Monday, April 5, 2010

NO WILL BUT HIS by Sarah A. Hoyt

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 9780425232514
Historical Fiction
Trade Paperback
Reviewed by Gina
Obtained via: Publisher

Youngest child of the youngest son, little Kathryn Howard has little to recommend her in Tudor England. Moving from residence to residence, living off relatives in between her father's myriad wives she expects little from the world. When one day her grandmother arrives and chooses Kathryn to come with her to her home she is baffled. Her latest step-mother has promised her strawberries if she behaves and behaves she does. But instead of the desired fruit she finds herself in a world she never expected. Under her grandmother's watchful eye she learns the ways of court. At first thrilled to be cousin of the beloved Anne Boleyn, she quickly learns how royal machinations can bring a loved one low. As Anne's death looms, Kathryn, along with her grandmother's household is moved away from the city. There she begins to learn about men and their ways. First with Henry Manox and then with Francis Dereham, a man she begins to believe she loves. But soon she is returned to court and placed in Henry VIII's path. Henry cannot resist the sweet, innocent Kathryn and soon vows to make her his bride. Good hearted and kind, Kathryn sees Henry not only as the all powerful king, but a man.

Historical fiction can either be very well written and absorbing to read or it can be quite dull. I suspect much of that can come from the personage the story is written about as much as from a writer's craft. I anticipated a book akin to Susannah Dunn's THE SIXTH WIFE that dealt with Kathryn's life after her marriage to Henry VIII. Ms. Hoyt takes her readers back to Kathryn's humble beginnings and her childhood. The title, NO WILL BUT HIS was a tad misleading until I sat back and considered the men who entered and left Kathryn's life beginning with her father who was never quite sure of her age. It is not until the last third of the book she truly encounters Henry yet she becomes the one in control. That realization was quite a revelation into the mind and life of Kathryn Howard and made her a tad more interesting.

I had a hard time relating to Kathryn in any way or finding her likeable. While a product of her time, she comes across clueless as to the goings on in the world. I found that a bit hard to believe given she lived in a dormitory of women who were engaged in clandestine affairs and she herself shared intimacies with two men. Her sweetness, while genuine, made her seem boring.

Ms. Hoyt is an excellent writer so I feel it was the subject matter that leaves me feeling something is missing. I would like the opportunity to see how Ms. Hoyt would present Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn. With her background in alternative histories and fantasy entering the realm of historical fiction was a huge step. Perhaps Kathryn Howard's story pales as the other wives did in real life under the larger presence of Anne Boleyn.

If you enjoy historical fiction NO WILL BUT HIS is a good choice. As I mentioned above, Kathryn shows the world Henry VIII not as a king, but as a man.


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