Roses in the Tempest

Written by Jeri Westerson
Review by Steve Donoghue

Jeri Westerson, author of the popular and well-received “Crispin Guest” murder mystery series, bases her latest novel on story of real-life Tudor era couple Isabella Launder and Thomas Giffard; she invests the bare records of their lives with intense drama and splits her narrative between the two characters. Isabella, feeling her affections toward Thomas to be hopeless, enters a nunnery, while Thomas stays at the court of Henry VIII.

It is a masterful storytelling stroke, since it allows Westerson to give readers first-hand narration of the whole seismic disruption that King Henry’s break with Rome and seizure of England’s clerical lands and properties; through Thomas we get the political side of the revolution, and from Isabella we get the immediate effect on the religious orders themselves.

The Thomas segments are naturally more exciting, more the stuff of typical Tudor fiction, with hunting scenes, court turmoil, and the rise of Thomas Cromwell. But it is a tribute to Westerson’s narrative skill that Isabella’s sections are every bit as interesting, exploring in generally quieter ways Henry’s reformation changed the lives of all his subjects.

It is a wonderful, utterly involving performance – very strongly recommended.