Right from the beginning, Katherine's sisterly relationship with Jane is portrayed in a different way than I usually see also. Jane is surprisingly harsh - not the meek, quiet girl we often hear about. It is also immediately shown to us that the Grey girls do not get along with their royal cousin, Princess Elizabeth. This particular relationship is one that is important throughout the entire story. Katherine is shown as a very kindhearted, intelligent, and aware young woman. She has no interest in royal life, and that opinion only intensifies when her sister is put to death by Queen Mary for usurping her throne. Katherine's only desire is for a happy marriage and a quiet life - and her first marriage to Henry Herbert has already been decided as a failure, thanks to the Grey family's new reputation as traitors. I like that Eliza made Katherine meet her true love interest, Ned Seymour, at her wedding to Henry. This gives the reader the hint of real romance right from the start of the story - and it only gets better from there!
Unfortunately for Katherine, her road is not an easy one, and she is always seen as a threat for power and the throne. As a true princess descended from royalty with a legitimate claim to the Crown, Queen Mary keeps a watchful eye on her and the future Queen Elizabeth despises her. The majority of the story takes place during Elizabeth's reign and really shows the struggle between these royal cousins, and how deeply it affects Katherine's happiness.
I won't lie - this is a sad story. Katherine's adult life is hindered by a distrustful monarch and the inability to legitimately wed her true love, Ned. Unfortunately, while Katherine has no interest whatsoever in usurping the throne or putting herself close to power, she is simply not allowed to enjoy the quiet life she craves. Finally, losing patience with the queen who refuses to allow her happiness, Katherine marries Ned in a secret ceremony… and this one crucial action seals her fate.
Interestingly, Eliza also writes that William Cecil arranges secret meetings between Katherine and Ned - an effort to provide more sons for the Tudor throne. These meetings do result in another boy, but their chances of being released into the real world remain extremely unlikely. Sadly, their story does not get happier. While they are both transferred to different prisons outside of the Tower, Katherine does pass away from consumption at twenty-seven years old, and Eliza emphasizes her depression in these final months. Ned remains her true love until the very end.
As I said, the tragedy of this story is hard to ignore, but the writing of it is beautiful. Eliza does a fantastic job making these characters come alive, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book, cover to cover. Some of the things I really loved were: Elizabeth's cruel characterization - not because I hate Elizabeth, but because it's interesting and somewhat refreshing to read about her in a different light. I also think that the way she is portrayed is not far-fetched, and I can completely believe a lot of it. I also loved that, just like in "My Lady Viper," Eliza uses fragments of a poem at the beginning of each chapter. In this book the poem is Doleful Discourse of a Lady and a Knight by Thomas Churchyard. This poem was written about Katherine and Ned, and that just makes the story that much more special! Eliza explains much of her creative license in her Author's Note, and I don't think any reader will be displeased by the way she creatively told this story. I highly recommend it to any and all Tudor lovers who are looking for a realistic, romantic, and well-developed retelling of one of English history's hidden women.
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