Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review: The Queen's Mistake: In the Court of Henry VIII by Diane Haeger


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
From the author of The Secret Bride, the tragic tale of the fifth wife of Henry VIII...

When the young and beautiful Catherine Howard becomes the fifth wife of the fifty-year-old King Henry VIII, she seems to be on top of the world. Yet her reign is destined to be brief and heartbreaking, as she is forced to do battle with enemies far more powerful and calculating than she could have ever anticipated in a court where one wrong move could mean her undoing. Wanting only love, Catherine is compelled to deny her heart's desire in favor of her family's ambition. But in so doing, she unwittingly gives those who sought to bring her down a most effective weapon-her own romantic past.

The Queen's Mistake is the tragic tale of one passionate and idealistic woman who struggles to negotiate the intrigue of the court and the yearnings of her heart.

My Review:

Catherine Howard, an impoverished child who grew up to be the doomed fifth wife of King Henry VIII.

We first meet Catherine at her family home, Horsham. She is wild, flirtatious and enjoys toying with mens affections. Henry Manox and Francis Dereham are the two men she is intimately involved with. It quickly becomes apparent that she has no emotions for them and that boredom is the only reason she has impure relationships with them. Her guardian/grandmother knows all the unclean things Catherine is involved in and believes that it is a good education for her future life at court. The Duke of Norfolk (her uncle) soon visits Horsham and decides it's time for Catherine to come to court and be a lady in waiting to the Queen.

When Catherine arrives at court she is overwhelmed. All of the Queens ladies ignore her and she is constantly compared to her late cousin and former Queen...Anne Boleyn. The only two who show any kindness is the current Queen and Lady Jane Rochford. In her first few weeks at court she continues to act as she did at Horsham and ends up having a quick affair with the first charming man she meets. A few days after that incident she becomes attracted to Thomas Culpeper and they begin a passionate love affair.

Unfortunately, Catherine soon discovers her uncles true meaning for bringing her to court. King Henry VIII will soon be free of his current wife/queen and Catherine is to be her replacement. King Henry is quickly besotted with Catherine and lavishes her with the most extravagant things. Catherine plays her part well and feigns innocence with the King, while at the same time continuing her love affair with Thomas.

Threats from her past, at Horsham, come to her in full force at court. There is no one she can truly trust and everyone has some selfish use for her. She tries to think a way to escape and live a happy life with Thomas, but she soon realizes where her inevitable and unwelcome destiny lies.

Catherine is now Queen and her physical love affair with Thomas ends, but she can not help what her heart still feels. She shows King Henry VIII all of the love and respect possible and ends up truly caring for him. Catherine believes herself to be safe from all of her past threats and soon, with the help of Lady Rochford, secretly meets Thomas. She remains faithful to the King but those who are still a threat to her view it as an opportunity to seal her fate. King Henry VIII soon learns of Catherine's transgressions and joins her fate with that of her cousin Anne Boleyn...


When I first decided to read this book, I was excited at the prospect of learning more about Catherine Howard, a queen I knew little about. Unfortunately after reading it I still feel as though she is a distant character. Catherine was very unlikable in this novel; it was impossible to see anything deeper then her childish and one dimensional character. Since everyone was so one dimensional, it unfortunately resulted in not really caring what happened to them. The characters might not have been in depth but the scenery was. The author's descriptions of clothing, banquets, gardens, etc. were absolutely wonderful. I was able to read the book quickly and never felt tired of it but at the same time I did not have a strong desire to find out what happened next. I do have to say the ending was really emotional, touching, and beautifully written. If only the rest of the book had been written in that manner, it would have been an excellent read.


A little extra:
After reading this book I can definitely say that my interest in Catherine Howard has been piqued. Below is the actual letter from Catherine to her lover Thomas while she was Queen.

~The surviving letter from Queen Catherine Howard to Master Thomas Culpeper~

"Master Culpeper,
I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company. It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send me one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.
Yours as long as life endures,
Katheryn.
One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it."


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