Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Historical Book Review: The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle

Today's historical book review of THE QUEEN'S LADY by Barbara Kyle was completed by History Undressed's ebook reviewer, Morgan Wyatt.


London 1527. Set in the nerve-jangled court of Henry VIII during his battle with the Catholic church for a divorce, THE QUEEN’S LADY is the story of Honor Larke, a ward of King Henry’s chancellor, Sir Thomas More, and a lady-in-waiting to Henry’s first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. Forced to take sides in the religious extremism of the day, Honor fights to save the church’s victims from death at the stake, enlisting Richard Thornleigh, a rogue sea captain, in her missions of mercy, and finally risking her life to try to save Sir Thomas from the wrath of the king.

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The Queen’s Lady, a historical romance, by Barbara Kyle was published first in 2008 by Kensington. It is available in both paperback and e-Book version. The story starts on the May Day riots when apprentices are revolting against the rich foreigners. The apprentices loot and pillage the city under the watchful eyes of seven-year-old Honor. The young heroine not only witnesses the carnage, but describes it in detail to the number of criminals, what they stole, the men’s names, even can identify types of silver tableware since the experience is embedded so vividly in her memory.

Honor Larke is a motherless girl of some nobility, but has a father at war with the church. She watches her father excommunicated by vengeful priest because he won’t prepay for his confession and absolution before he dies. The priest isn’t satisfied to condemn the dying man to eternal damnation, but hatches a scheme to steal Honor’s birthright by his ability to read Latin. Talk about an argument for literacy.

Thomas More becomes Honor's guardian. This famous historical character is drawn as a self-serving, man of the cloth. More, plus the vengeful priest who would make the Mafia members look saintly, convince Honor to abandon her Catholic faith and help Lutherans.

This is about the part where I became confused and wondered if this were a romance or not? Honor shows interest in a married man whose wife mysteriously dies prompting her to propose two days after the wife’s death. This makes me wonder were men in such a short supply that you had to grab them when you could, or did the wife’s sudden death have some assistance?

There are no major characters besides Honor. No strong romantic male lead is involved in the tale, but a mediocre one shows up halfway through the tale.  Thomas More gets a bit of a feature role, but it is only an opportunity to drag the Catholic faith through the mud. Even as non-Catholic, I was amazed at lengths the author went to defame a religion and a standard-bearer of that faith. An excess of religion is more suitable for inspirational novels.

The Queen’s Lady has the feel of an older, classic historic romance with verbose prose that makes sure to use nine words when five would suffice. The settings are richly drawn with historical detail. Honor turns out to be a regular Polly Purebred, the heroine featured in melodramas. She is orphaned, kidnapped, raped, and denied her inheritance pretty much before the middle of the book.

When I first started reading the book, I thought another POV might be helpful, but soon discovered no other character lasts long enough to provide an additional POV. The use of another POV might also result in the reader being sympathetic to that character, as opposed to Honor. I did have issues with a seven year old telling me items she’d have no reference of, and being able to express herself so eloquently. The illiterate Honor manages to understand a dying man speaking Italian, when the poor child doesn’t even know what a foreigner is. As a mother, I wondered why a seven-year-old child is roaming the rough streets of London when the household has adults who could fetch the missing Ralph home.

The Queen’s Lady was not the book for me, but it does not mean others would not like it, especially those who like old style romances. Many have liked it evidenced by online reviews and likes on Amazon. The blurb by Susan Wiggs on the front confused me because I thought it would be similar to Susan’s work. It isn’t. I found The Queen’s Lady weighted down with religious rhetoric; isn’t that what non-fiction is for? Want to learn a little more about Henry the Eighth’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and then I believe you’d enjoy this tale too, along with classic romance fans.

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