Reviewed by Colleen Turner

After losing her father and brother in short succession in 1525, thirteen year old Thomasine “Tamsin” Lodge becomes the sole heir of the Lodge family fortune. Having no male relatives and being an underage woman in a time when being so means she had no rights to manage her own fortune until marriage or reaching her majority, she becomes ward to Sir Lionel Daggett. A cruel and manipulative man, Sir Lionel demands Tamsin leave behind everything she knows and serve as a maid of honor to nine year old Princess Mary, using her eyes and ears to collect information and advance them both within the royal court of England.

At first homesick and nervous, Tamsin’s ability to tell a compelling story makes her a favorite of Princess Mary and she quickly finds a family within this small royal household. Coming to love and protect her mistress above all else, Tamsin volunteers to serve in the household of Anne Boleyn, the “concubine” who is trying to supplant Mary’s mother and current queen, Catherine of Aragon. This position will not only serve to allow Tamsin to try and promote Princess Mary’s best interests to her father, King Henry VIII, but will allow her to hold off Sir Lionel’s marriage proposal, his way of trying to get permanent control of Tamsin’s fortune.

Working as Mary’s spy, Tamsin sends pertinent information of the goings on at court back to Mary by the silk woman’s son, Rafe Pinckney, a boy who Tamsin cannot help but be attracted to even though their difference in rank would forbid them to marry. Tamsin’s feelings for Rafe are further muddled when the King turns his charms and attentions to her, something not missed by the new Queen Anne. With Queen Anne’s fury now looming over Tamsin and her longing for the King continuing to grow, she must fight to continue to serve Princess Mary while not losing her heart, head or very life in the ever changing world of the Tudor court.

Tamsin Lodge serves as the perfect “fly on the wall” not only in the much discussed court of Henry VIII but in the lesser shown household of young Princess Mary. While Tamsin is not a true historical figure, Kate Emerson does a wonderful job of explaining her representation as the mysterious “king’s damsel” who really was mistress to Henry VIII during his marriage to Anne Boleyn, as well as the various other true to history moments and characters in the novel.

For anyone familiar with the Tudors, The King’s Damsel is a definite anti-Anne Boleyn novel. She comes off as shrewd, manipulative and cruel. While this is not unusual as many books describe her as such, the sympathetic and favorable image of Henry VIII was a little surprising. While Tamsin does note that Henry can be prideful and quick tempered, she also sees him as charming, caring and so caught up with his love of his “concubine” that he will do anything to please her, even set aside his first wife and daughter. Having so often seen Henry described as more tyrannical, this Henry was a little too mild for me.

The King’s Damsel also seems to wrap up way too quickly and neatly. Taking over 300 pages to showcase Tamsin’s life in service to the royal family, her time once leaving the court in her early twenties is given under ten pages. It comes across as rushed and as serving to only find an easy way to say “the end”.

Loving all things Tudor I really enjoyed the inside view and change of scenery that Tamsin’s character gives. I would have preferred seeing Tamsin’s life laid out more evenly across the novel, but the overall story line was exciting and did a really good job of showing just how few choices a woman had during those times.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Also by Kate Emerson: At the King’s Pleasure

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gallery Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.