Saturday, October 12, 2013

Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 10, 2013

Audrey Malte, born about 1528 and raised at court by the king’s tailor, John Malte, was led to believe she is Malte’s illegitimate daughter when, in fact, her father is King Henry VIII. When she reaches marriageable age, she begins to realize, from the way certain people behave toward her, that Malte is keeping secrets from her, and she sets out to discover the truth. Her quest involves the best and the worst of the courtiers, among them a man with whom she falls in love. Unfortunately, Malte has already entered into negotiations for her betrothal to someone else, and Audrey guesses the truth about her legacy when the king settles property on her, jointly with Malte. Marriage is definitely in Audrey’s future, but will it be to the man she wants to wed?

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Book six of Kate Emerson's Secrets of the Tudor Court series, Royal Inheritance, boasts an interesting premise in that it fictionalizes the life of Audrey (Ethelreda) Malte, but unfortunately, I can't say I found it a particularly interesting read. 

When push comes to shove I don't think there was enough meat on the bone to make this story work, at least not as it is currently marketed. Had the publisher pushed this as the tale of a tailor's daughter who is suddenly swept into the high stake games of the royal court or the death bed confessions of a woman determined to pass on the secrets of her past, I would have been happy, but I very strongly feel that someone somewhere along the line committed a grave injustice by deciding to give a nearly complete play by play of the entire plot in the jacket description.

Audrey Malte, born about 1528 and raised at court by the king’s tailor, John Malte,
was led to believe she is Malte’s illegitimate daughter when, in fact, her father is King
Henry VIII. When she reaches marriageable age, she begins to realize, from the way
certain people behave toward her, that Malte is keeping secrets from her, and she sets
out to discover the truth. Her quest involves the best and the worst of the courtiers, among
them a man with whom she falls in love. Unfortunately, Malte has already entered into
negotiations for her betrothal to someone else, and Audrey guesses the truth about her
legacy when the king settles property on her, jointly with Malte. Marriage is definitely in
Audrey’s future, but will it be to the man she wants to wed?

Let's ignore that the blurb actually states "her father is King Henry VIII" and think about the rest of that paragraph. It was impossible to definitively prove paternity in the Tudor era so in essence Audrey's "quest" lacks a tangible goal and when one considers the king gifted her property, the question itself becomes irrelevant as he obviously felt some sort of responsibility towards her, and really, who wants to argue with Henry VIII? Anyone? Anyone at all? 

Pardon me for asking, but where is the hook here? Where is the surprise, the unexpected plot twist or complex intrigue? And before anyone tries to argue the question of who Audrey will wed, I'd like to point out that particular mystery is revealed towards the top of page three of this three hundred and seventy page volume.

Now to be fair there is a second description for this title, but still, I feel the jacket only served to shoot Emerson in the foot. 

Audrey Malte is illegitimate, though her beloved father—tailor to King Henry VIII—
prefers to call her “merry-begot,” saying there was much joy in her making. Then 
Audrey visits the royal court with her father, and the whispers start about Audrey’s 
distinctive Tudor-red hair and the kindness that the king shows her. Did dashing 
Henry perhaps ask Malte to raise a royal love child? The king’s favor, however, 
brings Audrey constraint as well as opportunity. Though she holds tender feelings 
for her handsome music tutor, John Harington, the king is pressuring her to marry 
into the family of treacherous, land-hungry Sir Richard Southwell. Audrey 
determines to learn the truth about her birth at last. The answer may give her the 
freedom to give her heart as she chooses . . . or it could ensnare her deeper in an 
enemy’s ruthless scheme.

Again, rumors of her being Henry VIII's child, mention of a quest to discover that which cannot be proven and confirmation of the king's favor which again, makes the question of her paternity a moot point. This one however offers up the names of Audrey's prospects while simultaneously pigeonholing one as her beloved and the other as a sixteenth century gold-digger. Not bad, but it falls apart when Audrey is referred to as Mistress _______ in the first paragraph of the first page of the very first chapter.

Needless to say, I was frustrated and bored reading this piece. I couldn't get into it because there just wasn't anything left for me to get into. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the series, but when all is said and done, my experience with Royal Inheritance, through no fault of the author, left much to be desired. 

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"Close kinship to the Crown is a burden, not a gift."
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