My review of Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle


About the book:

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.

My review:

I have never been fond of the story behind the last of Henry VIII’s queens, but enjoyed this author’s presentation of her character quite a bit. The author’s writing style engaged me and I liked how the author used several viewpoints to give different perspectives. I really identified with Katherine Parr in this novel… more than I thought I would. Because of this, I am adding Ms. Fremantle to my list of favorite authors of Medieval fiction.

I especially liked the part of the book where the queen became caught up in the Protestant Reformation and was secretly reading the works of some which ultimately made them martyrs for their faith. I loved that she wrote a book in secret herself and felt her palpable fear when she was forced to hide things lest she be accused of heresy by men out to separate her from the king.

I loved how the queen even explores the idea of grace alone and faith alone and what that means compared to what the church taught prior to the Reformation. She was a woman of passion who was sometimes blinded by that same fervor, especially when it came to Thomas Seymour. What a sad tale that was. I felt sorry for her when she was chosen by King Henry to be his final wife. I felt her fear when she didn’t know if her husband would turn on her for anything she said or did. It stunk to be a woman in those days.

Anyway, I read this book quickly despite its length and found myself immersed in that time period. The author did a great job pulling me into their world and I commend her for that. A good novel is a great escape, and one that makes me think about my life and feel something where I care about the characters, is a great story. This was more balanced in its perspective than some that I’ve read. I’d highly recommend trying this new author for lovers of that time period.

Queen’s Gambit was published by Simon & Schuster and released in August 2013.

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