“Use well with the king what you have learned of men”
In the Queen’s Mistake Haeger puts a new *spin* on Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s doomed fifth wife. A poorer member of the powerful Howard family, Catherine is relegated to the country home of the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk where supervision over the young girls of the household is lax and sexual escapades are common. The Duke of Norfolk has great plans for Catherine and he wants her sexually educated before she’s brought to court so he can land another Howard woman on the throne of England. I’m not quite sure I’m buying this rationalization – I would have thought a pure maid would better suit the old King but oh well…..
After dallying with her music teacher and plight trothing herself to the Duchess’ secretary Catherine is sent to court to serve Henry’s new queen, Anne of Cleves and she soon captures the roving eye of the unhappy groom. She also meets younger courtier Thomas Culpepper and soon begins making whoopee with him anytime they can be alone, and it’s a lot more frequent than you’d expect in such an overcrowded castle – but that’s what Haeger’s would have us believe.
And the rest, as they say is history. If you are a long-time reader of all things Tudor you know what Catherine’s fate is and if you don’t I don’t think you want me spoiling it for you. Over and above the ludicrous notion that the Howards would encourage lose sexual behavior so she could entrap a king, my biggest problem is just generally bad writing. I’ve seen other reviewers refer to it as “pedantic” and “juvenile” and I couldn’t agree more. I grew very tired of hearing about things dribbling down Henry’s beard, his sweaty hands, distasteful breath and all around grossness. I got it the first few times and I did not need to be clubbed over the head with it.
Unfortunately, when the writing and storyline are not enough to engage my attention I start to nit-pick and that’s what happened here. First there was Thomas Culpepper, gentleman of the bedchamber and The King of England is confiding all aspects of his love life with him. How Thomas and Catherine were able to meet so often with no one noticing (how did a maid of honor get a private room???) was a bit of a stretch as well as the time she brought him his own satisfaction in the garden (wonder if there was a fountain handy to wash her hand off?). You don’t even want to know about the dalliance with Cromwell’s son.
I didn’t find Cranmer’s persecution of her just because she was Catholic believable, nor could I swallow the big *true love* between Catherine and Thomas (no chemistry there), and in the end she became so darn Mary Sue-ish it took a lot of will power not to hurl the book at the wall. I probably would have gone for three stars but the ending ticked me off so bad (what a let down) that I’m knocking it down to two. This is the third book I’ve tried by this author and the third time is not the charm for me. I’m done. Get it from the library if you must, I’m glad I did.
Lastly, someone want to tell me if it’s physically possible to ride horse from York to Hampton Court in a full day? I’m guessing not…