Title: The Rose Without a Thorn
Author: Jean Plaidy
Publisher: Putnam Pub. Group
ISBN: 9780609810170 (Paperback Edition)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 Crowns
Synopsis: From the pen of legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy comes an unforgettable true story of royalty, passion, and innocence lost.
Born into an impoverished branch of the noble Howard family, young Katherine is plucked from her home to live with her grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk. The innocent girl quickly learns that her grandmother’s puritanism is not shared by Katherine’s free-spirited cousins, with whom she lives. Beautiful and impressionable, Katherine becomes involved in two ill-fated love affairs before her sixteenth birthday. Like her cousin Anne Boleyn, she leaves her grandmother’s home to become a lady-in-waiting at the court of Henry VIII. The royal palaces are exciting to a young girl from the country, and Katherine finds that her duties there allow her to be near her handsome cousin, Thomas Culpepper, whom she has loved since childhood.
But when Katherine catches the eye of the aging and unhappily married king, she is forced to abandon her plans for a life with Thomas and marry King Henry. Overwhelmed by the change in her fortunes, bewildered and flattered by the adoration of her husband, Katherine is dazzled by the royal life. But her bliss is short-lived as rumors of her wayward past come back to haunt her, and Katherine’s destiny takes another, deadly, turn.
My Review: I love Jean Plaidy, I've never made any secret of that fact, and I found that she does a fabulous job of articulating what I've always thought about Katherine Howard, Henri VIII's ill fated fifth wife. The writing is as masterful as always, and even if you're familiar with the tale of Katherine Howard, I think you'll find yourself wrapped up in this book. The story starts out with Katherine talking to her friend, the scribe, and it is all presented as the story she is telling to the scribe in the days leading up to her death.
Katherine is portrayed as a mostly thoughtless girl who lives entirely for the present, which is totally how I've always thought of her. Time and time again she says something along the lines of "why didn't I think about what this would mean for the future?" And also mentions how she should have thought more about how her actions were so in line with what had sent her cousin, Anne Boleyn, to the scaffold. At one point, Katherine even says that while she believed her cousin to be innocent, she knew she herself was not.
Although this story is not a new one to me, it was presented in a new way in that Katherine knew her actions were dangerous and she gave in to them heedless of the consequences. She was almost noble at times, wanting to protect Thomas Culpepper as much as she could and refraining from saying anything that would implicate him in any way. With that in mind, it's very sad to me that she did what she could to protect him, but didn't seem to be trying to protect Francis Derehem in any way. I mean, what if she had told them that there was a pre-contract? Would it have saved all their lives?
I loved that Plaidy shows Katherine's regrets, even though some of them may be misplaced, and in her way she even tries to make up for her past indiscretions. What is extra interesting to me is that if Katherine lived in today's society, she would have been a pretty normal girl. She just had the misfortune of being born in the wrong time, and catching the eye of the wrong man.
On the whole, this is a fantastic book and I definitely recommend picking it up. I think any fan of Plaidy or Tudor England will really enjoy it.
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