This is the second book by Joanna Hickson about the life of Katherine of Valois, who was queen to Henry V, mother of Henry VI, and through her second marriage to Owen Tudor, grandmother to Henry VII. The first book, The Agincourt Bride, was previously reviewed here. I actually enjoyed this book much more than the first.
THE PLOT: Katherine and Henry V are happily married and have returned to England. Eventually, Katherine gives birth to a son, the heir to the throne. Their happiness is short-lived, though, when Henry suddenly dies. At age 21, Katherine is relegated to the less-glamorous status of queen mother to a child king. Her brother-in-law Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and now Lord Protector, is desperately trying to keep her out of the limelight, away from her son, and unmarried. (Naturally the young king’s stepfather would gain considerable power; maybe even enough to rival Humphrey’s). But Katherine’s growing love for her Master of the Wardrobe, Owen Tudor, inspires her to risk everything for a second chance at a happy marriage and family life.
The book also continues the story of Katherine’s companion and mother figure, Mette, who finds a new love and family of her own. All isn’t rosy for Mette and Katherine, though. Now an adult, Katherine starts to look for friends closer to her own station. Whether those friends are true friends or people looking out for their own interests is another matter. And a woman Katherine crosses early in the book plays a role in bringing about Katherine’s downfall, and even her death.
MY TWO CENTS: I felt that the adult Katherine’s voice was much more authentic in this book, and somehow, the relationship problems between her and Mette really brought both characters to life. It makes sense that Katherine would be influenced by other nobles even more than she would be by her beloved servant, whose origins were quite low. With Jacqueline of Hainault and Eleanor Cobham both stirring the pot, there is almost constant conflict offsetting what could have been a humdrum time of marriage and childrearing (even with the added spice of the marriage being secret). I’m sorry we didn’t get to see Eleanor Cobham horsewhipped or something, but at least we know she didn’t end her life where she wanted (and plotted) to be. I don’t know how much Eleanor truly had to do with Katherine’s dying in the convent, but this book certainly made her the villain.
BOTTOM LINE: If historical novels are your thing, you are likely to enjoy this one. The twists and turns will have you doing research to see how much is true history (a surprising amount). Katherine certainly led an interesting life! And her blood still runs in today’s British royals, through the descendants of her great-granddaughter Margaret. I’ll look forward to Hickson’s next book, Red Rose, White Rose, about Cecily Neville, Duchess of York (mother to Edward IV and Richard III).
TEACUP RATING: About four-and-a-half out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and e-formats on March 5, 2015.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.