Immortal Perfumes came about because of my love for historical fiction. I've always been a history nerd, but I didn't realize that the heroes of history I'd enjoyed reading about could be fleshed out and made to come alive again until the TV show, The Tudors, came out in 2007. After I got hooked on that show, I got past my haughty, self-imposed, English major, "I only read literary fiction" weirdness and began devouring novels based on the Tudors and Marie Antoinette, among others.
Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. The historian, Alison Weir, is one of the foremost scholars on the Tudor dynasty and she had the brilliant idea to write a whole series told from the perspective of each of Henry VIII's wives. I'm only mad I didn't think of it first.
The series is called Six Tudor Queens and the first two books are already out - the third is scheduled for a May 2018 release.
Onward to my review of book one!
Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen
As I said above, I was obsessed with The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII. Obsessed to the point where I basically thought it was real and it has totally clouded what I think about the actual historical figures in question. In the show, for all his faults and temper tantrums, Henry is the protagonist and you can't help but side with him - he's found his true love in Anne Boleyn, it makes sense that he'd want to ditch his older, pious wife for a saucy, young intellectual! So while I was reading Katherine, I was struck with so much more sympathy and understanding for the doomed queen than TV or brief sections of history books allowed.
In her portrait of Katherine, Weir has done something I hadn't encountered before - giving the Spanish queen her due. Alison Weir is probably my favorite author in the genre because, while the stories are juicy and engaging, she still brings a historian's sensibilities to the writing.
Katherine begins as the heroine leaves her native Spain to wed Prince Arthur - Henry's older brother and the marriage that became the basis of Henry's later claim for annulment. Her marriage to Arthur was unconsummated (according to Weir) and when the young Prince died, Katherine was kept as a virtual prisoner by Henry VII. When the king died she was overjoyed that Henry VIII would still take her as his bride.
So set in motion their 24 year marriage (did not realize they were married so long!) which Weir portrays as mostly happy, positive, and loving. One of the biggest surprises (to me) was how sure of herself and undaunted Katherine was despite her husband's cruel treatment of her toward the end. I never put it together that she was the daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and it is her illustrious lineage where Katherine drew her self confidence and determination to keep her marriage with Henry intact. I had always just saw her as hanging on and being a nag - what a difference it makes when you can get inside a character's head! She really did love Henry, she believed in her divine right to rule and make a difference, and she was just overall a tough cookie who wouldn't take the abuse lying down.
Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is a book that finally gives the cast aside Queen her royal due. Despite the tragedy of her life (so many miscarriages and the ultimate public humiliation), the book was an enjoyable read and lent a new perspective on the people behind the world's most famous divorce.
I will admit that while I'm much more team Katherine than I was before, Anne Boleyn is still prime time to me. I'm almost finished with the second book, Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession, so look out for that review coming soon.
If you'd like to read along, you can get the books here.