Thursday, June 7, 2012
Book Review: The Secret Keeper
by Howard Books
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.
Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.
As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear.
I don't read a whole lot of historical fiction. It's not that I don't like the genre, it's just that I prefer the fantasy world a little more. But Sandra Byrd is one of my favorite authors, and someone I consider a friend, so regardless of the genre, I will happily read whatever she writes. With that said, you can bet that I'll probably be a little biased in my opinion of her books. But I think she's a wonderful writer, and that's what caused me to seek her out (on Facebook and such) in the first place.
So, on to The Secret Keeper. I'll be honest, it took me a little bit of time to get into this book. It seemed there were so many characters, and I couldn't keep them straight. I had no idea who was who, and I wasn't connecting with the main character.
But somewhere along the way I got sucked in. I really started to care about what happened to Kateryn Parr, and to Juliana. Which, as you know if you're familiar with the time period, isn't always a good thing. Women didn't seem to have it so great during the time of Henry VIII. Especially queens. It can all get a little depressing. For all the beauty and grandeur, I certainly don't envy any of these women. Give me my calm, peaceful, even boring life any day.
One thing I do like about historical fiction, and that Sandra Byrd does really well, is that it makes me interested in the time period. I'm not a history buff by any means, but when I read these books I want to know more. And I am always quite impressed with the authors and the research that must go into writing books like this. The Secret Keeper delves into a bit of history that I really knew nothing about, and makes it interesting and entertaining.
The religion was woven throughout the book in such a way as to not be obtrusive or heavy-handed. It seemed a natural part of the story, and was appropriate for the setting and time. I would definitely call it Christian fiction, but not fiction that would turn off anyone who isn't religious.
By the end of this one, I was so hoping for a happy ending for someone. You'll have to read it yourself to see if I got my wish. I would very much recommend this book to historical fiction readers and lovers of Christian fiction.