By Royal Decree

Written by Kate Emerson
Review by Alana White

By Royal Decree, the third novel in Kate Emerson’s Secrets of the Tudor Court series (The Pleasure Palace, Between Two Queens) focuses on the behind-the-scenes 16th-century romance between young noblewoman Elizabeth “Bess” Brooke and William Parr, the brother of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Kathryn Parr. Bess is afraid of King Henry, who seems to have his lustful eye turned on her. Will, who loves Bess, is married and wants a divorce, but Henry is particularly dangerous on that point.

Emerson wields a sure pen when it comes to Tudor England and laces the story with just the right amount of period detail. Presenting the tempestuous and often scandalous court through the eyes of Bess Brooke, when Henry VIII is older and fat with a putrid leg sore, the author paints a confident, realistic picture of the king. Readers acquainted with this remarkable period in English history will welcome a cast of familiar players: Jane Grey, Tom Seymour, and Thomas Wyatt, to name but a few. All in all, this is a valuable addition to the current popular interest in all things Tudor England, moving as it does from the death of Henry VIII, through his heir, Edward VI (who never ruled), the short reign of Lady Jane Grey, Queen Mary, and then… Elizabeth.