This is a difficult book to rate because there are some elements that I truly enjoyed but others that fell short. I feel that if the author had a good editor or even an insightful beta reader, this book could have been a great one. As it is, it is still a worthwhile read from a unique point of view.
I was expecting a novel about Katherine of York, sister to the Elizabeth who is so near and dear to my heart, so I was somewhat surprised when the novel opened with John Kayleway instead. John is at the battle of Bosworth, where his father has just been killed, making him a ward of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon.
John becomes first a servant of then close friend to the earl's son, William Courtenay. It is through him that John meets and falls desperately in love with Princess Katherine. One does not need to know the history involved here to guess that John does not win her hand, but their story is deeper than that, and no one demonstrates greater loyalty in this book than devoted John.
The story jumps from John's head to Katherine's and sometimes William's or other more minor characters. There is a little too much of the character's thoughts that are already clarified through dialogue, making for some repetitive sections. However, much of this is made up for by the historical details of everyday life for Katherine through the ups and downs of her precarious position as a princess of the defeated dynasty.
Katherine has a justified hatred for Henry Tudor, but I felt that this was dwelt on a little too much. Yes, Katherine and her family were poorly dealt with by Henry VII, but there was no other side of Henry shown. While Katherine was impetuous and at times selfish, she could also be kind and was endlessly dedicated to her husband. Henry, on the other hand, was only cruel and coldhearted. I like to think that people, even Henry Tudor, are more complex than that.
With Henry's death, Katherine has great hopes in his son but receives mixed results. There is a good amount of drama here that almost gets lost in the waiting, complaining, and inner reflection. I would have liked to have seen more time spent on the big moments in Katherine's life. Somehow, the story never quite captivated me the way I know it could have.
This book does a wonderful job of demonstrating how difficult it could be to not have the choice in who one would marry, but also how those marriages could still result in a loving and devoted couple. The religious beliefs of the age and how they impacted everyday life were well described, and the characters never took on more modern characteristics in order to make the story come out the way the reader might be hoping for.
I'm not sure where the author plans to take this as a series, but it definitely has potential.
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