LIBBY, Alisa M. The King’s Rose. 297p. Dutton. 2009. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47970-3. LC number unavailable.
Gr 8 Up–Beautiful Catherine Howard, 15, has attracted the attention of aging King Henry Tudor, who is becoming increasingly desperate for a son. His only son, Edward, is a sickly youngster, and Henry is worried about the succession. He has already rid himself of three wives and, now, he finds a way to dispense with his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, so he can marry Catherine. Catherine has been thrust before him by her powerful Howard relatives, and she knows that her role is to keep the king happy, but she has grown up in the morally lax household of her grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and she has secrets in her past that, if revealed, will ruin her. Told in Catherine’s voice, the story gains real immediacy as she glories in the excitement and glamour of the court, but soon realizes that she is in great danger. Her love for young Thomas Culpepper overcomes her common sense, and their affair seals her doom. Period activities such as a bear-baiting contest are skillfully woven into the plot. The dowager Duchess and her accomplice, Lady Jane Rochford, are deliciously amoral in their relentless political scheming. One particularly effective scene has Catherine shocked at seeing a portrait of the youthful Henry and realizing how much he has deteriorated. While numerous sexual encounters are part of the political reality, they are subtly handled. A real treat for lovers of historical fiction.–Quinby Frank, Green Acres School , Rockville , MD