Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Behind the Facade

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Summary: Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

Review: An incredible portrayal of Katherine Parr.

I traditionally think of Katherine Parr as a kind, smart, and religious woman who proves to be a comfort to me in their old age. She’s not docile per say, but lacks a fiery spirit. Queen’s Gambit brings up the idea that Katherine Parr as we know her was just an act. She was a kind, smart, and religious woman, but had a strong, sometimes impetuous, personality and was a master dissembler. I have wondered as have other people (at least they do in reviews) why Katherine fell for Thomas Seymour when she was such a reasonable woman. Their relationship makes sense in this book since Katherine is much more similar to Thomas in this book than in other books.

The character of King Henry VIII is a complex one. Sometimes I felt pity for him and there were other times that I came close to hating him (one incident stands out in my mind). No woman should have had to marry him, but it at least made more sense for Katherine to marry him than Catherine Howard who was too young. A few important events were written differently than what is traditionally accepted or believed. This book again emphasizes how Katherine Parr got the short end of the stick.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction about the Tudors.

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