The Secret Keeper is the first of Sandra Byrd’s books I’ve read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sandra brings a new and rare story of Katheryn Parr. She is a person in English history that I have not read much about and now I’m intrigued by her. This story is told by Juliana St. John’s perspective, a daughter of a Knight.
Juliana’s mother expects her to marry the son of one of her father’s business men. But when Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, comes to town in regards to the affairs of her father’s estates and happens to pass by a church and sees Juliana reading, he feels that she would be perfect as a member of Katheryn Parr’s household, the lady he loves. He sends her to Katheryn Parr’s household and she accompanies Katheryn to King Henry VIII court. They quickly become friends and Juliana becomes a loyal ladies maid to her. She looks to Katheryn as a sort of mother and Katheryn is kind and loving towards her in that regard.
Meanwhile King Henry VIII falls in love with Katheryn and wants to marry her. Despite loving Sir Thomas Seymour, she marries Henry and becomes the sixth and final wife to Henry and is doting to his children. She loves them and in many ways brings them closer to their father. She is a good Christian, intelligent, delicate yet strong, elegant, kind and very giving. It is her desire to influence Henry in matters of the realm and religious beliefs and she gets herself in a sticky situation when she supports Anne Askew, a reformer. This puts herself and her ladies in danger.
Juliana is also vulnerable to the court life, less noticeable, and less protected. She fall’s victim to a man at court who basically threatens to lie, spread harmful gossip about her and her mistress if she told anyone about his assault on her. Juliana also keeps a secret that could possibly bring her harm if the wrong people found out, a secret of prophecy.
Sandra writes about Juliana’s assault, sensitively and doesn’t go into great detail. She leaves it to the reader to imagine what happened and I’m glad she wrote it this way. I’ve read scenes in books before were it was so graphic; I had a hard time picking up the story and continuing on.
I found that I liked Sandra’s portrayal of King Henry in this story. I saw a side of him I don’t normally see in other books that I’ve read. I don’t know if it was because by the time he married Kate, he was completely worn out or he felt he didn’t have to worry anymore because he had an heir? Or was it because of his health? He seemed to focus more on his beliefs and the reformation during this time and had a softer side towards his children. He even goes off to war and leaves Katheryn to rule in his stead while away.
I rated this story a solid five stars! I absolutely admire Sandra’s style of writing, the story was easy to follow along and she did not go off on long-winded details that I find tedious to read. She gives you a wonderful view of the court life during the time of the English Reformation. The story-line is believable, the plot engaging. All of her characters gave support to the story and was well developed. They all played a special part, even the ones that were in the background, which I find helps to make the story flow better. She has done extensive research for her story and it shows. I highly recommend this story to anyone who wants to read about Katheryn Parr and this period of time in England’s History.
I have an interview with Author Sandra Byrd on October 22. Make sure to mark your calendars! You won’t want to miss it!