The Unfaithful Queen

Written by Carolly Erickson
Review by Arleigh Johnson

Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, tells her story in this whimsical reimagining, beginning with her early adolescence in the home of her grandmother, the illustrious Howard family’s matriarch. A flirtation with her music teacher and a secret betrothal to another man could easily bar her from ever becoming the king’s wife. But with an ambitious family and a sentimental attachment on the king’s part, Catherine finds she has no choice but to assent and hope that her past is not discovered and the marriage is of short duration.

Erickson’s Catherine is not described as a beauty, but rather on the short side with unremarkable features. The fact that she is never without admirers is owed to her pleasant personality and charming wit. The king’s fascination, however, is more deeply rooted and one of the nontraditional twists of the story. The unconventionally ill-mannered characterization of Anne of Cleves is another brow-raising topic, as is that of several other personas displayed in likewise fashion.

Of course, even novice Tudor enthusiasts know the outcome of this story. The interesting factor lies in the creative descriptions, the easy flow of the story and the light prose. As stated in the Author’s Note, this is a historical entertainment with a fresh interpretation — and admittedly it will turn some readers off in regards to characters and events that are depicted as no other author has represented them. However, readers who can appreciate a good story without worrying over facts will find a lively and diverting tale, and even develop a fondness for Catherine, a character who has often been portrayed as ignorant, frivolous and malleable.