The Secret Keeper

Written by Sandra Byrd
Review by Tamela McCann

A connection to the Seymour family finds Juliana St. John in the household of Kateryn Parr, Lady Latimer. Juliana, as the daughter of one of Queen Jane Seymour’s ladies, expects to spend some time serving in a highborn lady’s household and later marry with the dowry left by her wealthy merchant father. Though she received little affection at home from her own mother, she quickly becomes attached to “Kate” and offers her complete love and loyalty to her twice-married but childless benefactress.

After Kate makes her third marriage to the King of England, the once-forward- thinking household becomes embroiled in religious strife, hiding dangerous books and secretly helping reformers. The religious debate between the two sects is brought to the forefront, with the queen bent on turning the king’s mind on religious matters. Tidbits of Kateryn Parr’s actual writing are strewn throughout, and all known accounts of her as queen are covered, though perhaps not in great detail — but enough to leave the story adequately abridged. Thomas Seymour, for once, is not depicted as a total beast — but as Elizabeth aptly states: “A man of great wit, and little judgment.”

Juliana’s character as the main protagonist is both surprisingly fresh and perfectly presented. There is much more to her than a lady’s maid, and finding out her secrets as the story unfolds is a great pleasure. Unlike many novels of this kind — which portray a fictional character in the lead — this one works very well. A female’s place in society is expanded upon, but not so much as to become monotonous and spoil the historical theme.