04 March 2011

THE KING'S ROSE by ALISA M. LIBBY

A historical fiction book about Catherine Howard, the 5th wife of Henry VIII and the most enigmatic in my opinion. I am fast deciding that Catherine Howard is the most fascinating of Henry's wives. She was the only one of his wives to never have her portrait painted, which kind of symbolizes her whole marriage to Henry. It was like it wasn't even there. She was also his youngest wife, and as such, she has been portrayed as everything from a complete harlot to a naive teenager, with the truth most likely being somewhere in the middle. In this book, she is portrayed as a the naive young girl buffeted about by the intrigues of court and the machinations of the power hungry Howard family of which she is a member. As a result, it took me a while to get into the book because I had to get used to the one sided Catherine the author chose to portray. Once I did, though, the story was captivating. I found Libby's take on Henry VIII as an aging man determined to feel young again perhaps the best part of the book. 

Although the portrayal of Catherine in this book was one sided, neither she, nor the other characters were one dimensional. The portrayal of the court of Henry VIII and the various players was enjoyable. In addition, the story, while not exactly believable in all respects, was a good fictional story. The only drawback was that I had to convince myself not to get caught up in the characterization of Catherine and view her as simply a girl in WAY OVER her head. 

Just a word to the wise, also. This book is considered as a Young Adult novel, and it stands well as young ADULT. However, since it is a book that deals with the court of Henry VIII, there is a lot of instances of a sexual nature both within and without of wedlock. Although the descriptions are quite tame by today's standards, I would caution whether this a good book for 'tweens and very young teens. 

As an aside, I think it very interesting that the only two wives that Henry VIII had beheaded were both Howards.