Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blog Tour Review: Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

From the Back Cover:

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

My Thoughts:

After finishing Elizabeth Fremantle's debut novel, Queen's Gambit, I'm feeling quite sad, as I always do after reading about Katherine Parr. She is my favorite of Henry's queens, and not just because she's the one who got away, but because she was such a grand lady, so smart, so poised, and so tragic. I go into each novel knowing how it's going to end, but I still get swept away, much as Katherine does; I still hope for that happy ending, and then I get so angry when the people she cared about most end up ruining the last months of what should have been the happiest time in her life. (Two other solid 4-star reads about Katherine: The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd and Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir.)

Fremantle begins the novel with the death of Katherine's second husband, Latymer, and captivates the reader with her poetic narrative and fantastic description as she touches on the key points in Katherine's life: her infatuation with the dashing Thomas Seymour, her marriage to an aging and ailing Henry VIII, her relationships with her stepdaughters Meg, Elisabeth, and Mary, her relationships with the reformists and the martyr Anne Askew, and her own close call with Henry's desire to be rid of yet another wife. Katherine manages to accomplish quite a bit in her thirty-five years, not the least of which includes bringing Henry VIII's children together in the only semblance of family they've ever known, serving as regent of England, and publishing two books of her own writings. And Fremantle portrays all of this mostly through the eyes of Katherine herself and through her devoted servant Dot Fownten, and in doing so she has created two rich and compelling heroines for the reader to get attached to as they navigate the perils of the court and of the heart. I was hooked from the first page and could not put the book down as Henry's Catholic cronies cast their net around Katherine.

There's not much to complain about in this novel, other than some awkward sex scenes, but I can't justify a higher rating because this novel really doesn't contribute anything new to my understanding of Katherine Parr. I was very intrigued early on by a couple of things that were definitely new to me, but then the author admitted they were fictions in her note. (Nothing wrong with that--I can appreciate dramatic license with the facts when it's acknowledged.) For me, the best aspect of this novel, and the one that I will remember most, is the way Fremantle brought the underworkings of the court to life. Because Dot was an actual servant and Katherine was such a hands-on queen, the enormity of what it took to keep Henry's court running, from the lowliest kitchen boy to the noblest lady-in-waiting, comes into exquisite focus. I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes glimpses of feasts and festivals, occasions of state, the court on the move, and the day-to-day duties of the army of servants required to make everything seem so effortless and easy in Henry VIII's court. It's little details like that, coupled with giving voice to the people who worked so hard to make it happen but who have been forgotten by history, that really bring a time period to life and remind me why I love historical fiction so much.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

I've got two copies of Queen's Gambit up for grabs for my U.S. readers! Simply leave a comment with your email address to enter!

Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 22, 2013. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!

Queen's Gambit is on a blog tour!
Click here to view the tour schedule.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Fremantle holds a first class degree in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College London. She has contributed as a fashion editor to various publications including Vogue, Elle and The Sunday Times. QUEEN'S GAMBIT is her debut novel and is the first in a Tudor trilogy. The second novel, SISTERS OF TREASON, will be released in 2014. She lives in London. For more about Elizabeth and her future projects, visit Elizabeth's website.


  1. This one has been on my radar for a while - she is my favorite of Henry's queens as well.

    Thanks for the chance to win!


  2. I've been hearing so many great things about this book. It seems to be one of the best received historical fiction works this year. Thanks for offering a copy, I'd love to win it.


  3. This sounds like a very interesting read! My mom also mentioned it to me. Thanks for the giveaway!


  4. I have been following this book tour (and trying desperately to win a copy :) ) and everyone seems to be really enjoying this book! I love all things Tudor so it sounds like something I would really enjoy. Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Fabulous review, Jenny! No need to enter me in the giveaway as I've already read this one (I also enjoyed it).

  6. I have read about most if the other wives but not Katherine Parr. I would really like fill in this gap especilaly after what you said in this post.

    Thnak you for this giveaway.


  7. This novel is fascinating and captivating. thanks for this great giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Your review caught my interest. Many thanks. Love to read this book. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  9. Katherine Parr has always been my favorite of Henry VIII wives. I would love to read Elizabeth's take on her life.

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  10. I don't know much about this queen. I would love to learn more about her.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  11. Thanks for the giveaway! Sounds like a great book.

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  12. Great review, Jenny! I SO wanted to accept this for review from Amy, but my August was already bombarded with tours. Would love to win a copy of this! Thanks for the chance!


  13. Like others, Katherine Parr is a favorite of mine, too. I would love read this novel. Thanks for the giveaway.

  14. Hallo, Hallo, Lady Q!!

    {I read your little blurb on the sidebar, I presumed this was proper address?}

    I had not learnt nearly as much about Henry VIII's court than I have on this book tour!! I am most impressed by Katherine Parr, even though I have noticed that other readers are more inclined to attach themselves to other Queens/Kings, yet gave her full credit for what she was able to accomplish despite the circumstances she had to live under and the measure of courage it took for her to pull it off! To me, I find validity in her story, because anyone who has to face either life/or/death in such a manner as the wives of Henry VIII - I find it rather curious how she could maintain her dignity much less her composure, to always be thinking 'one step' ahead of him, and yet, let nothing be let to slip away that she was doing what she had to do to survive! The internal battle she must have endured!!!

    Your review honours Parr, and pays homage to the strength she fortified whilst she was alive! Like you, even if I know the tragic ending that is going to befell a living person in a biographical fiction story, I too, find myself hopeful for a different ending! I did this whilst I read of Zelda's life in "Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald", as I very much didn't want the tragedy to besot the full measure of her life!

    Ahh! She did the proper framework to give the essence of the time period its full breath of life! I call these examples the knitting of everyday hours into the story! To oft, I think writers forget that those are the little treasurements to readers!! Little glimpses of life streaming through with an urgency and a realistic impression of what might have occurred, to help transport us to that time even moreso, than had they not been included! I look forward to it!!

    Thank you for offering this bookaway!

  15. I've heard so many good things about this book! I'd love to read it! westmetromommy(at)gmail(dot)com

  16. Since I don't know much about Katherine Parr, I'm going to enjoy learning about her. I keep reading so many good reviews about this book. I hope I win a copy.

    wmarsha505 at aol dot com

  17. This book caught my eye a few months back...I've not read anything on Katherine but this story has me hooked! Thanks for the chance to win!


  18. i so need to read this book!!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  19. Thanks for the giveaway!


  20. Like so many others I've read lots of great reviews and would love to read it!

    Laura Kay


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