Monday, June 4, 2012

The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd

Book Summary:

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII as a young woman is caught between love and honor.

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father's business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

     Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his concerns with Juliana's father's estate and sees instantly that Juliana would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in Parr's household for "finishing" and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly.
     For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king's daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

    As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII's court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will undo everything she holds dear.


Queen Kateryn Parr

Sandra Byrd has written another excellent novel. This time, the story is about Kateryn Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife – one of his wives who survived marriage to the notorious, murderous monarch who got rid of wives by way of the executioner’s axe. She died by natural causes.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sandra Byrd’s interpretation of Kate Parr’s life. She is portrayed as a kind-hearted, generous, and loving wife and mother figure with a strong faith, great patience, and high tolerance for others’ shortcomings.

The story is told through the voice of Juliana St. John. Juliana is no ordinary noblewoman. She has the gift of prophecy through her dreams. When Sir Thomas Seymour spots Juliana, he arranges for her to become lady in waiting to Kateryn Parr, the woman he loves, and soon to be wife of Henry VIII. Kate’s trust in Juliana is profound and their close relationship results in Juliana becoming her ‘secret keeper’. But unbeknownst to Juliana, there are secrets about her own past that beg to be exposed to her.

Sandra Byrd’s novels always delight, and I found this one quite refreshing – about a lesser known Tudor wife.

Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII. There, Kateryn’s support of Anne Askew, a woman unwilling to bend to new religious laws, puts her and her ladies lives in jeopardy.

This tale nicely blends historical fact with fiction. The story is well-paced, well-written, and a gentle read. Sandra Byrd’s extensive research about the Tudors is evident in the rich details and descriptions. The conflicts Julian faces when having to decide between love and duty and sacrifice kept me interested from start to finish. And of course, the biggest secret of all is revealed in a highly satisfying, but rather unusual ending. A thoroughly enjoyable book well worth reading. 

From History and Women

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