1539, England. When William Montague’s elder brother is accidentally drowned, his life changes. His distraught father leaves, and his aunt, the cold, ambitious Lady Carew, arrives, determined to use William to further her husband’s political ambitions.
Her husband finds him a position at court, as page to Henry VIII’s infant son, Prince Edward. At first William is delighted, but these are dangerous times. The king’s hot temper is notorious, and if he knew that William came from a Catholic background, he’d imprison him as a traitor – if not worse. And then there’s Lord Percy Howard, who resents William’s holding a position he feels should be his. Just how far will he go to discredit William? In the back-stabbing atmosphere of the court, whom can William trust?
This galloped along very pleasantly, but I confess I found the storyline difficult to credit. Would the Carews really risk their own staunchly Protestant position by promoting William falsely as ‘William Carew’ and hide his Catholic background? William’s father’s absence from much of the story struck me as more of a plot device that being psychologically credible. And William’s character didn’t entirely convince me either. He seemed to lurch from being pleasant to his social inferiors at home to being snobbish once at court. Given that he thoroughly disliked his aunt, it seems unlikely that he’d swallow her strictures on despising those beneath him.
With regard to forms of address, Tudor monarchs were addressed as ‘Your Grace’, not ‘Your Majesty’, which came in with the Stuarts.
Having said all this, Berlie Doherty conveys the perils of being a favourite at Henry VIII’s court very well. William must learn fast how best to please the king if he wants to keep his head. Aimed at boys of 9 plus, but girls should enjoy it, too.