Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd

About the book:

The author of To Die For returns to the court of Henry VIII, as a young woman is caught between love and honor.

What she sees in secret, she may not tell.

Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII.

Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, returns to Wiltshire to conclude his affairs with Juliana’s father’s estate and chances upon her reading as lector in the local church. He sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves and wants most to please, Kateryn Parr. Juliana’s mother agrees to have her placed with Parr for a season and Juliana goes, though reluctantly.
For she keeps a secret.

As Juliana accompanies Kateryn Parr to court, Henry’s devout sixth queen raises the stakes for all reformers. Support of firebrand Anne Askew puts the queen and her ladies in life-threatening jeopardy, as does the queen’s desire to influence her husband’s—and the realm’s—direction and beliefs. Later, without Henry’s strong arm, the court devolves to competition, duplicity, and betrayal. The risks could not be higher as Juliana must choose between love and honor, personal fulfillment and sacrifice. Ultimately, her course is driven by a final kept secret, one that undoes everything she thought she knew.

My review of The Secret Keeper:

I have been a fan of Sandra Byrd since her French Twist series.  When I first heard about her Tudor novel, To Die For, I was uncertain that I would like it.  I thought it might have been boring and dry, but my goodness, was I wrong.  I loved that book, actually that’s an understatement, but close enough.  When The Secret Keeper was released, I thought no way could Sandra do it again, this one won’t be as good.  About two pages into the book (right about the time I got hooked), I had to ask myself why I keep doubting this absolutely amazing author.  Sandra is incredible and she has done it again, perhaps even better?  It’s hard to say because it has been a while since I read To Die For, but it doesn’t matter which is better because they are both excellent and impossible to put down.

One of the things I tend to struggle with is when authors overdo it on trying to get the language and accents authentic to the time and place of the story.  I have always found that it slows the story down and that is a huge negative for me.  Somehow Sandra is able to be completely authentic without the book lagging.  I never once felt like I wasn’t right there in the court of Henry VIII.  Sandra’s talent is truly unmatched in historical fiction.

So, the stage was expertly set with authentic historical detail and we have an amazing story as well.  So many times I have read historical novels in which the author focuses too much on either the setting or on the story.  That can create a disconnect with me because either the story is lacking or it is hard to tell just where and when the story takes place.  The balance between historical detail and story is absolutely flawless in The Secret Keeper.

I highly recommend The Secret Keeper, and To Die For.  I also recommend reading the author’s note at the end.  I always enjoy reading those anyway, but it was especially interesting in this book.  The Secret Keeper is my favorite book so far this year!  I can’t wait to see what’s next and I promise that I will have only high expectations.  Sandra has earned it.

For more information about The Secret Keeper, click here.

This book was provided for review by Howard Books.

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