The Tudor Bride
The Tudor dynasty has recently enjoyed a renaissance in historical fiction. Most books focus on Henry VIII and his six wives, or his daughter Elizabeth I. With Joanna Hickson’s novel The Tudor Bride, the beginning of the dynasty is finally afforded the attention it deserves.
The novel opens where The Agincourt Bride leaves off. This previous novel centers on Catherine de Valois’s upbringing as a sheltered and somewhat unwanted princess of France. Though The Tudor Bride has many of the same characters as its predecessor, it can be read as a standalone book. Both novels are narrated by Catherine’s loyal nursemaid, Mette. Many plots suffer from the “through the eyes of an onlooker” method, but Mette is so sympathetic that the reader becomes invested in her story as much as Catherine’s. The early portions of the novel are devoted to Catherine’s removal to the English court and her struggle to find her footing as queen. She is naïve and often takes the advice of those not invested in her well-being, alienating Mette, who is more like a mother than a servant. This is heartbreaking to read, but fortunately Catherine is forced to grow up and become independent.
The meat of the novel is Catherine’s path following King Henry’s death, where she must make life-threatening sacrifices in order to obtain true happiness. History tells us that her later marriage to Owen Tudor spawned two healthy sons; the eldest would go on to father the future King Henry VII. Sadly, Catherine died young and did not live to see her grandson’s ascension. Her final scenes with Mette are heartrending and a testament to the author’s writing abilities. At 593 pages, the novel could easily stall out, but Hickson’s engaging prose keeps the reader hooked to the final pages. Recommended.