Why would a woman marry a serial killer?
Because she cannot refuse…
Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him.
Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent.
But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy – the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…
I adore Kateryn Parr and I was really glad to see historical fiction to do with her and this was a really interesting book, focusing on herself as a woman in dangerous times, what it was like being in the court of Henry VIII, and how she managed to survive coming under fire for her religious views, something which would killed anyone else.
I’m not an expert on this historical period but I do remember key parts. From what I heard about Thomas Seymour, I do not particularly like him and I was glad he wasn’t in the book that much, and while I feel this book really tried to slam it home how repellant Henry VIII was, I am glad his changeable nature was highlighted here. The focus on Nan and how she had served all the Queens in Henry VIII’s court, including her sister now (I thought the ladies-in-waiting would change more frequently than that), and the warning signs she picked up on was something I liked to see included and I wish we could have a book on someone like that, someone out of the political view and so properly able to observe what was going on. I think Gregory did well in showcasing how confusing it could be in the court of Henry VIII because you weren’t sure what he was supporting at what point and you didn’t know what was going on in his head and how he expected things to go his way and nothing was ever his fault when they didn’t. I think for someone who picked and chose his queens like his clothes and went back and forth on Protestant and Catholic values so much it made your head dizzy, this book did well to showcase his nature. The plot was interesting and fast-paced and even though I knew she wasn’t arrested at the end or killed, I still read on because I wanted to see how she managed to do some expert manoeuvring to get out of it.
Things I disliked about the Henry VIII portrayal was how much she focused on his obesity and how unattractive he was. I mean, I’m sure with oozing leg sores he wasn’t what Kateryn would have chosen in a husband, but his weight didn’t need to be brought up every other page like it was. The fact that he had five dead wives, two sent to their deaths at his hand, was enough to make Kateryn disgusted and fearful of him and I was glad to see the book look at that as well. The humiliation scene between Henry and Kateryn was not necessary, made me feel a little ill and it would have been fine if it had been removed from the book altogether.
Kateryn herself I liked. The only part I didn’t care for was when she was thinking about Seymour, but that was more personal preference than anything else and knowledge about what was in the future for her and Seymour, but thankfully it didn’t come up too much. She seemed smart and put together and even when she reacted with emotion at times, you could completely understand why. I wish she would have let go of the fantasy that the King wouldn’t kill her because he loved her and she hadn’t done anything wrong (didn’t stop him before) a little sooner but that was more general annoyance. Her relationships with everyone were complicated and I especially liked what she thought of the three royal children, it’s a shame we didn’t see it continue after Henry’s death.
A thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction book, four stars!