Title: The Queen’s Mistake: In the Court of Henry VIII
Author: Diane Haeger
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Catherine Howard was a silly girl living in the countryside, away from the temptations of court. Still, she managed to find plenty of excitement from the people living with her at her grandmother’s. But when her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, decides that she should come to court in order to make a favorable match that will advance her family, Catherine becomes an unwitting pawn in her uncle’s quest for power.
I haven’t read much about Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard, so I was eager to pick up Diane Haeger’s new novel The Queen’s Mistake. I was curious as to how Haeger would portray Catherine Howard, considering she’s generally accepted to have been a stupid young girl more interested in pretty clothes than anything else. She lost her head because of her indiscretions with men and her infidelity to the King.
Surprisingly, Haeger actually made Catherine Howard a sympathetic character while still staying true to her known flaws. Catherine isn’t necessarily stupid, but she is naive. She doesn’t realize what she is getting herself into by going to court – all she thinks of is escaping from the boring countryside and her grandmother’s iron fist. It’s clear that she’s being manipulated by those who should care for her, and it makes her whole situation sad.
At the same time, Catherine does sleep around a lot, which makes her kind of an irritating character. It’s not clear why she has sex with all these men besides sheer boredom (with some manipulation thrown in), so it’s difficult to understand. Additionally, sometimes she knows exactly what’s at stake and other times she’s a vapid girl who doesn’t think about the consequences of her actions. It seems like Haeger wanted to make Catherine a sympathetic, layered character while still staying true to historical descriptions of her. She had quite a difficult task on her hands, and did a commendable job with what she had.
The story of The Queen’s Mistake is engaging and suspenseful, despite the fact that the reader is aware of Catherine’s fate at the end of the book. By focusing on Catherine Howard’s life, rather than her arrest and execution, Diane Haeger was able to create an interesting and unique story. Additionally, her author’s note does state she stayed true to historical events, though she says she did embellish some sub-plots.
The Queen’s Mistake was a fun historical fiction novel that was quick and easy to read. I recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction, as well as those who want to know more about Catherine Howard.