Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this absorbing Tudor historical, Gregory (The White Queen) traces the relationship between Henry VIII and Kateryn Parr, his sixth wife, from the time of the king's marriage proposal in 1543 until his death four years later. Kateryn is a beauty: learned, kind, twice-widowed yet young enough to bear the sons crucial to securing the succession; she is also passionately in love with another. Her dutiful tolerance of Henry's bad breath, corpulence, ulcerous leg, and fumblings in bed make pitiable the personal cost of his proposal. Gregory balances Kateryn's sensual responses to royal life-the smell of her predecessor's furs, the king's sweat-drenched clothing-with the religious controversy that dominated the 1540s. Initially naive to court factions, Parr is guided by her sister and develops enormous satisfaction from scholarly examination of the Bible. Expressing her own Reformist views when pro-Catholic forces are ascendant, Kateryn risks the king's extreme displeasure and is "tamed" to save her life; the process bleaches the marriage of its satisfactions. Tracing Kateryn's path to intellectual independence requires more religious discussion than some readers will prefer, but Gregory's portrait of the complex, aging king and his sensual, scholarly bride will satisfy Tudor enthusiasts. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
By pondering the mistakes of her predecessors, Kateryn Parr, sixth wife of King Henry VIII, manages to keep her head. Gregory, who has written extensively about the Tudors and other British dynasties, now turns her attention to the end of Henry's reign. The king, though grotesquely obese and suffering from gout and a suppurating leg wound, still fancies himself the warrior, huntsman, and seducer he was in his youth. Kateryn Parr, a widow at 31, is commanded shortly after her husband's death to come to court, where Henry immediately makes his matrimonial intentions clear. Although she loves Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, who died giving birth to Henry's heir, Prince Edward, Kateryn knows she has no choice but to marry Henry. As consort, Kateryn strives to avoid, by word or deed, any indication she is other than Henry's loving helpmeet. Although well-aware that none of his other wives had any control over his mercurial whimsnot even best-beloved Jane, who died alone while Henry was off huntingKateryn is not planning on providing any ammunition to those who would see her replaced, like the love letter that led to Katherine Howard's execution or the arrogance that made Anne Boleyn a target. She concentrates on studying and promoting her pet projects, advocating for Scriptures in English and supporting the Protestant Reformation, while appearing never to overtly disagree with the growing faction hoping to restore papism. With a male heir in place, both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth are relegitimized thanks to Parr. However, she is warned, by Thomas and others, that if Henry wants her gone, no amount of discretion can save her life. Gregory puts readers at the scene with visceral details like the annoying sounds Henry makes while gorging himself and the smell of his never-healing leg that seeps into Kateryn's dreams. Although Kateryn's studiousness makes for some dull reading, the pace picks up as her intellect becomes her greatest liability. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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