys. Their companions are in thrall to Katherine, but it’s Cat in whom Katherine confides. Summoned to court at seventeen, Katherine leaves Cat in the company of her ex-lover, Francis, with whom Cat begins a serious love affair.
Within months, the king has set aside his latest wife for Katherine. The future seems assured for the new queen and her maid-in-waiting, although Cat would feel more confident if Katherine hadn’t embarked on an affair with one of the king’s favoured attendants, Thomas Culpeper.
For a blissful year and a half, it seems that Katherine can have everything she wants. But then allegations are made about her girlhood love affairs. Desperately frightened, Katherine recounts a version of events which implicates Francis but which Cat knows to be a lie. With Francis imprisoned in the Tower, Cat alone knows the whole truth of Katherine Howard’s past.
Review: A tale of an easy to despise Katherine Howard told from the point of view of a catty friend.
I’m not a big fan of the term frenemy, but it perfectly describes Cat’s feelings toward Katherine. Cat is very quick to say how colorless Katherine is, how she is just a tiny girl, and how uneducated she is. Katherine is quick to impress everyone even though she doesn’t have a thought in her brain. The reader only gets an outside perspective of Katherine and I was not a big fan of her. She seemed quite frivolous and only concerned about her own pleasure.
It may not be historically accurate, but I would prefer a more balanced portrayal of Katherine. A Katherine that is both excited and scared to be queen, a Katherine that just wants love from someone her own age, a Katherine that is perhaps a bit naïve. I don’t know why Cat stayed friends with Katherine if she disliked her so much. Cat is not a good friend. She is only thinking of her boyfriend when she spills the beans about the queen and Thomas Culpepper. Cat tries to make herself feel better after the fact, but it doesn’t convince anyone. I also didn’t like the use of so much modern language. I know it would be hard to tell a story during this time period in the English they used, but I appreciate not having to see too many modern words in the story.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in the Tudors, especially the queens of Henry VIII.