Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT..., October 6, 2006
Jean Plaidy, also known as Victoria Holt to her legion of devoted fans, was a gifted and prolific writer of historical fiction. A masterful storyteller, Ms. Plaidy seamlessly interweaves historical facts into a rich tapestry of fiction that is often spellbinding. Here, she writes of Katherine Parr, a comely noblewoman, twice widowed, who would rise from obscurity to reluctantly become the sixth and, thankfully, last wife of that colorful Tudor despot, King Henry VIII of England.

At the time that Katherine Parr caught the King's eye, she was in love with the rakishly handsome and ambitious Thomas Seymour, brother to Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII. Jane died shortly after producing the coveted living son, who would someday reign as King Edward VI. Thomas Seymour held a coveted place at court by virtue of his ties to the King. Once the King's eyes landed upon the hapless Katherine Parr, however, even Thomas Seymour had no choice but to withdraw his suit for her hand.

The King's eye and attentions having settled upon Katherine Parr, so soon after he had sent his fifth wife to the block to have her head severed from her neck, made Katherine uneasy. After all, Henry VIII's wives had met with unenviable fates. His first wife of many years, Katherine of Aragon, had been cast aside and driven to an early death. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, for whom he had discarded Katherine of Aragon, had been accused of having had numerous adulterous relationships while married to the King. For this she was found guilty of treason and was unceremoniously beheaded, whereupon he married plain Jane Seymour, who managed to give him a son before dying of complications after childbirth.

The fourth wife of Henry VIII was Anne of Cleves, whom the King found physically repugnant and not to his liking. She prudently and wisely agreed to a divorce rather than wait to have her head severed from the rest of her body. The fifth wife was Catherine Howard, a beautiful teenager who showed little judgment both before and after her marriage to Henry. Accused of adulterous behavior, she, too, was found guilty of treason, as had been Anne Boleyn, and beheaded. It was on the heels of this last execution that Henry's eyes fell upon the comely widow, Katherine Parr.

Katherine Parr, an intelligent, attractive woman, was known as Lady Latimer, when she caught the King's eye. It was to be an encounter from which there would be no escape. In love with Thomas Seymour, she married the King most reluctantly and consigned herself to a stressful number of years, living, at all times, under the sword of Damocles, mindful of the fate of her predecessors and hoping not to lose her head.

As Queen Katherine, she would become the target of those who wished England to return to traditional Catholicism, as she was interested in what was referred to as the new learning. It would be these new ideas that would eventually give rise to Protestantism in England. Her enemies lost no time in trying to have her share the same fate that had befallen some of Henry's other wives, as they plotted and schemed against her.

Queen Katherine's life would become a grim game of cat and mouse, as she tried to stay one step ahead of those who would wish her harm. Even Henry's affections would prove to be fickle, changing like the wind from day to day, causing her to fear that every day may be her last. Her daily existence was subject to the capricious and arbitrary moods of Henry VIII, a situation not conducive to peace and happiness.

This book is a treasure trove of historical facts that are melded into an enjoyable work of fiction, Even the most discerning reader should enjoy this richly drawn portrait of the court of Henry VIII and his sixth and, mercifully, last wife. Set amidst the political and religious turmoil of sixteenth century England, peppered with names of those who would have lasting historical impact, it is an entertaining, as well as informative, work of historical fiction.
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