Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.
Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.
Simon & Schuster | August 6, 2013 | 432 pages
Fans of Tudor historical fiction will find much to like in Queen's Gambit, Elizabeth Fremantle's debut novel. In a genre crowded with tales of Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon, Fremantle's novel, which is about Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife, is a welcome addition.
Often overshadowed by her more famous predecessors, Katherine Parr was a remarkable woman, a fact that comes across clearly throughout the course of this novel. Katherine's intelligence and political acumen served to ensure her survival in a court where one false move could result in death. Fremantle effectively captures Henry VIII's tempestuous nature, his erratic and ever-changing moods, and his constant need for admiration and obedience. The fear Henry inspired in those around him radiates off the pages as Katherine does her best to keep her husband happy while also staying true to her beliefs. As Katherine was a committed reformer, one of my favourite aspects of this novel was the incorporation into the narrative of aspects of the English Reformation, which continued to gain momentum during the latter part of Henry VIII's reign even though many earlier reforms were overturned. I also enjoyed how Fremantle portrayed Katherine's relationship with Henry's children.
One of the greatest strength's of Queen's Gambit is the historical detail. This detail is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the narrative and leaves the reader with a strong sense of both time and place. Another of this novel's strengths are the characters. While I've read other works of historical fiction that feature Katherine Parr (although never anything in which she is the main character), I've always been rather ambivalent towards her. Queen's Gambit has changed that, and I've come to appreciate just how extraordinary she was. The supporting characters in this novel are also well-drawn. I particularly liked Dot, Katherine's loyal maid, and Dr. Huicke, Katherine's physician. I'm very much looking forward to reading more from Elizabeth Fremantle.
Queen's Gambit is highly recommended to fans of Tudor-era historical fiction.
Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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About the Author
Elizabeth Fremantle holds a first class degree in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College London. She has contributed as a fashion editor to various publications including Vogue, Elle and The Sunday Times. QUEEN'S GAMBIT is her debut novel and is the first in a Tudor trilogy. The second novel, SISTERS OF TREASON, will be released in 2014. She lives in London.
For more about Elizabeth and her future projects see www.elizabethfremantle.com.
You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
As part of the Queen's Gambit Virtual Book Tour, I'm pleased to host a giveaway for two copies of the novel. Giveaway details are as follows:
- The giveaway is open to US residents only;
- To enter simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- The giveaway will run until midnight (EST) 25 August 2013;
- The two winners will be selected using random.org.