13547341Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Royal Inheritance presents a unique viewpoint of the ever shifting Tudor world as well as the politics and schemes that swirl around those with the potential to have even a drop of royal blood. Using the real life circumstances of a laundress’s daughter rumored to have potentially been the bastard offspring of Henry VIII, Kate Emerson spins a remarkable tale of a young woman kept guessing as to her true identity and her dangerous fight to not only find the truth but to determine her own future in a world where women have little say in the course of their lives.

Weakened by a fever she contracted in the summer of 1556, Audrey Harington sets out to tell her young daughter, Hester, the truth about Audrey’s parentage, upbringing and marriage to her husband, Jack. Not knowing how much longer she might have, Audrey is determined to make sure her own daughter doesn’t remain ignorant to the facts of her heritage as she herself spent much of her life being.

Born the daughter of a poor laundress working in Windsor Castle, Audrey is removed from her abusive home at the age of four and placed in the home of John Malte, Henry VIII’s tailor, who claims to be her father. However, after accompanying her father to court and coming face to face with the King, his attentions seem odd to young Audrey. She is further confused when he demands she continue to accompany her father to court, presents her with various gifts and orders she receive lessons not extended to her other sisters, all very unusual for a simple merchant’s daughter. Furthermore, her father is given gifts beyond his station, land and properties given jointly to John Malte and Audrey. After meeting the King’s youngest daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, and noting the remarkable likeness to herself, Audrey begins to suspect that John Malte might not be her biological father after all.

Discovering that others have had the same suspicions and that some of these people would like nothing better than to use her possible connection to the King for their own selfish ways, Audrey attempts to find out who she really is and who she can really trust. Seeking the help of Jack Harington, the man she has come to love deeply even as they continue to be kept apart, Audrey will stop at nothing to discover the truth and decide for herself what she wishes to do with that information. Knowing the truth, however, doesn’t always lead to happy endings.

I admittedly cannot get enough of reading about the Tudors from various vantage points. While the greater goings on of Henry VIII, his wives and his children do play a part in Royal Inheritance, Audrey’s attempts to navigate through life and find her true place in the world takes center stage. I found this particularly interesting as novels dealing with the Tudors tend to focus on the glitz and glamour of the court and not the day to day goings on of those outside the realm of the nobility. I enjoyed seeing London from the viewpoint of someone raised in the bustle of normal life there.

What I enjoyed most, however, would be the fact that most of the people and events seemed to be true to history. The back of Royal Inheritance includes a “Who Was Who at the English Court: 1532 – 56” and this helped flesh out the facts from the fiction used to advance to story. Even my least favorite part of Royal Inheritance, the somewhat unrequited love between Audrey and Jack, appears to be supported by known facts. While this relationship made for a rather bitter sweet tone to the end of Audrey’s story, I appreciate the fact that Kate Emerson stayed as true to history as she could.

Anyone interested in viewing the Tudors from a slight distance and learning more about those on the fringes of the court will really enjoy Royal Inheritance. I plan on looking further into these real life characters to see what else I can learn.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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.