This is the seventh book written in Philippa Gregory's Tudor Court series, the other six having been completed by 2008. She had written about all of Henry VIII's six wives but the last one - Kateryn (or Catherine) Parr. That's who this book is about.
The previously twice-widowed Parr outlived Henry - but barely. Near the end of his life, some of his advisers were trying to oust her for her religious beliefs. Kateryn managed to stay one step ahead, and survived. As Kateryn was a very intelligent woman, I found I really liked this book.
The book begins just before Henry asks Kateryn to marry him, and ends with his death. She is in love with Thomas Seymour and, in Gregory's story, must hide that love from the king. Another source indicates that the king was suspicious and kept Seymour away from court. Gregory makes it clear in an afternote that she doesn't know how involved Kateryn and Thomas were while she was queen. It's highly likely it isn't clear in any of the sources in her six-page bibliography. The two did marry four months after Henry's death, but Kateryn died shortly after giving birth to their first child less than a year and a half later. I do think it was more realistic to portray Kateryn pining for Thomas but not actually having an affair, as another book about her did.
I also thought it was interesting that, in the book, Gregory had Parr sit for the family portrait that is in Hampton Palace today. The portrait is dated c. 1543-1547, which was during Kateryn's reign, but the queen in the portrait is Jane Seymour, the mother of Henry VIII's only legitimate son. While it's possible that Kateryn posed for the artist only to find on its revealing that Jane's face was used (which is what Gregory writes), it is more likely that someone else posed, or that the artist worked off another image of Jane. It makes for a good story though.
© Amanda Pape - 2016
[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]