1543. With her second husband Lord Latymer scarcely cold in his grave, Katherine Parr is summoned back to court by the Lady Mary, Henry VIII’s elder daughter. There Katherine’s eye is caught by the handsome rogue Thomas Seymour. But the King has other plans for her…
Written from the points of view of Katherine, her physician, Robert Huicke, and one of her attendants, Dot Fownten (Dorothy Fountain), this debut novel illustrates the treacherous path Katherine must negotiate in a world where the king is increasingly volatile and the conflicts between the new and old religions are still unresolved. Fremantle does a good job of creating an atmosphere of fear, where even a word or a look can lead to imprisonment or execution.
I admit Fremantle’s imaginative interpretations of the gaps in historical record sent me scurrying back to Linda Porter’s biography of Katherine (Katherine the Queen) to check what the documented facts actually are. My interpretations don’t always tally with Fremantle’s, but hers work and inject interest in what might otherwise have seemed too familiar a tale.
I only have a few minor gripes. A few favourite words are overused: there is hardly a single conversation in which one character doesn’t ‘spit’ words at another. The somewhat confused and confusing references to Tudor dancing also suggest the writer has relied too much on (not wholly authentic) Hollywood movies.
On the whole, however, this is a promising debut. I only hope that by comparing this book to those of Hilary Mantel, Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory, the publicity department isn’t setting the author up for a fall.