Publication Date: August 6, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review
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.
Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle is a wonderful historical fiction novel about Katherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII's wives. I am embarrassed to admit that I really didn't know much about Katherine except that she was the last of his wives and played nursemaid to the then, old, ailing king with his rapid and often violent mood swings.
Queen's Gambit is told through Katherine's and her maid, Dot Fownton's point of view. I really enjoyed the switching of the narrator's voice throughout the book. It was refreshing to get the side of things that isn't often shown in novels. Dot is a hardworking and loyal woman who becomes more of a friend to Katherine rather than just being her maid. Through Dot's narrative the reader is shown the rougher, work-a-day world of the period as well as all the back-breaking effort it took to keep the royal households running so smoothly. Dot goes to great lengths to help Katherine and despite the hardships she encounters, she continues to be strong and faithful.
I was very interested to see how Katherine was portrayed in Queen's Gambit and I was not disappointed. Even though she was older than his other wives, the book portrayed Katherine as still being beautiful, but much more sensible than the previous wives and very intelligent - not just intellectually but also socially - she fully understood how things worked and who were the players behind the scenes and the implications for every action and word.
I really appreciated the fact that the author made clear just what a woman's position was at court and within families. Katherine had little say in who she married and she knew her duty as a woman of certain standing. It also demonstrated the very real peril she was in at times due to Henry's mood swings and the various players trying to influence him against her specifically and against religious reformers in general. I thought Elizabeth Fremantle did a wonderful job of showing the reader just what a turbulent time it was and how all of this affected the entire court, and also Henry's children and Katherine.
Despite the dangers, Katherine believed in religious reform and the controversies, the strain of Mary and Elizabeth's religious differences, and the king's renewed religious conservatism are examined and play an important part in the story. Fortunately, Katherine is too smart to fall into any obvious entrapment and is able to manage the king and his lackeys.
Even though through her wits and strength, Katherine survives King Henry VIII, she does not live the happily-ever-after life that she deserved. She married Thomas Seymour, the one love of her life, a bit too hastily and caused a scandal. Seymour soon proved that he was not quite the man she had hoped he was; and then she died soon after giving birth to her only child. Such a tragic story.
Even though most of us know that basics of the story, Queen's Gambit was a great study in the details of Katherine Parr and life at King Henry VIII's court in the later years. I was thoroughly entertained, educated and completely intrigued by the picture of life during the final years of Henry's reign. I really loved this book. This is definitely a book I will recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and especially Tudor history and strong, intelligent women.
About the AuthorElizabeth 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, please visit her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.
Virtual Book Tour ScheduleMonday, August 12
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
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Review at The Library of Alexandra
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Review at From Left to Write
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Review & Interview at A Chick Who Reads
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Review at The Happy Booker
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Interview at The Happy Booker
Monday, August 26
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
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Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
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Review at Medieval Bookworm
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Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
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Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Book Blog
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Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
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Review at Booktalk & More
Interview at The Tudor Book Blog
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Review at A Book Geek
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Review at History Undressed
Review at Impressions in Ink
Review & Giveaway at Drey’s Library
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Review at She Is Too Fond of Books
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Review at A Bookish Libraria
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Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
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Review at WTF Are You Reading?
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Review & Giveaway at Books in the Burbs
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