Katheryn Howard : The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir | #20BooksofSummer

Author : Alison Weir
Title : Katheryn Howard : The Tainted Queen
Series : The Six Tudor Queens #5
Pages : 480
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : August 6, 2020


A naive girl, thrust forward by her ambitious family. A pretty girl, who has captured the heart of the King. Katheryn sings, she dances, she delights in the pleasures of being queen. The King tells the world she is his rose without a thorn.

But this young woman has a past of which Henry knows nothing. It comes back increasingly to haunt her, even as she courts danger yet again. For those who gather roses must beware of the thorns. 


After a slight delay, due to the pesky pandemic, book five in the Six Tudor Queens series has finally arrived. It features, wait for it, Henry VIII’s fifth wife and queen, Katheryn Howard. Yeah, bet you didn’t see that coming. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Katheryn’s story might well be the most tragic of the six wives. After Henry VIII’s disastrous marriage to Anna of Kleve, the ambitious Howard family sees an opportunity to get their family back into the King’s good graces by thrusting forward Katheryn, a naive nineteen year old. The King may be getting old but he’s not blind and this incredibly pretty and young girl captures his heart without even really trying. But Katheryn’s been having some good times during her teenage years and there are people who won’t let her forget about them.

Katheryn’s life was short and quite sad, if you ask me. She lost her mother at a young age, was pretty much abandoned by her father, manipulated by her family and while she was treated incredibly well by Henry VIII, I think we all know it didn’t end well for her. What makes it even worse is that her death might quite possibly have been avoided, if someone had just given her some good advice. Was she indeed pre-contracted to marry Francis Dereham? Then her marriage to Henry VIII would have been invalid and the matter might have ended there. But by keeping quiet about her past, she made things much worse for herself. Tragic, indeed. Incidentally, Katheryn Howard and Anne Boleyn were cousins. How chilling that they suffered the same ending. *shudder*

However, this book wasn’t all plain sailing for me. There were times where the language completely put me off. It sounded almost juvenile at times and I wasn’t entirely sure if it was supposed to. Katheryn increasingly got on my nerves and throughout the story, I had to keep reminding myself how young she was and that her flighty attitude and the string of bad decisions she made was due to her age. Mostly, I felt this book could have been a tad shorter. The first part especially seemed to drag somewhat and became slightly repetitive at times. And while Alison Weir, as always, brings to life the Tudor era like no other, nobody can make a medieval road trip sound like much fun. Don’t get me wrong, I know the Northern Progression was a big deal but I felt it took up too much space in this book. I couldn’t figure out if it was to show that Henry VIII wanted as many people as possible to meet Katheryn or to depict the many sneaky ways Katheryn tried to “hook up” with Thomas Culpeper, if indeed there was any of the sort of hooking up she’s been accused of throughout the years.

I sound awfully negative and I actually don’t mean to. No, this isn’t my favourite book in the series but I did still thoroughly enjoy it. As always, Weir’s research is meticulous and her attention to the Tudor details is like no other. To me, she undoubtedly remains the “queen of the Tudor era” genre. I think I just expected more from Katheryn’s story and while I realise there are no definitive answers, I was left feeling a little unsatisfied. Overall, it’s still a fine addition to an outstanding series and I can’t wait for book six and the story of Katharine Parr’s life.

Edited to add : As always when reading an Alison Weir novel, do yourself a massive favour and read the historical notes! In this case especially, they are immensely important!

Katheryn Howard : The Tainted Queen is available to buy!

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20 Books of Summer : 15/20

  8 comments for “Katheryn Howard : The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir | #20BooksofSummer

  1. August 20, 2020 at 11:40 am

    I felt much the same as you about the book. It was a bit of a slog at first but picked up for me once Katheryn was married to Henry. However, I do think it is a shame that the importance of the pre-contract only becomes apparent if your read the historical notes (not everyone will) and not from the story itself. I agree it could have been trimmed down as well.


    • August 20, 2020 at 11:59 am

      That is indeed a huge shame. And it reminds me that I normally always point out to read the historical notes but forgot to this time, when it actually really matters. Doh. Guess I’m off to edit.

      It definitely picked up once she was married. I’m glad we had much the same experience. The reading mood I’ve been in lately, I was worried I was being overly picky.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bex
    August 20, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve seen mixed reviews about this book, but the rest of the series seems to be much better received. The only Tudor novels I’ve read are Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, and I’ve been thinking about giving this series a try after I finish the other.

    I think good advice would have fixed a lot of problems for the courtiers ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. August 20, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much, Eva. I’m really interested in the Tudor period so I think I definitely need to give this series a go.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. August 20, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    The thing with Katherine Howard, I guess is that her story is quite interesting. Since it ended so dramatic. But as a person Katherine isn’t quite likeable. She was so young, so naive, so vain… a pawn in the hands of her family. So that makes it difficult to write a story about her where you like her.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. August 20, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Fab review Eva! Shame you didn’t enjoy this one as much as the others. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. August 22, 2020 at 2:58 am

    I read a fantastic fictionalised bio of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard when I was young, which emphasised that they were cousins, and I’ve been racking my brains to no effect for weeks to remember who wrote it – I fear the name has been erased from my memory banks. The history in this sounds very similar suggesting both are fairly accurate. But poor little Catherine barely had enough life to fill a full book all on her won, I think, so maybe that’s why this one felt a bit too long. Put me off marrying Kings, I can tell you! If Charles had asked me, I’d have definitely said no… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

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