Clever, level-headed Katherine Parr has suffered through four years of marriage to the aging and irascible King Henry VIII—and she has survived, unlike the five wives who came before her. But less than a year after the old king's death, her heart is won by the dashing Thomas Seymour, and their hasty union undoes a lifetime of prudent caution.
An unwilling witness to the queen's late-blossoming love, Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk, harbors nagging suspicions of Kate's handsome and ambitious new husband. But as Catherine is drawn deeper into the web of politics ensnaring her oldest friend, it gradually becomes clear that she has her own dark tale to tell. For though Thomas might betray his wife for power, Catherine might betray her for passion, risking everything she has in a world where love is a luxury not even royalty can easily afford.
Suzannah Dunn is the author of ten novels in the United Kingdom, including The Sixth Wife and The Queen of Subtleties, both published in the United States as well. She lives in Brighton, England.
But Mary's delight quickly turns sour as she realizes that her husband does not love her—indeed, that he finds her devotion irritating. Desperate for a baby, she begins to believe that God is punishing her. Her people are horrified at the severity of the measures she takes and begin to to turn against their queen, who is lonely, frightened, and desperate for love.
Rafael, a member of Philip of Spain's entourage, reluctantly witnesses the tragedy that unfolds as the once-feted queen tightens her cruel hold on the nation. As Rafael becomes closer to Mary, his life—and newfound love—are caught up in the terrible chaos.
Everyone knows the story of Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII divorced his longstanding, long-suffering, older, Spanish wife for a young, black-eyed English beauty, and, in doing so, severed England from Rome and indeed from the rest of the western world. Then, when Henry had what he wanted, he managed a mere three years of marriage before beheading his wife for alleged adultery with several men, among them his own best friend and her own brother.
This is the context for Suzannah Dunn's wonderful new novel, which is about – and told by – two women: Anne Boleyn, king's mistress and fated queen; and Lucy Cornwallis, the king's confectioner, an employee of the very highest status, who made the centrepiece of each of the feasts to mark the important occasions in Anne's ascent. There's another link between them, though: the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician, the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne's downfall hinged...
Suzannah Dunn has all the equipment needed for literary-commercial success: wit, a mastery of dialogue, brilliant characterization, lack of pretence, and good humour. The Queen of Subtleties adds to that mix a wonderfully balanced, strong story; Dunn has plumped for a fascinating retelling of one of the most often-told, most compelling stories of our islands' history. In doing so, she's turning from contemporary stories to historical fiction. The result is sensational.