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In a Treacherous Court

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In a Treacherous Court (2011) Michelle Diener

In-a-Treacherous-CourtSet in England in 1525

London was a cesspit of mud and filth.

Susanna Horenbout is a Flemish painter sent by her father to the court of King Henry VIII to be his illuminator. But when she is the witness to the death of a man with a message to be given only to King Henry, her life is suddenly in grave danger.

Her parents thought she’d given everything up for lust. But she hadn’t. She’d gambled her father would allow her the same freedom he did Lucas. Afford her the same respect. But she had lost.

Her chances of marriage were slim if she continued as an artist, and she had no plans to become a nun. She thought of Joost, and shivered. But her father had not placed her … explorations with Joost in the same category as Lucas’s affairs. Instead, he’d shipped her off to England.

John Parker is what would later be called a made-man. He is a trusted courtier of King Henry, and sent to retrieve a shipment of crossbows, but ends up escorting the unexpectedly female painter sent to King Henry.

She watched him for a long moment. “What were you before you became the King’s man, Master Parker?”

He felt himself sink into the green-brown of her eyes, calm and serene as a wood in spring. She could see straight to his soul. He did not know whether he should rejoice at that, or despair.

He led them through the door out into the freezing rain. “I was nothing.”

The most fascinating part about this story is that these were real individuals about whom little is known other than their bare biographies–Susanna was an illuminator for King Henry and John Parker was a trusted courtier, and they eventually married. Since so little was known about them, the author got to make up how they met and fell in love.

The mystery was created for the story, but the elements were based on historical facts (even if the details are created whole cloth).

The constraints upon women were different than they were in the Regency and Victorian era, and although it was unexpected, Susanna was not rejected once she displayed her talent (something that seems unlikely in later eras).

“If I hadn’t seen yer there with me own eyes, painting it, I’d never believe ’twas a woman done it.”

The landlord meant it as praise, but suddenly exhausted, drained of all energy, Susanna was not able to summon even a weak smile at the insult.

Something I quite enjoyed about the story was that each chapter opens with–in essense–an etiquette lesson for men and women of the court.

The Chiefe Conditions and Qualities in a Courtier: To consider whom he doth taunt and where: for he ought not to mocke poore seelie soules, nor men of authoritie, nor commune ribaldes and persons given to mischeef, which deserve punishment.

Of the Chief Conditions and Qualityes in a Waytyng Gentylwoman: Not to speake woordes of dishonestye and baudrye to showe her self pleasant, free and a good felowe.

The Chiefe Conditions and Qualities in a Courtier: To speake alwaies of matters likely, least he be counted a lyer in reporting of wonders and straunge miracles.

Those are rather marvelous.

I have to say that despite the boinking, I quite enjoyed the story.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Gallery Books




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