Kate Emerson 4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews
As this tale opens in 1509, Lady Anne Stafford is part of a prestigious family, a younger sister of the Duke of Buckingham, the only Duke in England. She is a relatively recent widow, and her brother has selected a suitable second husband, George Hastings, who is younger than she but pleasing in character. She is very attracted to the handsome Will Compton, but she knows he is too far beneath her for her brother to consider him as a suitor; so she steels herself to resist his advances.
She marries George and is content, but one fateful night, Will enters her apartments while George is not there. His intention is to bring her to King Henry VIII to be his mistress. She refuses, pleading her delicate condition, but then her brother bursts in, assumes the worst, and convinces George to send her to a nunnery. Once she is finally released, it takes her some time to find any joy with her husband. When she finally makes her return to court, Will is there, ready to lead her into temptation.
Kate Emerson's Secrets of the Tudor Court series is truly exquisite entertainment, and this latest tale shines brightest of the lot. The main characters' personalities are clearly drawn, and every one of their actions makes sense in the context of their characters. The details of life in the early sixteenth century, particularly court life, are vividly depicted, and while it is clear that Ms. Emerson did meticulous research, no extraneous information is included. Readers are provided with an extensive "Who's Who" section at the back of the book.
Heather Nordahl Files
In 1542, at the age of fifteen and a half, Bess Brooke caught the eye of the aging, obese Henry VIII, but he instead chooses Kathryn Parr to be his sixth queen. Bess shudders at the thought of that old man's hands on her, but one other man brings about shudders of a much more pleasant sort‑‑Will Parr, the new queen's brother. He is attracted to her as well, but there's a major barrier to their happiness, as Will is divorced. In accordance with the laws of the day, Will cannot remarry until his first wife dies, and she is alive and well.
This situation could be changed by royal decree, but the capricious Henry's temper and health are uncertain at best, and finding the time to safely make the request is challenging. Bess gets impatient; they marry illegally and in secret. This decision complicates their possibilities for happiness under the next three (four if one counts Jane Grey) monarchs to sit on the throne.
This expertly crafted tale moves beyond Henry VIII's reign, and vividly illuminates the machinations and pitfalls of court life. Kate Emerson's characters, who are mostly real people as detailed in the "Who's Who" section, open a fascinating window on the frustrations and barriers lovers endured while faced with the whims of monarchs and religious strife.
Heather Nordahl Files