Review of "The Queen's Governess" by Karen Harper

"The Queen's Governess" by Karen Harper is another in a long list of historical fiction novels about the life of Anne Boleyn. Some of these novels are good; some are horrible. Harper's novel falls into the former portion. This novel is from a relatively fresh perspective and is intriguing while doing justice to the lives of a number of historical figures.

Katherine Ashley is the woman who practically raised Queen Elizabeth I or "The Virgin Queen." While her life was interesting, living amongst the insane and powerful Tudors, she is often overshadowed by the figures that lived in her lifetime. There is, of course, King Henry VIII and his drove of murdered and divorced wives. Anne Boleyn, the royal slut or victim of a King's lust, depending on how you look at it. There is Queen Mary or "Bloody Mary," half sister of Elizabeth. Others include Lady Jane Grey, Kathryn Howard, Thomas Seymour and a barrage of other shocking, scheming, victimized or otherwise dramatic people. Karen Harper manages to do Katherine's life justice in "The Queen's Governess" as well as the myriad of courtiers surrounding her. The novel is told from her perspective.

There are a number of places in the novel where Howard clearly needs to resort to choosing the most reliable gossip or to filling in gaps. She must also choose which theories are the most likely in many cases, as in with the identity of Katherine Ashley's family. However, her adherence to the truth is nearly unheard of in such a novel with such a "backburner" narrator. She rarely embellishes to a distracting point.

For those readers who are not familiar with this point in the Tudor history, "The Queen's Governess" is intriguing enough and the history itself is intriguing enough to reel them in. My suggestion would be to keep a notebook handy so the names of unknown characters can be written down and researched a little later. The story goes so far beyond what a single book can contain, so readers are bound to be interested the spiderweb of drama that reaches out from the core of Karen Harper's story.

Shelly Barclay

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