Thursday, September 01, 2011

THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS by Karen Harper

THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS - Karen Harper
New American Library
ISBN: 978-0-451-23206-9
August 2011 (Reissue)
Historical Fiction

England 1516 to 1560

Cromwell grabbed Katherine Ashley out of obscurity on her father's estate to serve his purposes. Her intelligence, integrity, and her promise of loyalty attracted him. He had her trained and educated as a lady, and then, through his office, had her inserted as a lady in waiting into the new Queen Ann Boleyn's inner circle as a spy. Katherine has mixed feelings about her Lady, but she is loyal, making a promise to the doomed queen. After Ann's beheading, Katherine goes with the newly declared illegitimate three-year-old Elizabeth Tudor as, again, a spy for Cromwell. After Henry's death, times are perilous, but the widowed Queen Katherine, Henry's sixth wife, takes the young Elizabeth under her care. Unfortunately, the widow marries Tom Seymour, Katherine Ashley's nemesis.

THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS is based on well-documented historical fact, and the plot is about Elizabeth's tumultuous ascent to the throne of England. Katherine Ashley actually was Elizabeth's governess, and in some respects, took over a mother's duty, too. In the story, she acts as the point-of-view character, telling what it was like to live through such uncertain times. Katherine is a driven achiever who feels special compassion for her charge, Elizabeth, as Katherine believes her own stepmother killed her mother. During her time with Elizabeth, Katherine does find love, often thwarted by the character Tom Seymour, so the story has a satisfying romantic subplot.

One of the things I find appealing in this story is the vivid characterization of the historical persons. It is an interesting read, although Katherine's story is less important than Elizabeth's, and often reads like a diary. This minor detail aside, THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS is a story those who love history will not want to miss.

Robin Lee

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