Title: A Love Most Dangerous
Author: Martin Lake
Publisher: Lake Union, Seattle
Format: E-Book, 354 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Format: $3.99 [Kindle], $9.12 [Audible — KindleUnlimited], $9.99/$14.99 [Barnes and Noble Audio CD], $8.99 [Apple Books Audiobook]
Her beauty was a blessing…and a dangerous burden…
As a Maid of Honor at the Court of King Henry VIII, beautiful Alice Petherton receives her share of admirers. But when the powerful, philandering Sir Richard Rich attempts to seduce her, she knows she cannot thwart his advances for long. She turns to the most powerful man in England for protection: the King himself.
As beautiful as she is intelligent, Alice easily captures the King’s interest. He takes her to bed on the day of his son Edward’s birth. But the King is capricious, and he casts out Alice when Queen Jane dies. Although Alice knows well the risk of becoming the King’s wife, it isn’t long before she charms her way back into Court and the King’s heart. The challenge is remaining his favorite while avoiding the dangers of becoming his next bride.
Reveling in her newfound power, Alice soon forgets that enemies lurk behind every corner at court…and there are some who are eagerly plotting her fall…
The year is 1537 and it is Merrie Olde England. The reigning monarch of the day is King Henry VIII, the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, perhaps England’s most arguably controversial ruler. Having been on the throne for twenty-eight years, he has yet to produce an heir and thus his throne is not secure. He has been through two wives already, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, both polar opposite queens who failed to deliver of an heir. Now on his third wife, the meek Jane Seymour who plies her needle and says her prayers like any good upper-class English girl.
Just decades before, Henry was a loyal and staunch Roman Catholic, even declared a “defender of the faith.” However, when Henry sought an annulment from Katherine of Aragon, the Pope refused to grant one and thus he began his own church, the Church of England [an act called praemunire or the prohibition of a nation being under the authority of the Pope]. That was when England went from being a devoutly Roman Catholic nation to a Protestant one.
England is a major place of religious contention in the year 1537. Bigod’s Rebellion, when Roman Catholics rose up against the king, takes place in January and sets the year off to a rocky start. What follows is the dissolution of priories and abbeys at the behest of the king, who later went on to pocket most of the goods.
The story begins at Hampton Court Palace, where the heroine Alice Petherton and her friends are all Maids of Honor to Jane Seymour, the current Queen of England. Alice begins: “My name is Alice Petherton and I am seventeen years of age. I came to Court as a simple servant but caught the eye of Anne Boleyn when she was newly crowned. I was good at singing, could dance like an elf, and made her laugh and think. She took me as one of her Maids of Honor and my slow approach to the furnace began” (Lake 2). The book begins with some rather arresting words from the protagonist which cannot help but draw the reader in.
From the outset of the story, the reader is given an overview of the danger that exists at the Tudor Court. Women can be clever but not too clever. One knows full well what can happen to a clever woman and Anne Boleyn is a testament to that. Our heroine is a clever young woman but it seems like she has a plethora of wonderful and useful skills in her arsenal. There is something about Alice that is attractive and, as she states in the story, she seems to have a jolly predisposition. As a Maid of Honor, she is surrounded by an interesting cast of characters: Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Thomas Cromwell (aka the Lord Privy Seal), Susan Dunster, Mary Zouche, Philippa Wicks, Dorothy Bray, and Sir Richard Rich.
On May Day, Alice has the great displeasure to meet the licentious Sir Richard Rich who immediately takes a liking to her. This causes a rift between Alice and Philippa Wicks, her one-time friend. From then on, Philippa and her sidekick Dorothy Bray have it out for Alice, wanting to ruin her life completely. While Philippa turns her back on Alice, Susan Dunster and Mary Zouche completely stand by her in her time of need. Alice makes mention of a “furnace” which is a good way to describe the vipers’ nest that is the sixteenth-century royal English court, a place of intrigue and where one’s position is precarious. One can meet one’s downfall at any time. Sir Richard Rich pursues Alice with dogged determination and, knowing that he is a man of power, she finds that the only place to escape his reach is to find herself in the king’s good graces.
All in all, I feel that A Love Most Dangerous was a very well written and interesting read. It is clear that the author, Martin Lake wrote a very thoughtful story about a strong-willed heroine who is living in a dangerous place, where she can lose her life if she so much as does or says the wrong thing. While I enjoyed the depiction of the life at the royal court, I found the characterization of Alice to fall a little flat. There was something rather “Mary Sue” about her, almost that she was too perfect. It made it very hard to believe her as a character. Of the many fascinating characters in the story, I found the characters Mary Zouche, Susan Dunster, Philippa Wicks, and Dorothy Bray to be rather static. There was very little growth for them as characters. Mary Zouche and Susan Dunster suffered from the sidekick stereotype and there was very little to commend them. As for Philippa Wicks and Dorothy Bray, they were the stereotypical Tudor “Mean Girls.” For these reasons, I give the story 4 stars instead of 5 stars, as it was only a minor detraction from the story.
In Martin Lake’s book, Alice comes into contact with an array of colorful characters from different walks of life. Perhaps amongst the most disgusting and wretched characters is Cromwell’s loyal servant, the lustful Sir Richard Rich. Not only is he a snake of a man but he preys upon the young women as he prowls around the royal court. This villain of a man possesses eyes that are “deep in their sockets and grey in color” but Alice doesn’t fail to notice that “they looked dead” (Lake 11). Upon noticing that Alice is young and a new acquaintance to him, he fixates upon her and he begins to obsess over the young woman. Soon one finds that Alice will have no part of it and doesn’t express any interest in being his mistress. This fact alone causes her downfall.
Don’t Try My Patience
While in the attempt to escape the clutches of Sir Richard Rich, an already powerful man at the royal court, Alice strives to elevate her sights higher still. It seems that the portly but merry King Henry VIII has a budding interest in the young Alice, and she figures that the only way to secure her safety is to go directly to him. In her dealings with the king, she soon learns that he has a short temper and that he could turn against her at any moment. She has only to look at what happened to Anne Boleyn and learn from that example.
Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife and mother to his long-awaited heir, Edward. She was the epitome of a humble and meek wife. The opposite of her predecessor, Anne Boleyn.
Not surprisingly, Alice becomes a lover of the king. His current wife is Jane Seymour and she is presently with child. While she must begin her lying-in, the pre-birth process of the mother being shuttered in a dark room for months, it is up to Alice to entertain the king. It seems like a mutual affection for both parties included.
In the prologue, Alice states, “It does not do to be too clever, though. Anne Boleyn taught us this. For make no mistake, King Henry is more clever than any man in the Kingdom. And he is subtle and wily as even the most cunning of women. Anne’s head rolling from the block was testimony to that” (Lake 1). We soon learn that Alice was a maid-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn and that she positively adored her. As she liked Anne Boleyn, Alice is not a fan of Jane Seymour with her plain humility. Throughout the story in her encounters with the king, Alice knows full well that she needs to tread lightly. She needs to treat the king with the utmost care lest she be severed from her head as well.