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Dec 24, 2010

Book Review: Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson

Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Gallery (December 14, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1439177815
Review copy provided by the author, thanks so very much!
The Burton Review Rating: Great Tudor Fiction

Charming. Desirable. Forbidden. Brought to court with other eligible young noblewomen by the decree of King Henry VIII, lovely Elizabeth “Bess” Brooke realizes for the first time that beauty can be hazardous. Although Bess has no desire to wed the aging king, she and her family would have little choice if Henry’s eye were to fall on her. And other dangers exist as well, for Bess has caught the interest of dashing courtier Will Parr. Bess finds Will’s kisses as sweet as honey, but marriage between them may be impossible. Will is a divorced man, and remarriage is still prohibited. Bess and Will must hope that the king can be persuaded to issue a royal decree allowing Will to marry again . . . but to achieve their goal, the lovers will need royal favor. Amid the swirling alliances of royalty and nobles, Bess and Will perform a dangerous dance of palace intrigue and pulse-pounding passions.

Brought to glowing life by the talented Kate Emerson, and seen through the eyes of a beautiful young noblewoman, By Royal Decree illuminates the lives of beautiful young courtiers in and out of the rich and compelling drama of the Tudor court.

I really enjoyed Kate Emerson's previous two novels in her Secrets of the Tudor Court series (reviews here), and Kate has an awesome Who's Who in the Tudor Courts E-book that is really fun to peruse. She included a mini Who's Who in the end of her latest novel By Royal Decree, as well as maps in the beginning of the book. Instead of another novel focused on the specific royal Tudors, Emerson writes about the Tudor courts from a bystander's point of view, or another lesser known member of the peerage. In her last novel, she wrote of Nan Bassett, who made an appearance in Royal Decree as well. Royal Decree follows the life of Elizabeth Brooke, who is called Bess. The elder Elizabeth Brooke was Bess' grandmother who was shunned by her husband Thomas Wyatt. The novel begins as Bess is just getting the opportunity to be a lady in waiting and to be a part of the royal courts in that type of capacity.

She falls in love with Queen Kathryn's brother, Will Parr, but he is not available. The story then evolves around the political moves of the courts as King Henry is dying, and factions are developing. The different factions have different opinions as to how Will Parr's previous marriage should be handled, and Will and Bess are forced to wait out the royal courts as they wish for a positive outcome. Bess and Will become foolish, and take matters into their own hands. but how will the Privy Council react? How will Bess' family react when Bess refuses to listen to reason? The romance of the couple depends on who wins the political race towards the crown, and one never knows who is spying on whom for whom. I found Bess to be impetuous, but likable, but not incredibly rounded as far as characteristics. Will Parr seemed to be the epitome of the knight in shining armor, and they seemed well suited.

What I love about Kate Emerson's writing style is that she imparts special little details such as the food of the times, the dress, the mannerisms, but she doesn't lay it on too thick to be a history lesson. Tudor fanatics will also enjoy the familiar faces that are mentioned, from Norfolk wasting in the tower, to the impressionable young Elizabeth who later becomes the formidable Queen. Tom Seymour the ladies' man is back, and causes a stir with his hatred for his brother Edward Seymour the Lord Protector; and the conniving wife of his Anne is someone you will love to hate. I kept my ears perked for the Dudley brothers as well who came and went from the story as did several other highly placed names. All in all, another intelligent but passionate installment of the Secrets of Tudor Courts series from Kate Emerson that I recommend to those who are interested in the lives of those who both watched the intrigue from the sidelines and created some of their own.