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Queen's Gambit: A Novel of Katherine Parr Paperback – May 6, 2014
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Intrigue, romance, and treachery abound in Fremantle’s debut novel as Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, walks a fine line between passion and loyalty. Married to an aging king with a penchant for discarding wives, she must learn to navigate the often perilous intricacies, suspicions, and ambitions of a divided Tudor court. Though passionately in love with dashing courtier Thomas Seymour, Katherine shrewdly adapts to her new role, becoming a positive influence on Henry while arousing the ire of many of his advisors. Often fraught with danger, her ultimately successful balancing act earns her the title of “the one who survived.” This compulsively readable fictional biography of the ultimate survivor is infused with the type of meticulous attention to historical detailing that discerning fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory have come to expect in the Tudor canon. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Spellbinding . . . fascinating . . . Smart, sensual and suspenseful as a thriller, Gambit is a must-read for Philippa Gregory fans--and heralds a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction." (People)
"Brings the decadent, conniving, back-stabbing world of the16th-century British court to brilliant life, revealing what one woman can teach us about the timeless art of survival." (Oprah.com)
"This is a superbly written novel . . . Fremantle is surely a major new voice in historical fiction and this book is the answer to the question about what Hilary Mantel fans should read while waiting for the final part of her trilogy." (The Bookseller)
“Wildly entertaining . . . lively, gamey, gripped with tension . . . one of the best historical novels I’ve read.” (Liz Smith)
"In Queen’s Gambit, Parr had hoped, after her much older second husband died, to be able to marry for love. Instead, she finds herself shackled to a violent, ill, grossly overweight Henry, while pining for the handsome Thomas Seymour. Parr is too smart to indulge in an affair like her doomed predecessor, but her reformist religious views could just as easily get her killed. . . . A subplot involving Parr’s maid, Dot Fownten (a real historical figure), is particularly well done. In this case, physical labor aside, downstairs in the palace may be the safer place to be." (Washington Post)
“Filled with all the intrigue, fear and secrecy that Tudor-era aficionados love, Fremantle’s earthy, vivid descriptions bring the era and her characters—especially wise and compassionate Katherine—to life.” (Romantic Times)
"A promising debut." (Historical Novels Review)
“Fremantle’s vivid, finely detailed reconstruction of Katherine Parr’s marriage to Henry VIII is a guaranteed best seller [that] fills the void just when historical fiction fans were beginning to feel the dearth of new works.” (Library Journal)
“Intrigue, romance, and treachery abound in Fremantle’s debut novel . . . . This compulsively readable fictional biography of the ultimate survivor is infused with the type of meticulous attention to historical detailing that discerning fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory have come to expect in the Tudor canon.” (Booklist)
"Fremantle . . . navigates Tudor terrain with aplomb." (Publishers Weekly)
"Sins, secrets and guilt dominate the landscape of British writer Fremantle’s debut . . . [her] emphasis is on intrigue, character portraits and the texture of mid-16th-century life. Solid and sympathetic." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Elizabeth Fremantle's rich narrative breathes vibrant life into Henry VIII's most intriguing, intelligent and least known wife, Katherine Parr." (Anne Easter Smith author of A Rose for the Crown and Royal Mistress)
"Queen's Gambit is an earthy, vivid portrait of Tudor England seen through the eyes of Henry VIII's last wife Katherine Parr and her loyal maid servant. Elizabeth Fremantle has added a richly written and engrossing novel to the endlessly fascinating story of the Tudors." (Stephanie Cowell author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet)
"Queen's Gambit is a lovely, sensual, subtle read, telling the story of Katherine Parr with both rich imagination and scrupulous attention to factual detail. After reading this historical novel, you truly comprehend what it would mean to be the sixth wife of a dangerous man wielding absolute power. Katherine is no selfless nurse here, nor religious fanatic, but a complex and compelling person who both men and women were drawn to. This is a very impressive novel." (Nancy Bilyeau author of The Crown)
"Beautifully written and finely observed, this suspenseful tale of Henry the Eighth's last wife expertly conveys all the dangerous intensity and passion of the Tudor court." (Rachel Hore, author of A Place of Secrets)
"With a painter’s eye for detail, Fremantle brings the dazzling, dangerous Tudor court to life and sheds an intriguing new light on Katherine Parr, one of history’s great survivors. An enthralling tale of power and passion, loyalty and betrayal." (Elizabeth Wilhide, author of Ashenden)
“All those wives, their fates and Henry's transformation from handsome young monarch to debauched obese tyrant continue to fascinate…Now Elizabeth Fremantle has returned to Henry's court with her debut novel Queen's Gambit." (Express)
"The Tudor court comes to life in this gripping story of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, where passion, secrecy and betrayal power the suspense." (Woman & Home)
Top customer reviews
As much as present tense narrative is still my unfavored form of story telling, it's refreshing to see an author making use of showing, rather than too much telling. For the most part, the characterization was well done, especially with Elizabeth and I would have liked to see more of her. But I did have trouble understanding how an intelligent and experienced woman like Katherine could fall for a douchebag like Thomas Seymour (it's really the only word to describe him). I am not just saying that because I had the benefit of knowing what Thomas would later do - in fact, in the beginning I wondered if the author would take a nontraditional approach and portray Seymour as a misunderstood victim of rumors. But he is just not a likable character and I couldn't understand why Katherine loved him. It even seems like Katherine herself couldn't understand it - behavior she admitted would otherwise by annoying, on him was "adorable". So although this is a good, quick read, it won't satisfy a thirst for real romance, at least not with Katherine. Katherine's trusted servant and friend Dot and her love interest William Savage will have to suffice.
One thing that puzzled me is why the narrative kept referring to Katherine's sister Anne as "Sister Anne". At first, I thought she was a nun but she is married with children. It's not like there were lots of other "Anne's" in the story that the author needed a way to distinguish her, though there was a few mentions of Anne Boleyn, it's not like she was a present character. It really should have been "her sister Anne" or "sister Anne". I still can't figure out why "sister" was being capitalized, as if it were a title.
Apart from these two complaints, it was an enjoyable read and I do think the author did well to make this an exciting and interesting story. Of all of Henry's wives, Katherine Parr's story may appear among the most uneventful on the surface but this novel is anything but uneventful. I appreciated the inclusion of some theology of the characters, since so many contemporary historical novels don't seem to truly understand how important the religious conflict was at the time. They may make mention of this person being Catholic and that person being Reformed but they don't seem to realistically include theological discussions and arguments being had.
So although I had a few issues to pick at, I was surprised to wind up enjoying this, considering I don't normally like present tense novels. If you're looking for one about Katherine Parr, this is a good option.
She was a feminist and radical in her own right. She was married 4 times; once too young, once to a much older man, once at the command of the king and the fourth time was for love. Her second marriage to Lord Latymer (Latimer) put her in the role of care taker. She was skilled in the art of herbology and concocted remedies to ease her ailing husbands pain. On his request, she hastened his death with a stronger concoction than usual. She was plagued by guilt over this and felt her marriage to Henry VIII was her penance.
The sixth wife of Henry VIII, she was the only one who out-lived him. She worked to change Henry's mind and ways. She was almost caught with what, at that time, would have been defamatory documents, but was able to rid herself and chambers of them before she was caught. She helped Henry at the end of his life with complications of what was certainly diabetes, and stayed true to him though her heart belonged to Thomas Seymour.
When she married for love, she was hurt deeply when she caught her husband, Thomas in bed with the Lady Elizabeth (henry's daughter by Ann Boelyn). Through it all, she remained strong and determined to be her own woman. In the end, she died in childbirth. A sad ending to a remarkable woman.