I originally reviewed this on my website C. J. Leger
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an avid fan of anything Tutor related, and most especially, anything related to the great Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife.
Carolly's book is subtitled "A Novel of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon" and of the many books related to the tutor dynasty, is the first I have encountered that encompasses the story between Henry and Catherine pre-Anne Boleyn.
While Henry, in all his glory, left behind a legend of a dynasty, so did Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon; as the most powerful rulers the world had ever seen. However not much is written about their daughter Catherine, deserving of an attached trail to their legacy as well, except for the fact that she was loved by the people of England and made her parents proud by being a gracious and obedient queen in her new realm.
This book takes us back to Catherine of Aragon before she was Catherine; when she was revered as Infanta Catalina, the daughter of the great Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, financiers of the discovery of the new world and its conquests. During this setting the reader can greatly appreciate the grandeur of the Court of Granada and understand that in and of herself, Catherine was a force in history, and understand why such ferocity was used by the Bishop of Rome, the Emperor of Rome, and the Court of France to defend her during "The King's Great Matter".
It is a great book for those who want to know more about this woman, who was such a prime part of one of the most historically altering events in Europe. It also gives us an inside look at the true nature of her life in England, as a betrothed girl, wife, widow, and then prisoner alongside Henry VIII by His father, who too wanted to marry her; until the death of her mother, caused her to be discarded until further use for her could be found.
This book does a great job of explaining the type of life Catherine endured before actually becoming Queen of England, and the life of women during that time.
This book is, however, a novel, made to trap historical fact and dramatization together in a bound vessel. It does have historically accurate events, but is mostly fictional text.
Parts I Do Not Like
My main quarrel of this book is the way Queen Isabella of Castile is portrayed. She is written as a grand woman deserving of her crown, but weak in the presence of her husband and submissive to him. History knows that Isabella was the heir to the throne and she made it quite clear that Ferdinand was King consort. All envoys who went to their court for approval of anything, spoke directly to her and she made the decisions on almost everything. To portray such a strong woman in history as a feeble wife is just horrendous. She was her predecessor's successor, in all her might and glory, in her kingdom and her marriage.
The formatting on pages 104-107 are off. The last line reaches all the way to the bottom of the pages which is odd and uncomfortable.
Overall, this book lack just a hint of umph that would take it over the edge, but is still a page turner for me. I enjoy that someone somewhere wrote a book about such a magnificent queen like Catherine, who endured so much after being sent to the English court. I would recommend this book as a great addition to a Tutor library collection, which encompasses a fictional, entertaining text with historical accuracy and another side to the Tutor Court.