I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle
on August 6th 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction
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.
‘One day, hundreds of years from now, people will tell stories about the court of King Henry and the romance of it all – the Eighth King Henry and his Six Wives. But will they tell of the terror that came with it, she wonders, or will it be made to seem a golden age?’
Queen’s Gambit opens with the eminent death of Katherine Parr’s second husband, John Neville, Lord Latimer. While still in mourning, she is requested by the King’s daughter Mary, a childhood friend, to visit her at court. Shortly after her arrival she meets and falls in love with Thomas Seymour, the man who will leave an indelible mark upon her. The idea of a life with Thomas is snubbed out when King Henry VIII offers her a marriage invitation where no is not an option.
The story is ultimately told from the POV of Katherine, however, we are also given glimpses from the POV of her lady’s maid and of her doctor Huicke. It portrayed how it was like to live in this time period as royalty and as a low-born. Unfortunately, the change in POV felt very jarring when you’re absorbed in the story of the Queen and I think I would have enjoyed it much more if it was solely Katherine’s story.
Towards the middle-part of the story the pace slowed down and it became infinitely less interesting to me mainly because it became less about the characters and more about the politics and strife going on in England at the time. Considering I know quite a bit about the history in England during the Tudor time period this was a bit redundant for me, albeit still somewhat interesting. I understand that this of course needs to be included some-how but I felt that the characters ultimately got placed on the back burner while the refresher course on ‘The History of England’ was taking place.
Queen’s Gambit managed to maintain historical accuracy to a degree without overdoing the embellishing in areas that are less known. It’s a well-told story of one of the lesser known queens, yet she’s still without a doubt one that has the greatest story to tell: the story of how she managed to survive.