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Saturday 22 December 2012

‘The Queen’s Lady’ by Barbara Kyle

Published by Constable,
18 October 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-78033-559-9

Rather than marry any of her undesirable suitors, Honor Larke, ward of Sir Thomas More, takes a position working as lady in waiting for Queen Catherine of Aragon.  This starts being a pleasure as she is able to use her learning to entertain the queen and turns into a challenge as she begins to intercede in the political machinations between Catherine and her straying husband Henry VIII.  This becomes increasingly dangerous as religious tensions mount between the Catholic Church and the newly establishing protestant movement, threatening to rip the English establishment apart whilst Henry tries to get a divorce from Catherine, to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn.

Honor gets involved not only in the escalating fight between Catherine and Henry, but in more dangerous work of supporting the new church/ protestant movement – support which could get her burned as a heretic.  Despite her connections with influential members of the hierarchy, the danger to Honor escalates as she gets more involved and the stakes increase for her enemies, one of whom has a long term grudge against her, her beliefs and her family.

This book was a complete surprise for me, expecting a crime novel I was confronted by a romantic historic thriller, not my normal reading fare.  However, it was well written, the characters seemed real and had a depth which was unexpected and the historical context was nicely framed.  I started somewhat sceptical and then as the narrative swept me along, I found it difficult to put down.  My only reservation is that Honor Larke seemed a little out of time and more like a twentieth century heroine than one from the sixteenth.  This is perhaps where the charm and the readability lies and it enhances the storyline as it gives fresh perspective to the harsh reality and religious and class struggles under Henry along with the slightly bizarre circumstances of the establishment of the Church of England.

A nicely layered plot, with some interesting twists, colourful characters and an energetic interpretation of Tudor England and some of the famous characters behind the history stories.  Kyle weaves the stories of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, Cromwell and Welsey with her fictional characters with skill and intelligence.  Recommended.
Reviewer: Amanda Brown

Barbara Kyle studied acting in the classical theatre program  (Shakespeare, Shaw, Moliere, Congreve, etc.) at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, planning a “distinguished stage career," and then spent the next twenty years acting mostly on television in made-for-TV movies, series, sit-coms, and soap opera. She says it felt like a natural extension of her acting to create characters for fiction. In 2008 Kensington Books she published her first historical novel, The Queen’s Lady. Since then Barbara has written four further books.

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