Tudor Christmas Tidings
A set of three novellas all set at Christmastime at different parts of the Tudor era, I’m going to give each of these a separate review.
Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford
The court of Richard III was a terrifying and treacherous place… especially for a young woman whose family was sworn to Elizabeth Woodville, and a man dedicated to seeing Henry Tudor take England’s throne. Set over three consecutive Christmases - two in Richard’s court and one in Henry’s - this tells the story of Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice, who are betrothed to each other at the connivance of their families, all of whom are busily assuring Richard of their loyalty even while quietly working behind the scenes against him. Everyone is playing dangerous games and nobody dares say anything, because the walls have ears… but nevertheless across the twelve days of the first Christmas they spend in each others’ company, John and Alice begin to develop feelings for each other, but it isn’t until Henry has the throne that they are finally able to think of a future together. What I liked most about this was the air of tension that permeated it; the whole court was paranoid, looking over their shoulders, wondering what the future would hold, and that really came across in Alice and John’s interactions; both nervous about anything they said in the fear that it might be fatal if their trust was misplaced.
Secrets of the Queen’s Lady by Jenni Fletcher
Anne of Cleves is considered by many to be the luckiest of Henry VIII’s famous six wives; their marriage lasted a scant six months before he divorced her and married Katherine Howard, but he treated her as a ‘favoured sister’, setting up her own court at Richmond. This story follows one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, Lady Pippa - a widow in her late thirties - and Kit, a young lord who has been acting as a diplomat in Europe. This one is interesting because Pippa is eight years older than Kit; they first met when he was only 17 and she took pity on him bumbling lost around a palace. After surviving a ghastly marriage, Pippa has vowed not to wed again, but Kit’s devotion eventually persuades her to reconsider.
His Mistletoe Lady by Amanda McCabe
Daughter of one of Catherine of Aragon’s former ladies in waiting, Catherin Greaves is summoned with her mother to Queen Mary’s court. With her father in the Tower following his apparent involvement in a plot to remove Mary from the throne, Catherine’s future is uncertain, and she’s definitely not eligible to marry Don Diego de Vasquez, an important and wealthy Spanish lord. The two of them are inexorably drawn together, though, and Catherine dares to dream of a future far from England’s shores. Based on the real story of Jane Dormer and the Count of Feria (who also appear in the story).
I really enjoyed this collection. All three stories were beautifully written and researched and felt so true to the period, each really capturing the mood of the courts in which they took place. I think Pippa and Kit’s story was my favourite, but then I’m always a sucker for an older woman/younger man story. All three of them are well worth reading. Five stars for a fantastic Tudor Christmas collection.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via Rachel’s Random Resources.