Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Queen's Governess

Author: Karen Harper
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 349
First Published: January 2010
First Line: "The Tower of London - May 19, 1536: I could not fathom they were going to kill the queen."

Synopsis: This story is told through the eyes of Katherine "Kat" Ashley, Elizabeth I's royal governess. Katherine Ashley grew up as the daughter of a poor squire in Devon. Suddenly her life takes a huge turn when she is noticed by Thomas Cromwell for her whit and intelligence. At this point in time Cromwell's star is rising in King Henry VIII's court and he requests that Kat come to London and become his spy to help elevate his status even more. Shortly after arriving at court she begins to wait on Queen Anne Boleyn. During this stressful time in court, Kat and the Queen become very close. Right before Anne's execution, Kat agrees to become governess to Anne and Henry's daughter, Princess Elizabeth.

Kat quickly becomes a surrogate mother to Elizabeth and loves the girl as if she were her own. Throughout the tumultuous years of Elizabeth's childhood and teen years they live through nasty court gossip, claims of illegitimacy, assassination attempts and even lengthy imprisonment.

When Elizabeth is finally crowned Queen, Kat is there to offer advice to the young monarch and try to keep her from falling prey to those who wish her harm and even from some poor choices that Elizabeth may make on her own behalf.

My Thoughts: I just love this era in time. There's so much drama, intrigue, scandal and nasty backstabbing. It's like watching Big Brother, Survivor and Dynasty all rolled into one! Never a dull moment with those Tudor's, I tell ya!

I loved that this well-known story, set in 16th century England, is told through the eyes of a servant (Kat Ashley is not a fictional character devised for this book but was actually a part of the actual Tudor history). I have always been a big fan of the HBO series "The Tudors" so I found that as I was reading this book I could easily imagine the characters. With so many wives and courtiers having a face to put to a name helped me keep track of who was who. Although I have to admit that actor Jonathan Rhys Meyer is a whole lot hotter than the real King Henry VIII is described or looked in his portraits! Or is it just me??).
But that is neither here nor there. My point is that even though I knew the storyline and how the book would end there was lots of suspense and action which still kept me riveted.

Like many people, I've read several books by Phillippa Gregory (author of "The Other Boleyn Girl"). While I did enjoy her books I found them a much heavier read than Harper's book. Harper was able to get all of the information and facts into the storyline without having the storyline become overwrought with detail to the detriment of the story. Hard to do (I assume) with a book that details such a rich and well-known history!

I love Harper's writing style and I'm thrilled that I just happened to pick up this book on a whim at the library. I thought that the title sounded interesting. The book force was strong with me that day!

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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