Book Review for The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd @sandrabyrd

The Secret Keeper
Sandra Byrd
The Ladies in Waiting, book 2
Historical Fiction

Back of the book:

Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII.

Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, returns to Wiltshire to conclude his affairs with Juliana’s father’s estate and chances upon her reading as lector in the local church. He sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman loves and wants most to please, Kateryn Parr, Juliana’s mother agrees to have her placed with Parr for a season and Juliana goes, though reluctantly.

For she keeps a secret.

Juliana has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one vibrant vision she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of a highly born young woman, while it was still on her body, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana accompanies Kateryn Parr to court, Henry’s devout sixth queen raises the stakes for all reformers. Support of firebrand Anne Askew puts the queen and her ladies in life threatening jeopardy, as does the queen’s desire to influence her husband’s—and the realm’s—direction and beliefs. Later, without Henry’s strong arm, the court devolves to competition, duplicity, and betrayal. The risks could not be higher as Juliana must choose between love and honor, personal fulfillment and sacrifice. Ultimately, her course is driven by a final kept secret, one that undoes everything she thought she knew.

Meet the author:

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd persevered to publish more than three dozen books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a finalist for the Christy Awards. Her historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn was listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2011. Sandra's YA fiction has also been recognized within the industry. Asking for Trouble, the first in the London Confidential series, was a finalist for the ECPA Medallion of Excellence award.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra is also a non-fiction writer and author, with articles in numerous publications and periodicals. Sandra is also passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self-publication. As such, she has mentored hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Sandra resides in Washington State with her husband Michael, a chaplain, their two children, and a circus dog named Brie.

Twitter: @sandrabyrd

My thoughts:

I naturally gravitate to historical fiction and I’ve read To Die For, book one in the Ladies in Waiting series, so I had an inkling that I was probably going to like this one. I liked it and more!

In this second installment, Sandra’s voice just gets better. She again tells the story of a very turbulent time in history. While the majority of writers that delve into this era tend to focus on the tawdry details, Sandra focuses on the events that surround the court and eventually shape the makeup of England as we know it.

The story is told through Juliana St. John a lady in waiting to Kateryn Parr, the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII. We get to see the conflict with the reformers and the ways in which Queen Kateryn helps the cause. There is a particularly intense and touching portrayal of Anne Askew. I loved the boldness Anne had in proclaiming truth as the flames grew higher.

We are also privy to the ways in which Kateryn convinced Henry to restore his children who will go on to be the ruling monarchs of England. Although Kateryn didn’t have children of her own with Henry she showed great love towards Mary, Elizabeth and Edward.

This book is full of wonderful learning opportunities. The opening pages contain the family trees of all the main characters. I finally put a tab in so I could quickly turn back to that section. It was invaluable in keeping everyone straight. The author’s note and interview in the back of the book gives important information about what was factual and what was fiction in the story. Even with all of that I still had to look up the terms shriven and auricular confession. Go ahead and Google them, you’ll enjoy the education!

My hope is that this series will continue. I love this series and two books just aren’t enough. Whether Sandra continues to write about the nobility of early England or not, I will continue to seek out her work. She has a wonderful writing style that makes you lose yourself in the story.

Favorite quotes from the book:

“Time will discover everything . . . it is a babbler and speaks even when no question is put.”
~ Euripides

“Religion might be the arena the game was played in, but the prize, no doubt, was earthly power.” ~ Juliana

“The men began to moan and cry immediately and I closed my eyes and prayed for them, the words formed upon my silent, moving lips. Askew herself did not scream until the fires hit her face. Instead, till the end, she corrected Shaxton on his Scripture. ‘Yes, he’s got that right,’ she’d boldly call out of a passage, or, ‘No, there he misseth and speaks without the book.’ I was strengthened by her courage and forced open my eyes in order to honor her.” ~ Juliana

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  1. Thank you so much for this review. I so appreciate it - and you!

  2. Thanks for stopping by and for allowing us to review it! XOXO


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