I was privileged to get an advance copy of this, the sequel to A Love Most Dangerous. I have enjoyed reading many of the author’s books but to me his best work thus far has been the two on the life of Alice Petherton, the marvelously created favorite mistress of King Henry VIII of England. In the world of coincidences, a Facebook group that I belong to posed the question of which fictional character you have read comes most to life for you? I read a lot of historical fiction and have met many great fictional characters, Fronto from SJA Turney’s Marius Mules series, Blaise de Garsenc from A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay, etc and I now include Alice. Martin Lake’s portrayal of a woman caught in the machinations of Henry’s court and who survives that tortuous road is brilliantly done; so much so that for me she lives and breathes in my mind even after I finished the book. That is not to say his other characters are second class, on the contrary, his Henry, Thomas Cromwell and the others make this book a very special read. I had 5 stars in mind after the first couple of chapters and that thought never wavered throughout. I am hoping that Martin Lake has room in his pen and/or keyboard for more of her story.
Having read and enjoyed Martin’s series on The Lost King I was more than happy when he asked me to take on A Love Most Dangerous. This despite the fact that most of the historical fiction I read involves the clash of arms and armies. This one is quite different from my usual fare not only from the standpoint of action but also from the time and place. I have never paid much attention to the court of Henry VIII other than the bits I learned in history. In fact my knowledge of him has always been compromised by Herman and the Hermits. In this telling of the life of a Maid of Honor in the court of Henry VIII I was drawn in like a moth to a flame. The story is of Alice Petherton and how she becomes the King’s favorite.
The book is well researched and this shows in the exquisite detail the author uses time and time again to bring to life not only life in the court but life in London….e.g. his description of the Thames and one particular street, Offal Pudding Lane…yikes, makes me wonder how they coped In that environment. The plot centers mainly on Alice and her rise and subsequent fall from grace and shows how frail life could be under the rule of a man like Henry VIII.
It is a tense, exciting, page turning experience as you follow Alice, a woman with the ability to beguile every man she meets and how she learns to deal with that. I highly recommend this and gladly give it 5 stars.
P.S. for those of you too young to remember 1965, Herman’s Hermits did a song called “ I’m Henry the VIII, I am”.