'England: firelight and fireblush; wine-dark, winking gemstones, and a frost of pearls. Wool as soft as silk, in leaf-green and moss; satins glossy like a midsummer night or opalescent like winter sunrise.…Little did we know it but that night we were already ghosts in our own lives.…’
When 12-year-old Katherine Howard comes to live in the Duchess of Norfolk's household, poor relation Cat Tilney is deeply suspicious of her. The two girls couldn't be more different: Cat, watchful and ambitious; Katherine, interested only in clothes and boys. Their companions are in thrall to Katherine, but it's Cat in whom Katherine confides and, despite herself, Cat is drawn to her. Summoned to court at 17, Katherine leaves Cat in the company of her ex-lover, Francis, and the two begin their own, much more serious love affair.
Within months, the king has set aside his Dutch wife Anne for Katherine. The future seems assured for the new queen and her maid-in-waiting, although Cat would feel more confident if Katherine hadn't embarked on an affair with one of the king's favoured attendants, Thomas Culpeper.
However, for a blissful year and a half, it seems that Katherine can have everything she wants. But then allegations are made about her girlhood love affairs. Desperately frightened, Katherine recounts a version of events that implicates Francis but which Cat knows to be a lie. With Francis in the Tower, Cat alone knows the whole truth of Queen Katherine Howard - but if she tells, Katherine will die.
©2010 HarperCollins Publishers (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
How does an author go wrong with a subject like Katherine Howard? Yet all the drama of her story happens offstage - we are not there when King Henry first sees her, nor when he takes her to bed, marries her or discovers she is unfaithful. And here's the craziest part - the book ends BEFORE SHE IS EXECUTED. That little tidbit is tossed off in a sentence in an afterword. But there sure was a lot of on the page (non)drama about kissing - "Would he kiss me? What would it feel like? Would I like it?" That kind of stuff left me wondering if this wasn't a YA novel masquerading as historical fiction?
I love this book & couldn't put it down. Previously I hadn't been interested enough in Katherine Howard to want to read a book about her and kept putting off reading this book. However, I can say that I was wrong. This is a well told story that is interesting all the way through. It really made me want to read more from this author and I think that is the sign of a great book. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical novels and even someone who likes the more tame romance novels.
I've read enough about Henry VIII to know that one of the wives who ended up dead at his behest was Katherine Howard, but I didnt remember knowing why, so I was struck by the possibility of reading what it was to which she had confessed. Call me crazy, but for some reason I somehow expected to have that expectation gratified. But no. All I remember hearing was that another character in the story reads a piece of paper on which Howard's version of events had been written and that the person who reads it responded (at least to herself) that what was written there was simply not true. However, the contents of the confession (if that's what the paper contained) were not revealed so far as I can remember, having just finished the book. Maybe if I read the ending a second time . . .
Overall, it's a relatively lightweight story, relatively engagingly told, and very nicely narrated by Jane McDowell.
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