The Heretic’s Wife

Written by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

Kate Gough and her brother maintain a London bookshop during the reign of Henry VIII. Their “inventory” contains contraband Lutheran bibles and religious tracts in the vernacular. When John Gough is imprisoned for his part as a distributor of these volumes, he recants his reformist principles. Kate is not so quick to recant and embarks for Europe, dressed as her brother.

John Frith, brilliant Oxford scholar, has been imprisoned without trial for his role in translating Latin religious books into English. He escapes Sir Thomas More’s wide-ranging power, and flees to exile in Antwerp. En route, he meets the person he believes to be John Gough. One thing leads to another; Kate is revealed as a woman, and she and Frith marry. But Frith always seems to love his work and God more than he loves his wife.

But there is hope – Anne Boleyn, for whose love Henry casts aside the papacy, is sympathetic to the reform movement. Will the time be right for John Frith and William Tyndale, with whom he is translating a Bible and other Lutheran documents, to avoid More’s long-arm and survive the stake?

This is a vibrant, edgy account of Tudor England with the focus not on Henry and Anne, but on the common people being tortured and killed for their beliefs by such as the “saintly” Thomas More, whom one easily comes to hate. Every character is sculpted with care. Kate herself is the product of a virtual postscript Vantrease uncovered in researching John Frith – all that is known is that Frith married. Vantrease’s talent is in creating such full-blown characters as Kate, and moving the story along so that a reader is intimately involved in and truly cares about the outcome. I was only unhappy with the too neat and a bit unrealistic ending.