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Jul 19, 2012

The King's Damsel (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) by Kate Emerson

The King's Damsel
Another fabulous Tudor novel to stay up late with!

The King's Damsel (Secrets of the Tudor Court #5) by Kate Emerson
Simon and Schuster, August 2012
Paperback 384 pages
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 Tudor Stars
In 1533 and again in 1534, Henry the Eighth reportedly kept a mistress while he was married to Anne Boleyn. Now, that mistress comes to vivid life in Kate Emerson's The King's Damsel.
A real-life letter from Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, written on September 27, 1534, reported that the king had "renewed and increased the love he formerly bore to another very handsome young lady of the Court" and that the queen had tried "to dismiss the damsel from her service." Other letters from Eustace reveal that the mystery woman was a "true friend" of the Princess (later Queen) Mary, Henry's daughter by Catherine of Aragon. Though no one knows who "the king's damsel" really was, here Kate Emerson presents her as young gentlewoman Thomasine Lodge, a lady-in-waiting to King Henry's daughter, Princess Mary. Thomasine becomes the Princess's confidante, especially as Henry's marriage to Catherine dissolves and tensions run high. When the king procures a divorce in order to marry Anne Boleyn, who is suspicious and distrustful of Mary, Mary has Thomasine placed in Anne's service to be her eyes and ears. And that's when she gets the attention of the king...

Rich in historical detail and featuring a wealth of bonus material, The King's Damsel is sure to keep readers coming back for more in the exciting series!
Read my reviews of the previous books in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series:
The Pleasure Palace (Book 1)
Between Two Queens (Book 2)
By Royal Decree (Book 3)
At The King's Pleasure (Book 4)

I love love love love love Kate Emerson! That's five loves for each of her books in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series that I've read. This fifth one is much like the others with lesser known Tudor characters, and these are all stand alone novels which makes it easy to pick this one up if you haven't read the others.

The King's Damsel alludes to the possible dalliance between King Henry and another mistress, but do not get discouraged if you think you've heard this story before. Since this time our main protagonist is the entirely fictional Thomasine Lodge the author is able to spin a new story for us that is set against the backdrop of the always scandalized Tudor courts. Thomasine is sent to King Henry's daughter's household, to be a maid of honor to the Princess Mary. We get to learn a lot of the details and the important figures of the period and the setting of Princess Mary's household which has not really been delved into before. Princess Mary is aged nine when Thomasine enters her household, and Anne Boleyn is just becoming the apple of King Henry's eye. Where we would normally think of the moniker Bloody Mary, we instead are privy to the younger mind of the Princess, and can feel sympathy for her as her world is torn apart when King Henry divorces her mother and chooses Anne Boleyn.

With all this going on, we also are treated to Thomasine's story. She is an orphan and not at an age where she can legally inherit what will be hers, and Lionel Daggett is appointed her guardian over her vast estate. He is an ominous character who only seeks wealth and status, and he is in complete control of Thomasine's inheritance. We eagerly await the time when Thomasine can kick out the odious man, but that proves difficult. Thomasine is an enjoyable character who was easily likable, and the characterizations of the main Tudor historical figures are portrayed well. Anne Boleyn was haughty, Princess Mary was naive but shrewd, King Henry was pretty much his usual mix of an enigma of King and Man, and Catherine of Aragon was an afterthought. The entourage of the maids of honor and the servants provided a believable network creating the Tudor environment that the reader can sink their teeth into. The side note of the almost-romance provides a bit of a fun dalliance, but is never taken seriously throughout the novel, and provides an all too tidy ending.

I noticed this time around with the supporting Tudor figures, the titles and names were not overly explained, so that newcomers to the Tudor era may find themselves a little confused as to who was who (not knowing their historical significance). Obviously not a problem for me since I've read quite a few Tudor books, but I wanted to give fair warning for possible confusion. Also, as expected in some Tudor novels, there were quite a few convenient moments where Thomasine was able to eavesdrop on private conversations, but since she was spying for both Anne and Princess Mary this was shrugged off. I am happy to say there were no spying through the actual keyhole moments, but there were cleverly placed window alcoves and curtains.

There are times when I hear of yet another Tudor novel coming out and I want to scream, but I always look forward to Kate Emerson's work. With Kate Emerson's writing, you know what you are going to get. Her Secrets of the Tudor Court series are always cleverly descriptive and her passion for the Tudor era is evident. She skillfully weaves her stories blending fiction and fact to bring us the intriguing slice of life scenes set against a favorite period, and the novels are always page-turners. The King's Damsel is no different, and I highly recommend it to historical fiction fans and especially Tudor fiction fans.

Book six, Royal Inheritance, will be out in 2013:
The protagonist of Royal Inheritance is Audrey Malte, allegedly the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. Audrey was raised as the "bastard daughter" of John Malte, the king's tailor.