The Rose Without a Thorn

Written by Jean Plaidy
Review by Adelaida Lower

Katherine Howard is beautiful but clueless. Her grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk, who worships the memory of Katherine’s clever cousin Anne Boleyn, thinks she’s doing her a favor by extracting Katherine from her father’s impoverished household and bringing her into her own. But instead of grooming her for her new life, the duchess leaves her granddaughter on her own. The result is a disaster. Katherine has no brains and no inclination for an education. She is fond of grand balls, pretty clothes, and handsome young men. Then Katherine becomes lady-in-waiting of Anne of Cleves, the king’s new and detested wife. There are signs of impending doom, but Katherine does not heed them. She meets Henry VIII and is fascinated by his clothes and jewels. The monarch simply can’t resist her giggles. So the question is not if but when Katherine’s indiscretions will catch up with her.

Jean Plaidy is one of the pen names of the late Eleanor Hibbert, a prolific writer who in the course of her career wrote over two hundred novels and sold millions of copies. Her writing is simple and economical, and her narrative has focus and motion. Only once or twice does she get sloppy, as when she uses the same phrase to describe both Katherine and her grandmother. For the most part, however, reading this novel is like riding a reliable, well-tuned car: you know she’s going to get you to your destination without detours, mechanical failures, or excitement.