An unconventional woman. A deadly enemy. A clash of intrigue, deception, and desire. . . . 1525: Artist Susanna Horenbout is sent from Belgium to be Henry VIII’s personal illuminator inside the royal palace. But her new homeland greets her with an attempt on her life, and the King’s most lethal courtier, John Parker, is charged with keeping her safe. As further attacks are made, Susanna and Parker realize that she unknowingly carries the key to a bloody plot against the throne. For while Richard de la Pole amasses troops in France for a Yorkist invasion, a traitor prepares to trample the kingdom from within.Who is the mastermind? Why are men vying to kill the woman Parker protects with his life? With a motley gang of urchins, Susanna’s wits, and Parker’s fierce instincts, honed on the streets and in palace chambers, the two slash through deadly layers of deceit in a race against time. For in the court of Henry VIII, secrets are the last to die. . . .Brilliantly revealing a little-known historical figure who lived among the Tudors, Michelle Diener makes a smashing historical fiction debut.
Time Frame: Tudor Court
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Susan
A letter written by Henry VIII when he was a teenager touting his worship of the majestic warrior Cesare Borgia ignites a scandal and a plot to replace the reigning Tudor Court with the Yorkist heir Richard de la Pole as the English Sovereign in Michelle Diener’s historical romance In a Treacherous Court from Gallery Books. A tale which involves a slew of assassins and spymasters, Diener’s book is fast paced seamlessly connecting the rapidly evolving stages and having the entire story transpire within a few days, a quality which her story shares with Dan Brown’s novels.
The sequences move along a linear course but never fall flat or skimp on details. Diener’s characters show depth as well as a likeness to people who are indicative of sixteenth century England. The dialogue has a natural flow and the expressive mannerisms of both the main and peripheral characters exhibit a human essence that readers can envision. Diener shows an appreciation and a visceral pathos for Henry VIII the man, as the leading characters defend the king and work to unveil the conspiracies whirling around London and endangering the political and economic stability of England.
When a cloth merchant escapes France on board a ship sailing for Dover, England, his injuries are life threatening forcing him to confide his findings of a conspiracy against King Henry to a fellow passenger, Susanna Horenbout, a Flemish artist who by request of the king is traveling to England to be his illuminator. Henry sends his courtier John Parker, the King’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster, to escort the cloth merchant to Bridewell Palace, but when the merchant dies during the Channel crossing, Parker becomes Horenbout’s escort to the king instead. The pair becomes inseparable as several attempts are made on Susanna’s life causing them to investigate the information provided to her by the cloth merchant.
Block by block, Diener builds a credible tale enmeshing staggering fight scenes with clever schemes orchestrated by shrewd strategists who threaten Henry VIII’s court. Though In a Treacherous Court is deemed a work of fiction, it reads like a documented account taken from a biopic on Henry VIII, clad in the duality of heedless deception and fierce loyalty which the king had been known for inspiring in his subjects.