I'm a big fan of Judith Merkle Riley and Susan Wiggs, and I took notice when I saw their blurbs on the cover of "The Queen's Lady." However, I have been told since that a lot of times writers are paid up front for blurbs, without having read the book in question. I certainly hope that's the case for Ms. Riley and Ms. Wiggs, because the "Lady" really is a tramp, and not worth your hard-earned dollars. If you must read it, check it out at the library, but don't say I didn't warn you.
There's no shortage of plot- in fact, there's too much of it. The novel lurches from incident to incident, and comes across like a creepy hybrid of "A Man for All Seasons" and Paul Verhoeven's "Flesh and Blood." Honor Larke, the "heroine"- and I use the term loosely- is set upon by disaster after disaster within the first few chapters, including being orphaned, kidnapped, raped, and having her inheritance stolen from her. She manages to become Sir Thomas More's ward, and although she thinks More is the best daddy she ever had, he has the hots for her. She kind of has the hots for him too, but before we are subjected to a scene of them in bed together, she finds out he was the guy responsible for burning her best friend at the stake (which is described in disgusting detail). I guess that's kind of understandable why that would sour things.
Anyway, Honor decides that she must become the Savior of the Lutherans, and runs around rescuing Lutherans from being arrested (sort of like a Scarlet Pimpernel in a farthingale, I suppose). However, at the same time she's Catherine of Aragon's #1 lady-in-waiting, hence the title. Yet Honor decides that she must bring Protestantism into England, that Queen Cathy is cool and all, but she must sacrifice her friend to the greater good of routing the Evil Catholic Church from Old Blighty's shores; and part of that entails buddying up with Thomas Cromwell and doing her best to forward Anne Boleyn's ambitions. I found it amusing, in a way, that this scheming, backstabbing character had the name of "Honor," but no one in the book comments on the irony of that. I also found it amusing that she's able to do all of this, without her guardian More having a clue as to what she's up to. Does this guy live in a cave, or what? If he's so crazy about her as we're led to believe, wouldn't he be keeping tabs on what she's doing?
Most of the book is concerned with Honor rushing hither and thither, rescuing Protestants while she talks about how much she hates More. There's a romantic interest, some guy named Richard Thornleigh, who's saddled with a crazy wife who dies conveniently. Honor is such an awesome gal that she proposes to Richard two days after his wife kicks it, even though he protests that his wife died only two days before. But she exclaims that she's dead, they're alive, that they must live for today, etc. Of course, we are supposed to believe that Honor is assertive and filled with joie de vivre or something, and not a callous, manipulative bitch. I am sure the author means well, but the characterization is really very poorly done.
It just gets worse as the book goes along. Honor gets into Big Trouble and has to flee the country to Germany, where she ends up in Munster, among a commune of lunatic Anabaptists. The book actually gets quite interesting here, because this a time and place you never see in historical fiction. But after a great deal of excitement, Honor realizes that religion sucks, there is no soul, and GOD IS A LIE! It is all absolutely as subtle as a brick hurled through a stained glass window, and I threw the book against the wall at that moment. I hate books with an agenda, and the author of "Lady" shoves hers down your throat.
The ending of the book comes pretty quickly after that, with our hero and "heroine" galloping off into the sunset (but not before a final confrontation with Sir Thomas More, who gropes her, wallows in his own misery, and hallucinates the "imaginary" heavens, to show us what a pathetic, screwed-up martyr he is). I have never felt that strongly about More, but I am offended Ms. Kyle feels it necessary to trash the man and his beliefs, just to make those of her heroine (and presumably, her own) look better.
She does try to assert in the end that More's immortality lies not in his obviously wrong Catholic faith, but in his brilliant book "Utopia." If it is true that one's immortality depends upon on the quality of the books one leaves behind, then I'm afraid that Ms. Kyle is clearly doomed, as "The Queen's Lady" is trash. Avoid at your own peril. There are many other books by Judith Merkle Riley and Susan Wiggs to read instead.