Susanna Horenbout, a young painter with a famous father, is sent to Henry VIII’s court in order to serve as the king’s personal illuminator. Before she even approaches the presence of the king, she’s the focus of an attempted murder, and is placed under the protection of courtier John Parker. As she and Parker develop intense feelings for one another, they’re also forced to contend with plots against the king by some of his closest advisors. Can their careers – and indeed their lives – survive the best efforts of their foes?
The subject of this book is very intriguing; there is little new in Tudor England fiction these days, but a female painter and a mystery surrounding her seemed like it had potential to be quite the read. While this was overall an enjoyable book, it did have some flaws that marred what could have been an exceptional and unusual debut in the over-saturated Tudor-obsessed historical fiction world.
The primary flaw was the speed of the narrative. This is a short book and actions throughout feel rushed. It’s hard to get attached to characters who are constantly going, without much rest for pages. It seems as though every time the two main characters get an interlude to develop their relationship, they’re interrupted by something related to the general mystery / intrigue plot, and personally I always prefer character development to a racing plot. The plot itself is a good intrigue plot, and perfectly suited for those who are after that sort of thing – it’s just rushed along without much chance for a break.
Overall, it’s a real shame, because Diener has a beautiful way with words and I could tell that there were moments in this book that I could have happily luxuriated in her turns of phrase. I will certainly be eagerly looking for any books she writes in the future, because I think she could become quite good if she lets the historic world and her characters take on a bit more prominence. I believe this book is the first in a series, so I’ll be looking forward to advance reviews of the next.
While In a Treacherous Court does have its flaws, it also has its perks, and it’s worth a read for anyone seeking a fast, different historical fiction read set in the Tudor world.
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