Title: At the King’s Pleasure
Author: Kate Emerson
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When Lady Anne Stafford is married to Lord George Hastings at her brother’s command, she is content with the marriage. Though she is interested in Will Compton, one of King Henry VIII’s companions, she knows marriage to George will bring her stability and companionship. But when Lady Anne finds herself in a difficult position and her brother turns against her, she finds that she is alone and must fight for herself because no one is willing to to stand up for her.
I have been uninterested in historical fiction as of late, though I can’t say why. Perhaps it was the glut of novels I read in a short period, or that I was beginning to wonder if there were any new stories to tell. Whatever it was, At the King’s Pleasure reminded me why the genre used to be one of my favorites. Kate Emerson writes sympathetic characters and masterfully brings Tudor England to life in the fourth novel of her Secrets of the Tudor Court series.
The Secrets of the Tudor Court series is very interesting. All the novels, as the series name implies, take place during the Tudor era in England. But Emerson clearly has reviewed her British history well, for these novels aren’t the obvious stories about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, or one of his other wives. Instead, Emerson focuses on the minor players of the time period, those whom other historical fiction authors have overlooked. Emerson breathes life into these characters, transporting the reader to 16th-century England, and enveloping them in court intrigue. It’s not necessary to read these books in any kind of order; they are each standalone novels, only sharing a time period and setting.
In At the King’s Pleasure, Emerson focuses on Lady Anne Stafford, sister to the Duke of Buckingham. Anne is gentle and wise for her years; even at a young age, she knows she will not marry for love. Her wish is that she finds contentment in her marriage, and so she is happy with the choice of Lord Hastings. She even begins to love her husband when the unthinkable happens, and Anne is left to fend for herself with no allies. This is where the reader sees Anne’s true strength and determination, as well as how smart she is. I absolutely loved Anne from beginning to end; while she doesn’t always make the best decisions, and is sometimes too quick to forgive, she was realistic and flawed.
Emerson does a wonderful job with the secondary characters in At the King’s Pleasure as well. From Lord Hastings to Will Compton, Emerson treats her characters with loving care. It’s clear that she has thought out each of them and developed them carefully. Anne’s brother, the Duke of Buckingham, is a little strange, and I will admit that I didn’t love his scenes towards the end of the novel, but he doesn’t play a huge part in the overall story.
Secrets of the Tudor Court: At the King’s Pleasure was a wonderful read, from beginning to end. Emerson treats the reader with wonderful historical details and fleshes out her setting and the time period well. The characters are fully developed, and she balances the story with a mix of character development, historical occurrences, and court intrigue. I’ve enjoyed all of the novels I’ve read in this series so far (this is my third), and I look forward to seeing which historical personages Emerson tackles next.