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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2010

Pages: 353

Rating: 2/5 Crowns

Synopsis (from Amazon): Pretty, flirtatious, and ambitious. Nan Bassett hopes that an appointment at the court of King Henry VIII will bring her a grand marriage. But soon after she becomes a maid of honor to Queen Jane, the queen dies in childbirth. As the court plunges into mourning, Nan sets her sights on the greatest match in the land...for the king has noticed her. After all, it wouldn't be the first time King Henry has chosen to wed a maid of honor. And in newly Protestant England, where plots to restore the old religion abound, Nan may be the only one who can reassure a suspicious king of her family's loyalty. But the favor of a king can be dangerous and chancy, not just for Nan, but for her family as well...and passionate Nan is guarding a secret, one that could put her future -- and her life -- in grave jeopardy should anyone discover the truth.

Based on the life of the real Anne Bassett and her family, and drawing extensively from letters and diaries of the time, Between Two Queens is an enthralling picture of the dangers and delights of England's most passionate era.

Review: In a historical fiction world saturated with books about the Tudors it’s nice to see someone take a slightly different angle in relating the history of those turbulent times. Kate Emerson’s “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series focuses has main characters who were real people but somewhat obscure. I thought the first book in the series (The Pleasure Palace) was a nice light read and looked forward to reading Emerson’s next book. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The main problem is the main character. Nan is not very likeable. Her constant focus on finding a wealthy, titled man for a husband makes her seem shallow and I didn’t find her or her life interesting. I can deal with a main character who is not very likeable if they are more than a cardboard cutout and/or have a fascinating story to tell. After some initial intriguing plot developments, the majority of the book is rather flat and uninspiring with Nan either trying to find an unmarried noble she can marry, waiting around for the king to take another wife so she can go back to court (and resume her search) or getting the king to notice her with the thought of becoming Queen herself. Ho-hum. Even references to an apparent plot regarding Calais (where Nan's stepfather is Lord Deputy) doesn't add any interest or excitement.

I can overlook a thin plot if the writing is engaging with a main character I can relate to or empathize with. Nan is neither. She does manage to do one nice thing for someone else but mostly she thinks only of herself. At one point even as King Henry lies very ill her only thought is that without a king there is no queen and with no queen there’s no place for her at court. I understand that making a good marriage was one of the primary reasons for families sending their daughters to court, but Nan’s one track mind was annoying and I became tired of hearing about it. When she complains over the quality and quantity of some pearls her mother sent, I wanted to slap her.

Emerson indicates that much of the basis for the book comes from the letters of Lord Lisle who was Nan’s stepfather and excerpts from the letters begin each chapter. Also included are short biographies of the historical figures in the book (of which there are many) and a Reader’s Guide.

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Robinbird said...

I had the same reaction to the book. I enjoyed the first one well enough as a light, easy read but I really didn't like this one. I didn't like Nan either. And I agree, there were some intriguing plot developments at the beginning that could have made the rest of it interesting...but they disappeared or fell flat.

Thanks for the review!!

Dwayne said...

I've watched a recent documentary about King Henry's women and affairs, and I must say, most of them are propelled by power and wealth - I guess the protagonist maybe is based on that? :) Regardless, I uh, don't like historical fiction much-but I love Hampton Court Palace! XD

Blodeuedd said...

Sounds good, but I do wanna like the main character

Misfit said...

This was a DNF for me for the very reasons Daphne and Robin mention, and I had enjoyed the first book as a nice bit of fluff as well.

Daphne said...

Robin and Misfit - Glad to know it wasn't just me.

Dwayne - I can live with someone being driven by power and wealth, but there was just something about it came across here that I didn't like. I love Hampton Court as well - my husband and I went to England last year and that was one of the places high on my list to visit!

Blodeuedd - If I don't like the main character she better have a very interesting story to tell. This one just didn't.

Christina T said...

Great review. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts. I was thinking about reading this book for the Tudor Reading Challenge but I may skip it. I don't like it when the protagonist is someone I can't stand and this sounds like a character I wouldn't like at all. There are plenty of other Tudor fiction titles that I could read instead.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

I must confess I have the first book this author wrote but haven't read it yet because the reviews for it wheren't great. Thanks for the honesty, might give this one a miss.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

It's disappointing that this book wasn't very good - it has so much potential!