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As the novel opens in May 1536, 15-year-old Catherine Howard watches the execution of her cousin Anne Boleyn on Tower Green. Fewer than six years later, a young Queen Catherine is herself abandoned by her family and beheaded by the same volatile king, whom she has cuckolded with his usher, Tom Culpeper. Erickson (The Favored Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife) describes this novel as a historical entertainment in which "fictional events and circumstances, fictional characters and whimsical alterations of events and personalities are blended." Thus, readers who like accuracy in their historical novels will want to look elsewhere. As for those just looking for an enjoyable read, the story itself is surprisingly lackluster given the gripping events it portrays, and Catherine never really rings true as a character. VERDICT Fans of the author will want to read her latest. Readers of historical fiction about the Tudors may prefer works by Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory.-Elizabeth Mellett, P.L. of Brookline, MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Coming five years after The Last Wife of Henry VIII, and one year after the third's story (The Favored Queen), Erickson now examines Catherine Howard, queen number five to mercurial Henry Tudor. While at Horsham under her grandmother Agnes's care, Catherine has relationships with Henry Manox, her music teacher, and Francis Dereham, a pensioner in her grandmother's house. But it's not until Catherine becomes a maid of honor to the new queen, Anna, that she meets Tom Culpeper, setting her life upon its true destiny. After capturing the king's interest, Catherine submits to her father's wish that she advance her family and allows the king, now bored with his queen, to visit her at night-while continuing to make secret plans with Tom Culpeper. While those familiar with the Tudors will be amused at the retelling, this book lacks the intrigue and plot twists one would expect. It plods along until Catherine becomes involved with the king, which doesn't occur until more than halfway through. Catherine is a lyrical narrator but uninteresting character. A surprisingly disappointing rendition for such a rich and gripping tale. Agent: Heide Lange, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.