My Review of The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd
NOTE: The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd was provided to me by Howard Books in exchange for my honest and fair review. Publication date is tomorrow, June 5, 2012 in paperback.
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (June 5, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1439183147
- ISBN-13: 978-1439183144
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 Wilthsire 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.
Juliana has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one vibrant vision she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of a highly born young woman, while it was still on her body, to perilous consequence.
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.
God, the knower of secrets, can judge these words not to be only written with ink, but most truly impressed in the heart. Kateryn the Queen, KP
The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd is the second book in her Ladies in Waiting series focusing on the main character and protagonist Juliana St. John/Mistress St. John . She finds herself eventually forming a very close ‘motherly’ type of friendship with Queen Kateryn Parr who was the sixth wife to marry King Henry VIII of England. The Secret Keeper begins in the year 1542 and goes through the year 1550; seeing the deaths of King Henry VIII, Queen Kateryn Parr including her secret marriage to Thomas Seymour, birth of daughter Mary Seymour and eventual death of Thomas Seymour. All of the main Tudor figures are present including Lady Elizabeth, Kat Ashley, Anne Askew, even William Cecil and Thomas Wriothesley!
As with Tudor stories, you do not need to have a strong familiarity or knowledge base to read The Secret Keeper. Sandra Byrd’s captivating writing style brings the characters and events to life before your eyes. The reader cannot help but become enraptured with the tale being told through Juliana’s eyes. I enjoyed Sandra Byrd’s use of language specifically in her dialogue scenes. She makes particular efforts to use a true sense of authenticity in tone as well as researching the Tudor era so precisely that you would swear you are actually present!
Lady Elizabeth Tudor, still a child and not yet queen is included as one of the surrounding characters who is very close to Queen Kateryn Parr, Kate in the storyline. I enjoyed the scenes between Elizabeth and Kate as well as others. The love for sixteenth century history, mainly Tudor figures is obvious to the reader from the onset. Sandra Byrd has done her research and Kateryn Parr is resurrected so lovingly and respectfully that reading her struggles to hide her love for Thomas Seymour when Henry VIII is in pursuit, a lady is not given much choice but to wed a king. As we know, by the time Henry VIII married Kateryn Parr he was past it! Luckily for her, she gained Henry’s respect as queen and played her role well. Once he passed away, she found her love with Thomas Seymour amongst much turmoil.
Was there to be a happy ending for Kateryn and Thomas? Well, history dictates the answer for us but amongst all this sixteenth century pomp and circumstance, is a young girl Juliana St. John who is harboring a secret! What is this deep dark secret and how does Juliana end up in the Tudor court? You will have to read The Secret Keeper for yourself to find out!
This is no ordinary Tudor story though. Sandra Byrd does two things differently: One, she layers Juliana’s secret, to be revealed at the story’s end, with such intrigue that the reader is surprised by the time they read what Juliana’s secret truly is. It is one of heartbreak and courage. Secondly, Sandra Byrd writes Christian fiction, so part of The Secret Keeper’s subject matter does contain quotes from Bible passages mentioned for the purposes of helping Juliana maintain her focus and inner strength during times of great struggle. I found this aspect refreshing because Sandra does not beat you over the head with religious ideology, she just writes beautiful stories.