Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

This is a tale of two Katherines—Katherine Howard and Catherine Tilney. The first is a frivolous flirt who cares for nothing but clothes and boys. The second is a cautious and ambitious girl determined to do as her mother said and make a good life for herself.

At twelve, both are sent to board with the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk in the Tudor equivalent of an exclusive finishing school. There Kate dallies with the music master, Henry Manox, then takes as her lover a young gentleman named Francis Dereham.

When Kate is sent to court at seventeen to serve the new queen, Anne of Cleves, Francis turns to Cat and the two soon become devoted lovers and plan to wed. Then beautiful Kate, who has now become Henry VIII’s fifth queen, following in the footsteps of her infamous cousin Anne Boleyn, beckons from the glittering court over which she now presides and it is impossible to say “nay.” Cat becomes one of her ladies, and Francis is appointed her private secretary. And when rumors begin to surface about the Queen’s loose-living past, the fingers point not to her current lover, courtier Thomas Culpepper, but to an old love from the past—Francis Dereham and Cat is desperate to save the man she loves as Kate, in terror for her life and crown, lies shamelessly and points the finger of blame anywhere but at herself.

This is the third Tudor novel I have read by this author. Her modernization of language doesn’t seem so drastic in this one, or maybe, after the other two, I’m just used to it and know what to expect. It was an interesting spin on the Katherine Howard story, though despite what the title may suggest, it is never told in the first person from Kate’s own viewpoint, and Kate herself, despite so many characters in the story being drawn to her, like fascinated moths to a flame, just isn’t very likeable in my opinion. She’s one of those characters from history who, if the stories are true, must have had a lot of charisma, but it just doesn’t translate to the printed page here.

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