"The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr" by Sandra Byrd is a must-read for anyone who enjoys Tudor England, historical fiction or a good, old-fashioned page turner. Put it on the list of summer beach reads for both adults and teens.
Tudor England and the many wives and mistresses of Henry VIII have been and continue to be the subject of scores of books, movies and television programs. But none of the various retellings of life at court with the fickle Henry and the many ladies who lost their heads - literally and figuratively - over him, have told the story from a Christian perspective until now. In her second book set in King Henry's court, Sandra Byrd takes on the story of Kateryn Parr (sometimes written as Catherine Parr or Katharine Parr), Henry's sixth and final wife.
Little has been written about Kateryn Parr, but she is perhaps one of the more prolific writers that existed during Henry's reign. She wrote several devotionals and there were printed tens of thousands of times during her lifetime. She devoted her life to pleasing God, helping others and being a helpful and respectful Queen to a difficult and aging husband. Though she died less than a week after giving birth to a daughter, her story carries on through the work of Sandra Byrd.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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While many of the historical novels and movies of late featuring the wives of King Henry VIII are nothing more than sensationalism, Sandra Byrd shows that historical fiction can be accurate and still entirely sensational in her latest book The Secret Keeper. Sweeping through 8-plus years of court intrigue, royalty, and grandeur, Sandra tells the story of Kateryn Parr through the eyes of a humble lady-in-waiting, Juliana St. John. Juliana's journey begins innocently enough, but hairpin turns are only a moment away, and what was once an exciting adventure to be included in the company of the Queen quickly becomes Juliana's duty to protect her from those who intend to discredit her. She also does not count on shameful circumstances affecting her directly, and thus, charts a firm course for the remainder of her life...to which, God has another plan.
Sandra's study of the Tudor period and Kateryn's life was intense, providing the reader not only with several family trees in the beginning, but an extensive author's note in the back detailing her meticulous research. From the royal garments and stunning jewels to the actual letters and books used in conversation during that time, The Secret Keeper had a natural authentic quality that set it apart from other historical novels regardless of their time period. As a reader, I paused several times to savor the rich language and dialogue that made up each scene. This was not a novel that I wanted to race to complete, but one that grew sweeter with each and every page.
I have been so impressed with all of Sandra's books over the years, but historical fiction is where her talents shine the brightest. Although I am anxiously awaiting her next Tudor novel about Elizabeth I, it comes with a hint of sadness that it will bring this series to a close. And for a reader whose tendency is to never re-read a book, I have no doubt I will be making *several* exceptions for Sandra's entire Ladies in Waiting series in the future.