I’ve read my fair share of Tudor England fiction. Some were about all the wives, some focused on a particular one – most popularly Anne Boleyn. The King’s Rose is the first, that I can remember, that focused on Henry’s fifth wife Catherine Howard. Alisa Libby has done a masterful job of bringing Catherine’s story to the page. This novel was written for young adult audiences but I think it perfect for adult audiences as well. I am sure many fans of historical fiction would find this an engrossing, hard to put down, read.
Catherine Howard is fifteen, beautiful, and of noble blood. And she has caught the eye of a most dangerous suitor…Henry VIII, the king of England.
The court of King Henry is a complex network of lies, deceit, and danger and Catherine, once a carefree, romantic girl finds herself on a dangerous crash course on how to play the game and to becoming a woman. Even with all the jewels ,the power, and the love of the king of England, Catherine finds herself on shaky ground. She is asked to keep secrets, secrets that could be her undoing;
The king is in love with me. But who am I? Who is this girl that the Howards created out of their words, to whom the king has given his love? I am King Henry’s sweet wife–Catherine Howard, no more. I wonder if God can see me now, see the treason in my heart. I squeeze my eyes shut, pushing these thoughts from my mind. I am a player upon a stage, even when the stage is a bed, even in an intimate moment such as this, with no costume or mask to cover my nakedness, I must play my part well, especially in an intimate moment such as this. I must become my role, and nothing else. (56)
And the most dangerous secret of all is the kiss, and the possible betrothal, she shared with her cousin, Thomas Culpepper – the man who holds her heart.
My life will be more than I ever could have imagined–but perhaps it will also be a little bit less. All of this must be put aside now, the words and dreams that led to his perfect kiss, near midnight in the dark garden at Westminster, and all the happiness that kiss seemed sure to promise. This was a different Catherine who received these letters, who responded to that kiss–since then I have been transformed by the king’s eyes, by the royal jewels around my neck and a cloth-of-gold gown…but who is the real Catherine: the shadow or the light? The smoke or the flame? (44)
Poor Catherine. She was only fifteen. She had her own dreams, her own desires, and her family used her for money, position, and power. She was naive. She only wanted to make everyone happy. She fancied herself in love with her cousin – and could have been happy if not for the King and her family. And she wanted to make herself happy. After everything she gave up, is that too much to ask? Unfortunately, when you’re married to King Henry VIII, yes, it probably is. Libby’s writing is pitch perfect here. This is a lovely young adult novel – it’s quick and engaging, and it’s easy to find oneself caring about Catherine. Libby does a wonderful job giving Catherine a voice, very believable and true. I definitely recommend this for both teens and adults, or anyone who would be interested to learn Catherine’s perspective.
Author: Alisa M. Libby
Category: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Published by: Dutton
Format: Hardcover, 297 Pages
On Sale: April 1, 2009
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