Who doesn't love to read about the scandal and shock that existed at court during the reign of Henry VIII? We watch the same thing on soap operas, reality shows and yes, that crap that Showtime's been feeding us (love it) because we are all filth mongers and we love a good steamy affair.
Historical fiction, even the less romantic ones always tug at my heartstrings in a special way. I know what really happened but I just can't help when reading to think "Maybe this time...maybe this time the story will be different." Maybe Catherine of Aragon will run away with the historical equivalent of the hot pool boy or maybe she'll be able to give Henry five healthy sons and he'll never cheat on her- and then Anne Boleyn would never have to die (but then we'd miss out on good Queen Bess and we wouldn't have wanted to miss her for the world). Anyway, I tend to indulge myself in a bit of whimsical fancy about what could have been whenever I'm reading such books.
But the story is always the same. King Henry VIII was a real shit. They could go ahead and put him down in the history books under real shit.
Oh the book? Yeah I guess we should talk about that.
Young Jane (Jeanne) Popyncourt and her mother were hastily forced to flee the French court after the mysterious death of King Charles. They sought refuge in England at the court of King Henry VII where Jane was placed in the royal nursery to befriend and converse in French with the young princesses Margaret and Mary. At the age of eight, Jane couldn't comprehend why she had to leave her home and now live apart from her mother for the first time. When her mother's unexpected death occurs only months later, Jane's life will be filled with unanswered questions about her past and the mysterious circumstances that brought them both to England.
At court Jane, a ward of the king and a companion to the royal princesses, enjoys all the privileges that come with a life at court until the king's death which began the reign of the new king, Henry VIII. In this new court, an unattached, attractive lady with no fortune or family of her own can quickly become a pawn of the powerful men who surround her. Life at court is now a scandalous, volatile place to be and Jane's shadowed past may afford her enemies she never knew she had. Her search for her past will uncover truths too dangerous to believe and reveal a love she has known life long.
Loved it! Plus two stars for having a map and a family tree at the beginning of the book. LOTR-er here and we appreciate anything with a hand drawn map. Gotta love a map. The story was captivating, fast-paced, with interesting details- Emerson explains card games and amusements that would have entertained the court at that time. There was no blatant or unnecessary distorting of history and all characters were kept pretty much true to form and she still managed to conjure up a happy, if some what rushed, fairy tale ending.
I've already picked up her next book Between Two Queens (Secrets of the Tudor Court, #2) and look forward to reading it.
For more on the life and times of Henry VIII, pick up:
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir who writes fabulous biographies
The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George who gives you all the dirt you crave.
Other Reviews of The Pleasure Palace:
The Burton Review