Kathryn: In the Court of Six Queens
by Anne Merton Abbey
Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach
Kathryn: In the Court of Six Queens offers a romantic feminist romp through the court of Henry VIII. Its fictional heroine is the daughter of a lady-in-waiting to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine's fondness for the affectionate child leads to friendship as Kathryn grows to womanhood. Descended from a Plantagenet by-blow, Kathryn is Anne Boleyn's cousin and related to the Howard family, so despite her loyalty to Henry's first wife, she returns to court to serve the second. And the third, etc. This premise is not so far-fetched; Anne Parr, the sister of Henry's sixth wife, really was lady-in-waiting to all six queens. In other ways the novel does stretch credibility, but readers caught up in its lively story probably won't mind.
Kathryn's romantic interest is a mysterious lord with moonstone-blue eyes, whose "family specializes in deeds that no one else will sink to." Fortunately for the plot, the course of true love does not run smooth. The mystery lord slips in and out of the story as Kathryn weds another, bears children who give her joy and heartache, and risks her own life time and again as queen after queen infuriates Henry into head-chopping rages. Kathryn manages to be present for most of the dramatic highlights of Henry's reign and a few invented crises. Along the way, pagan rites burble up from England's mystic past, a clever theory is offered about the Princes in the Tower, and Kathryn herself narrowly escapes Henry's hazardous attentions.
Readers fond of the humor in Regency romances will find a similar style of comedy here. It's especially broad in the Anne of Cleves section, with Kathryn struggling on short notice to make the appallingly gowned and groomed princess presentable for the king. Kathryn's heart-throb is too often absent for the novel to be saturated with sex scenes, but readers who like a touch of the romantically explicit won't be disappointed by Kathryn: In the Court of Six Queens. (1989, 454 pages)
More about Kathryn: In the Court of Six Queens at Amazon.com.
Other novels about ladies-in-waiting to Henry VIII's queens:
The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle (2008), about a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, who enlists a roguish sea captain in her risky efforts to aid her mistress; #1 in the Thornleigh Saga series. More info
At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill (2012), about Lady Margaret Shelton, a cousin of Anne Boleyn who serves as Anne's lady-in-waiting. More info
The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd (2012), about a young woman with clairvoyant gifts who goes to court with Henry's last queen, Kateryn Parr. More info
Nonfiction about the wives of Henry VIII:
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (2003). More info
The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser (1992). More info
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (1991). More info
At the Movies:
Henry VIII and His Six Wives, a 1972 British film starring Keith Mitchell as Henry VIII.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII at TudorHistory.org
Back to Novels of the Renaissance
Back to Directory of Book Reviews