Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
A fresh and intriguing historical novel told in the voice of Queen Elizabeth I's governess. Katherine Ashley, the daughter of a poor country squire, happily secures an education and a place for herself in a noble household. But when Thomas Cromwell, a henchman for King Henry VIII, brings her to the royal court as a spy, Kat enters into a thrilling new world of the Tudor monarchs. Freed from a life of espionage by Cromwell's downfall, Kat eventually befriends Anne Boleyn. As a dying favor to the doomed queen, Kat becomes governess and surrogate-mother to the young Elizabeth Tudor. Together they suffer bitter exile, assassination attempts, and imprisonment, barely escaping with their lives. But they do, and when Elizabeth is crowned, Kat continues to serve her, faithfully guarding all the queen's secrets (including Elizabeth's affair with the dashing Robert Dudley) . . . and ultimately emerging as the lifelong confidante and true mother-figure to Queen Elizabeth. 

My Review:

Kat Ashley is a woman who is very familiar with loss and hardship. As a little girl she lost her mother to a terrible accident and was soon forced to work as a servant to her stepmother, whom she suspected had a hand in her mothers demise. After many years of dreary living, she met by chance Thomas Cromwell, who saw in her a potential for serving him as a spy. Kat knew that Cromwell was her only chance to escape her miserable existence in the country and she eagerly accepted his terms. Little did she know what a peaceful and safe life she was leaving behind....

Kat's arrival in London was everything she could have hoped for. Sent to be a lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn, she was instructed to be a messenger between Anne and Cromwell. She found this task to be simple enough and spent much of her free time dreaming of the dashing Thomas Seymour, whom she met on her journey to court. Unfortunately, her dreams of Thomas were destroyed by an ill event that occurred the night of Anne's coronation banquet. After that horrible night, Kat's happy world at court began to crumble rapidly. She began to disagree with the power hungry Cromwell and tried to rebel, only to find that she was completely at Cromwell's mercy. Kat being surrounded by chaos at court soon finds herself to be the governess of the Princess Elizabeth. She is well aware and prepared for the tough journey that lies before them. Even through the threat of prison, torture, exile and the hope of new love, Kat's bond with Elizabeth never weakens and she keeps her vow to protect her at any cost...

This novel is extremely detailed, well researched and historically accurate. At times the extensive detail began to read like a history book, but those moments were brief and soon forgotten when the compelling story of Kat Ashley picked up. The description of scenery was splendid; I could see the castles and almost smell the dust in the secret passageways. Many of the characters were three dimensional and the plot was well thought out. My main complaint with this book is how every once in a while it would switch between the past and future within the same paragraph. This was mostly found in the first half of the book when we were being told of how Kat came to be Elizabeth's governess.While this led to some mild confusion, it in no way made the book unreadable or unlikable. This book would be perfect for someone wanting to learn more about Elizabeth I by means of an enjoyable reading experience.


  1. Sounds excellent, but yes those things would haev confused me too

  2. I like the sound of this one too. A new perspective is always welcome and I'm surprised no one has focused on Kat Ashley before. I like history books so that wouldn't bother me.
    Nice review. :-)

  3. Glad this one is recommended -- I like Karen Harper's writing (Mistress Shakespeare). Thank you for this review. ;)

  4. I just got this one in the mail last week. I love Elizabeth I books and was excited when I heard this one focusing on Kat Ashley was coming out. Great review! Can't wait to read it myself :)

  5. I haven't read any Harper yet - but I have The Last Boleyn and Mistress Shakespeare. This book sounds very interesting - though I think I would too be frustrated with the switch between past and future. Thanks for the review.

  6. Hi! Found you on the Friday Follow.

    I'm quite partial to the occasional piece of historical fiction myself!

  7. I'm really excited about reading this one! I've always thought it a shame that there has been so little written about Kat Ashley - she seems so perfectly placed for a historical fiction author!

    Thanks for the review. :)