Audrey Malte is illegitimate, though her beloved father-tailor to King Henry VIII-prefers to call her "merry-begot," saying there was much joy in her making. Then Audrey visits the royal court with her father, and the whispers start about Audrey's distinctive Tudor-red hair and the kindness that the king shows her. Did dashing Henry perhaps ask Malte to raise a royal love child? The king's favor, however, brings Audrey constraint as well as opportunity. Though she holds tender feelings for her handsome music tutor, John Harington, the king is pressuring her to marry into the family of treacherous, land-hungry Sir Richard Southwell. Audrey determines to learn the truth about her birth at last. The answer may give her the freedom to give her heart as she chooses . . . or it could ensnare her deeper in an enemy's ruthless scheme.
Gallery Books | September 24, 2013 | 368 pages | ISBN 9781451661514
Royal Inheritance, the latest novel in Kate Emerson’s Tudor Court series, tells the story of Audrey Malte. Although raised to believe that she is the daughter of John Malte, tailor to King Henry VIII, as Audrey grows older and interacts more regularly with members of King Henry’s court, she starts to question her origins. The king is overly generous towards her, even though a young woman of her background should receive little if any notice from a monarch. In addition, Audrey’s colouring, which is nothing like John Malte’s, is remarkably similar to both the king’s and that of his daughter Elizabeth. Could Audrey really be the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII?
Royal Inheritance is told through the eyes of Audrey herself, who, while suffering from a prolonged illness, recounts for her young daughter the story of her life. This narrative technique generally works well, although it does remove some of the tension/suspense from the main story given that the reader already knows how certain aspects of the plot will turn out. Audrey Malte is a likable heroine, and her quest to learn the truth about her background is intriguing. The cast of supporting and tertiary characters is extensive, but each character is generally well drawn. Emerson does a commendable job with the characterization of Henry VIII in particular, especially during the later years of his reign.
While readers looking for new insights or fresh perspectives on the Tudors will not find much that differentiates this novel from the multitude of others set at Henry VIII’s court, the story is nevertheless an engaging one, and fans of Emerson’s previous Tudor Court novels will undoubtedly be pleased with this latest addition to the series.
Note: This review first appeared in Historical Novels Review (Issue 66, November 2013). I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.