At the King’s Pleasure’ is the fourth book in Kate Emerson’s Secrets of the Tudor Court series. I’ve read the previously three books and I’ve truly enjoyed reading each one. In this novel our protagonist is Lady Anne Stafford. Lady Anne is the sister of The Duke of Buckingham, a man history remembers for dying a traitor. He is arrogant, judgmental, hypocritical and cruel. When he hears a rumor that Henry is interested in his sister he immediately sends her to a nunnery with her husband, George Hastings’s, full approval.
Anne is sent sixty miles away to Littlemore priory where her life, which had always been the comfortable existence that one would expect of a member of the highest tanking noble, but she quickly finds she must follow the rules of the priory and its very strict prioress, Katherine Wells. Like so many religious houses before the Reformation Anne soon discovers that the prioress is mother to a newborn child.
Hastings retrieves his wife after a little more than a month and takes her to his family home at Ashby de la Zouch castle under conditions most would deem house arrest. Lady Anne would remain here for five years before being allowed to return to court. She is granted this in return for providing Hastings with an heir. So while the two try to rekindle what they had once shared any headway was always tainted by the circumstances in which Anne lived, a virtual prisoner to her husband’s jealousy.
George Hastings seemed to have a genuine love for his wife and they shared a mutual attraction, but throughout the novel he is unable to overcome his misplaced jealousy and mistrust that borders on paranoia and seems to be founded in the flirtatious nature of his wife. Anne masterfully plays the flirtatious courtier in a game of courtly love popular at the Tudor court. It seems that the entire court, which the exception of Hastings, seems to understand that the banter is meaningless, but despite many years of marriage, and several children Hastings cannot find it in himself to forgive what might not have even occurred. It is surprising that the two remain together and after much time has passed Anne and George are able to rekindle their love once more.
Like the rest of Emerson’s wonderfully rich and multi-layered protagonists Anne Stafford is a strong women who knows not only love but also bitter betrayal and still has the strength of character to rise above the past when her family is threatened. She is strong, brave and determined, faithful and loyal and is happy to fight for what she believes in herself without waiting for her knight to ride up and rescue her. Again, Kate Emerson has left me with another rich detailed account of a marginal but important Tudor woman. I find her depictions inspiring even for myself in the modern world and would recommend each of the novels in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series without a moment’s hesitation. In fact, I have never taken more than a day to read any of them.
Historical Fiction at its most brilliant… Please, Kate keep them coming.