Between Two Queens
by Kate Emerson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens / 978-1-4165-8327-1
It seems you can hardly swing a cat these days without hitting some new artifact of Tudor historical fiction: between the Philippa Gregory novels (and the dozens of spawned similar novels) and the HBO series "The Tudors", people just can't seem to get enough of the seamy life of Henry VIII and his never-ending parade of wives and love affairs.
Superficially, "Between Two Queens" fits the mold well enough - slap an attractive faceless woman on the cover, complete with some breathtaking costume design, and embrace her from behind with a duskily attired faceless man, and away we go. Between the sumptuous covers, however, lies a solid story and a good addition to the Tudor fictional legacy.
"Between Two Queens" contains a fictional account of Nan Bassett, who serves in this novel as a maid of honor to various of Henry's wives, and who has the dubious honor of catching the king's attention. Like other novels of this ilk, Anne starts with the mad ambition of catching the king for marriage and becoming a queen in her own right, and I was initially frustrated to feel that Nan was yet another "tempestuous" (read: spoiled and childish) heroine laden with great ambitions and schemes. Author Emerson quickly seems to reassure the reader, however, that such behavior is no more attractive to her than it is to us, and over the course of this novel we come to see Nan evolve and grow from a selfish, unrealistic girl to a complex woman - one with dashed dreams, modest hopes, and a strong will to succeed in her small goals for the good of her family and friends.
I am impressed with this novel for the dynamic characterization of the main characters - it is refreshing to find a Tudor novel that portrays the characters with realism and not as caricatures to advance the story. Small details enhance the narrative, such as when Nan first meets the king and desires him in spite of his girth and age, and then later - after developing more experience and wisdom - she returns to his presence to truly see him through the eyes of a mature woman rather than a petulant child. The narrative flows freely and easily, with a subtlety that enhances the experience greatly - Nan in particular is never particularly perfect, but rather is canny without being overly clever and intelligent without being an direct author avatar. As such, I enjoyed this book and was pleased with the evolution of its characters.
(No cats were harmed in the writing of this review.)
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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