To avoid repeating myself, I won't share the inside cover blurb about the book - you can check that out in my original blog post I wrote about it and the accompanying giveaway competition! I will tell you, however, that "Queen's Gambit" follows the life of Henry VIII's sixth wife and least-known queen, Catherine Parr. To be perfectly honest, she is one of the wives who interests me the least, largely because of how little we know about her and how few novels have been written about her. However, this novel really painted a very different picture of her and made her an exceptionally fascinating woman!
The book starts with Catherine nursing her husband, Lord Latymer, in his sickness and old age. This is where I tend to START thinking about Catherine in general - we never hear much about her first husband, but she starts to come into the light toward the end of Latymer's life. Without giving anything away, Fremantle opens this book up with a bang! We immediately get a glimpse of Catherine's tough decisions, and a choice that will weigh on her heart for the rest of the book.
Of course, most people reading "Queen's Gambit" know the general story of Catherine Parr. Widowed at just over 30 years old, she is summoned to Henry VIII's court, where he immediately takes a liking to her. However, unfortunately for her, she has also fallen under the spell of tall, dark, and handsome Thomas Seymour. But, where there's a will, there's a way (at least if you're Henry VIII) - Thomas Seymour is sent away from court and Catherine becomes Queen #6, taking the place of poor, young Katherine Howard, who has only been beheaded the previous year for adultery. This is, without question, a dangerous and frightening place for Catherine to be, and she knows it! I think Fremantle did a great job of portraying Catherine's state of mind - her fear, anxiety, and dissatsifcation at being thrown into the elderly, fat, and cruel king's bed - instead of her lover's.
However, although Catherine's life isn't how she desires for it to be, her compassionate, caring disposition sees her through even the hardest of times at court. Other characters also play a large role in her royal life - especially her stepdaughter from her marriage to Lord Latymer, and her personal maid, Dot (who quickly became my favorite character!) The royal physician was also one of her closest companions, who helped her in many of her most difficult decisions, acted as her confidant when the conservative faction began moving against her, and ultimately offered her the consolation and support she needed when her royal husband did not. This was more than a novel about Catherine Parr - it was a story of friendship, love, and intrigue at Henry VIII's court!
I was really captured by this novel from the first page, and although the chapters were VERY long - and I therefore had to dedicate a big chunk of time to reading in one sitting - the reading flew by for me. Simple wording, descriptive language, and well-formed characters made this novel a joy to read. I would say it is definitely my favorite Catherine Parr novel that I've come across. I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to read it and offer a giveaway competition for my readers! I hope that anyone who hasn't read it already will consider it. You won't be disappointed!
The link for purchase on Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Queens-Gambit-Novel-Elizabeth-Fremantle/dp/147670306X