Thursday, December 5, 2019

Review: Katherine Tudor Duchess by Tony Riches

Katherine Tudor Duchess (Brandon Trilogy, Book #3)
by Tony Riches
Release Date: September 25th 2019
2019 Preseli Press
Kindle Edition; 328 Pages
ISBN: 978-1695663855
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from HF Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby is one of the most unusual ladies of the Tudor court. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Katherine knows all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and his son Edward.

When her father dies, Katherine becomes the ward of Tudor knight, Sir Charles Brandon. Her Spanish mother, Maria de Salinas, is Queen Catherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting, so it is a challenging time for them all when King Henry marries the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Following Anne’s dramatic downfall, Katherine marries Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen. After the short reign of young Catherine Howard, and the tragic death of Jane Seymour, Katherine and Brandon are chosen to welcome Anna of Cleves as she arrives in England.

When the royal marriage is annulled, Katherine’s good friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king’s sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine’s young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince Edward, and become his friends, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine’s Protestant faith puts her family in great danger - from which there seems no escape.

Katherine’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

My Thoughts
Katherine Tudor Duchess is the third book in the Brandon Trilogy and although I have not yet had the chance to read the previous books in this series, my enjoyment of this book did not depend on that fact.  I'm not sure if it helps having a history background and already knowing her story, but I really think someone with little knowledge of this time period would not have a problem understanding this book and the various characters in it.  To be honest, I don't think someone with little understanding of this time period would truly understand the huge political ramifications of some of the things that happened during this time period as the author sort of glossed over a lot of the important events to focus on the main character, something which I rather liked as the book was about Katherine, after all. However, this may require some people to Google some of the events as the author kind of assumes you know what he is talking about.

Katherine Willoughby is one of those women whose story I've wanted to read for a very long time. She has played such a secondary role in so many books and I have waited for someone to tackle her story as it seemed so interesting.  And I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  The story however, did span a long period of time and I did have a bit of an issue with the formatting.  What I mean by this is you would be in the middle of a wonderful scene, then suddenly it would end and then you would be thrust into the next scene.  I often felt like the scenes weren't quite completed which definitely affected my empathy for Katherine.  And by that, I mean I did not really connect with her at all.  So when tragedy struck her family, which it often did, I just read about it without really feeling anything. And this is definitely attributable to editing.  Unfortunately, this took what could have been a fantastic book down to a good book.  Perhaps trying to limit the amount of pages was not necessarily a good thing. Is this just a problem with the Kindle edition? Not sure.

The author definitely did a huge amount of research for this book and it shows in the descriptive scenes and in the dialogue between the characters and in their interactions.  Katherine's life is set during the very dangerous and turbulent times of King Henry VIII and it was definitely interesting to watch her grow and learn to navigate the treacherous waters surrounding the royal court and the political machinations occurring there.  I particularly liked how the author portrayed her growing awareness of the need for reform in the Church and how she set about doing so, keeping her head on her shoulders at the same time. I still shiver whenever I read Anne Askew's story and what happened to her; Katherine knew her personally and the author implied Anne went to her death keeping Katherine's involvement in her reforms a secret.  I personally think the author underestimated the power of this woman and what she accomplished.  She pretty much knew every political figure surrounding King Henry VIII, yet managed to survive as well as keep her lands and her political influence.  I would think she was one feisty lady and although it sometimes came across in the book, I think the author downplayed her temper and her resiliency.  I mean, anyone who would deliberately name their dog Gardiner, after Bishop Gardiner, after being quite vocal about how much she disliked the man had to be quite gutsy in that political climate.

Katherine Tudor Duchess was an enjoyable book and I really liked reading about how she found her place in society and perhaps had a huge influence on the way people thought about religion during this time period.  Personally, I am amazed that Katherine survived King Henry VIII's reign as she was certainly outspoken about certain things that could have landed her in a heap of trouble.  Perhaps being married to Charles Brandon protected her from some of it, but maybe the King had a soft spot for her?  Who knows? Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in reading more about this time period and one remarkable lady.  I will definitely be picking up the first two books in this series as well.