By Lucy Worsley
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 6943 7
If any novelist knows what she or he is talking about, that person must surely be Lucy Worsley. She is the Chief Curator at Historical Royal Palaces, the company that runs the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and other historic buildings and castles in the UK – and she’s also a historical television presenter, too.
Eliza Rose is a teen romance set behind the scenes of the court of King Henry VIII (1491-1547), one of England’s most notorious monarchs.
Good King Harry will always be remembered for his six wives, and Worsley sets the action of her novel just as the king is getting fed up with his current wife, Anne of Cleves, and starting to cast his eye around for the next one. His attention has landed on teenager Katherine Howard, who ended up becoming Henry’s fifth wife and then getting her head chopped off when her husband decided to move onto wife number six. Henry wasn’t very good at marriage!
Eliza Rose tells the story of lively heroine Eliza Camperdowne, the fictitious cousin of Katherine Howard. Eliza is headstrong and feisty, as heroines of historical romances tend to be. But she also knows that her duty is to marry a rich man and provide the money that will save the Camperdowne family’s beautiful but crumbling mansion.
Young teenager Eliza is sent to Trumpton Hall, a Tudor boot camp for training King Henry’s potential wives and mistresses. Here she meets fun, beautiful and buxom Katherine Howard, and the two become friendly rivals before being summoned to court to meet their romantic destiny.
At the king’s court, only two things are certain – love and danger. Worsley describes life in the royal palaces in intriguing detail. Court is a tricky place, full of treachery, lies and secrets. Everyone is playing their own game, and Eliza quickly realises that no one – especially Katherine Howard – can be trusted.
Whist Katherine has her eyes set on King Henry’s bedchamber, Eliza falls for one of the servants, the handsome Ned Barsby. This isn’t what Eliza’s father had in mind for his daughter. There are going to be fireworks and heartbreak for Eliza and Katherine before the night is out.
It is impossible not to get sucked into the Tudor goings-on brought to life by Worsley in Eliza Rose. Historical romance is a well-worn genre, and it might not be your thing, but Worsley proves to be such a great story-teller that it is no use resisting.
And old Henry has five more wives whose stories are crying out for the Worsley treatment. Put your quill to parchment, Ms Worsley, and tell us more!
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com