The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ("Really Liked It") (truly, 3.5)
If you know the mnemonic rhyme about Henry VIII's wives, you are already familiar with the fate of Catherine Howard. A young girl of only 15, Catherine is thrust into her family's play for power and wealth by accepting a marriage to the king. By this time, Henry is a good deal older and his age is beginning to become quite apparent through his failing health. It is imperative that she maintain the king's favor and deliver an heir. Though Catherine's first few weeks at court are spent reveling in new luxury, she does indeed feels this expectation from her first days as Henry's wife, driving her to choices that ultimately seal her fate.
Having read The Lady Elizabeth, I did not enter this book with a favorable opinion of Catherine, but Libby does the girl justice. Above all, the novel posits that Catherine was a mere teen more likely caught up in her own family's politicking than being power-hungry herself.
Perhaps Libby's best writing, though, is in the final 40 pages, in which we begin to see Catherine's status as Henry's beloved wife take a sudden plummet. Catherine's own mental state begins to unravel, which is adequately portrayed in her moments of confusion and terror.
Recommend: Yes, especially for fans of historical fiction
Themes Discussed: Moral choices, Historicism, Betrayal
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