I have been a fan of Sandra Byrd since her French Twist series. When I first heard about her Tudor novel, To Die For, I was uncertain that I would like it. I thought it might have been boring and dry, but my goodness, was I wrong. I loved that book, actually that's an understatement, but close enough. When The Secret Keeper was released, I thought no way could Sandra do it again, this one won't be as good. About two pages into the book (right about the time I got hooked), I had to ask myself why I keep doubting this absolutely amazing author. Sandra is incredible and she has done it again, perhaps even better? It's hard to say because it has been a while since I read To Die For, but it doesn't matter which is better because they are both excellent and impossible to put down.
One of the things I tend to struggle with is when authors overdo it on trying to get the language and accents authentic to the time and place of the story. I have always found that it slows the story down and that is a huge negative for me. Somehow Sandra is able to be completely authentic without the book lagging. I never once felt like I wasn't right there in the court of Henry VIII. Sandra's talent is truly unmatched in historical fiction.
So, the stage was expertly set with authentic historical detail and we have an amazing story as well. So many times I have read historical novels in which the author focuses too much on either the setting or on the story. That can create a disconnect with me because either the story is lacking or it is hard to tell just where and when the story takes place. The balance between historical detail and story is absolutely flawless in The Secret Keeper.
I highly recommend The Secret Keeper, and To Die For. I also recommend reading the author's note at the end. I always enjoy reading those anyway, but it was especially interesting in this book. The Secret Keeper is my favorite book so far this year! I can't wait to see what's next and I promise that I will have only high expectations. Sandra has earned it.
"The king had told Kate, upon her marriage, to choose whichever women she liked to pass the time with her in amusing manners or otherwise accompany her for her leisure. The queen certainly did so; we played cards and dice and she love to hunt with her greyhounds. But His Majesty did not realize, I was sure, the extent to which Kate was about more serious business. Her chambers were oft filled with women who held spirited debates upon philosophy and religion."
-thoughts from Juliana St. John in The Secret Keeper-A Novel of Kateryn Parr
Before I began reading The Ladies in Waiting series by author Sandra Byrd, I didn't know much about the Tudors or the Protestant Reformation. But now, after reading The Secret Keeper-A Novel of Kateryn Parr, I am feeling much more informed and educated.
The Secret Keeper-A Novel of Kateryn Parr, rehearses the life of Kateryn (Katherine) Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, during her reign as queen. Told from the point of view of Juliana St. John, a fictitious character within the realm, we peer into the life of one of England's very influential queens during the time of the Protestant Reformation.
Byrd has done extensive research in the life of this queen and those who were friends and enemies during her time in the royal court. After reading this novel, I was prompted to do some further research for myself, as I was after reading the first novel in the series, To Die For-A Novel of AnneBoleyn.
As I read the novel and then researched I found out what an integral part the women of the royal family played during the Protestant Reformation. There were also some divisions within, which created a lot of bloodshed, literally, but it was a real time of growth for the Church. I imagine this fact and her interest in the Tudor family are what prompted Sandra Byrd to write this book. I know that there are many other novels out there on the royal family during this time period, but none quite possibly as inspired as this.
Spiritual elements the reader will find within the novel are the gift of the Spirit revealed as by prophecy. Prophecy, the Word of Knowledge, and the Word of Wisdom are all speaking gifts within the church, given by the Holy Spirit to further God's purposes and plans, as listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Byrd does a lovely job revealing this in the character of Juliana St. John through dreams given to her, and as the reader will find, to help carry out the plan of God during this time.
I enjoyed reading this novel for many reasons. I like historical fiction. But The Secret Keeper is a combination of Chick lit (yes girls, there is a lovely romance within the pages), Historical fiction, and Christian fiction, which made it all the more appealing to me.
I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. You will learn about a pivotal time period in Christian history while learning about an amazing queen, who was also a student of the scriptures and a writer herself. Maybe you will be prompted to do a little further research of your own. Many blessings to you as you travel back in time with The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to give a positive review. The thoughts and opinions here are entirely my own.
First there was To Die For: A novel of Anne Boleyn. Now Sandra Byrd returns to regale us with The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.
As King Henry VIII's last wife, Kateryn Parr enters a world of opposition and intrigue when she steps into his court. The story is told through the eyes of Juliana St. John-a young maiden who has come along to attend Kateryn.
The court may be full of trickery and deceit, but it is Juliana who may hold the biggest secret.
Not only does Juliana have the gift of prophecy, but in one of her visions she has also seen a prominent family friend shredding the dress of a very high-born woman.
Now Juliana is left to wonder: was she brought to the court for such a time as this? Will she have the courage to intervene when the time comes? And will she ever find true love of her own?
Once again, I couldn't put this book down. I was transported to the very courts of King Henry himself. There was also a huge twist in the middle that completely surprised me.
Before reading The Secret Keeper I knew little of Kateryn Parr, so it was both fun and enlightening to get to know her through Byrd's adaptation. She was a fascinating woman, and played a large role in the upbringing of Queen Elizabeth I.
Likewise, Juliana also played a strong female character. I especially loved how Byrd gave her the gift of prophecy. That's something I'd never seen before in fiction, and I felt she made it both relevant and interesting.
The one and only reason I shaved off a star for The Secret Keeper was because I felt as if it was a little too similar to the first book, To Die For. Each book is set in King Henry VIII's court, each has a queen with strong protestant leanings, and each has a lady's maid who cannot have the love of her life because of social reasons. Because of the similarity between plots, it came down to a "Favorites" game: which was my personal favorite? For me, it was To Die For. So I feel as though I may be a little biased.
However, I'm confident those who haven't read To Die For will find nothing to criticize in The Secret Keeper, and there are several variants to keep it interesting and worth reading for those who have.
There is one scene that depicts a rape, so please be advised.
But overall, I thought The Secret Keeper was fabulous. It's one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend, and I eagerly look forward to Byrd's future installment: Roses Have Thorns: A novel of Elizabeth I.
Based on these first two books, I have a feeling this will be a strong series that readers won't soon forget!
(Thanks to the author and Howard Books for giving me this book to review.)
The Secret Keeper is the second book in Sandra's amazing Tudor Series. A trip to Henry VIII's court is luxurious but treacherous. This story is no exception. His subjects, even Queen Kateryn Parr, are defenseless against Henry's fickle affections as long as he reigns. However, life after Henry proves even more dangerous as a power struggle of epic proportions ensues. By choosing Juliana's unique point of view, Sandra paints a vibrant depiction of Kateryn's royal journey, both physically & spiritually. I was inspired by Kateryn's unwavering support of the reformer cause & reminded of King David's Abigail in her wisdom, grace & courage. Sandra's description of Kateryn's tender love towards needy souls is poignant & stirring. The royal children grow toward their destined roles, strengthened by her maternal tutelage. Mended by that same nurturing, Juliana finds the courage to choose honor & sacrifice over her own desires. Hope is the divine theme beautifully woven through this series. Indeed, hope is the force behind Juliana's quest for a love that defies both boundaries & brokenness.