I am fascinated by Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth’s eras in history, and I enjoy historical fiction, but I am not a big fan of Phillipa Gregory’s works from this time period. I picked these up in the hopes that these would be better written and better edited.
The first book tells the tale of Queen Katherine, who has the distinction not only to have avoided the chopping block, but actually survived Henry’s reign. Katherine is pursued by Henry shortly after the death of her second husband. She falls in lust with Thomas Seymour, and Henry sends him away so he can have Katherine for himself. While at court when she is Queen, Katherine accomplishes a great deal. She acts as Regent while Henry is off fighting the French; she helps encourage Henry to restore Mary and Elizabeth to succession of the throne; and she published her own book. When Henry dies, he does not give Katherine any power at court, despite having been Regent. The book portrays her as happy about this, as she is tired of all of the drama and intrigue at court. I wonder if that was really true.
Six months after Henry dies, Katherine marries Thomas Seymour. I had forgotten that Thomas is the central figure in the scandal with Elizabeth when she was a young woman. This book portrays that Thomas and Elizabeth are caught in bed together when Katherine is pregnant. Katherine sends Elizabeth from her home, and unfortunately dies in childbirth. I enjoyed this book a great deal, the settings are beautifully realized, the book moves on at a quick pace, and there is enough realism in the story to make it a good work of historical fiction. I especially enjoyed the character of Dorothy and her fictional love story with the clerk William. In an overall dark story it was nice to have a current of light.