This is a rich and thoroughly engaging book, alternating between Kit’s and Dot’s point of view, giving the readers both the royal and kitchen scene. The main characters walk onto the page fully formed, with back stories and goals of their own. I was easily drawn into the story. I will say that briefly, I wondered if this was Book 2 in a series because the main characters are dealing with the after effects of events that happened a few months previous to the opening of this book. Indeed, I even went so far as to check on various book sites, and finally checking the author’s site – and this is indeed Book 1. Still, I had that little niggling feeling that I was missing some part of the story.
That aside, I loved listening to the two points of view. Dot, as the maid, has greater run of the castles and grounds, but she also has to do all the packing and unpacking as the court rotates through the various royal residences. Kit has all the fancy clothes and jewels (which are quite weighty), but nearly all her motions, her life in fact, is dictated by King and court needs.
Spanning several years, the book encompasses various historical characters and tackle the numerous religious questions of the Reformation without being preachy. I had a true sense of the predicament Kit found herself in, having her personal views the opposite of Lady Mary, and periodically, opposite to hose of the mercurial King Henry.
As much as I enjoyed this novel, with it’s insights into Katherine Parr’s life, I must bring up my one criticism. Only the main female characters have any depth; all the male characters are one dimensional. Not only that, but all the male characters commit some wrong towards the lead ladies in some form. A few regret their trespasses and they are portrayed in a gentler light. Since the story lacked a single male with altruistic motives and characteristics throughout the novel, the story was a slightly unbalanced. True, the 1500s were not a time where gender equality was even thought of, so perhaps this was done on purpose to provide the backdrop if blatant and socially acceptable gender inequality.
Even with that criticism, I would not pass up another book by Elizabeth Fremantle. The writing and pacing were well done, keeping me engaged. It was obvious a sizable amount of research went into the book, and the details were definitely appreciated by this reader.
The Narration: Georgina Sutton had distinct voices and accents for the main characters, and a variety of male voices (those these sometimes slipped a little to the feminine). I enjoyed her sniffs and sneers for the various snotty expressions by the characters.
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