Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd Book Review

About the Book:

Sir Thomas Seymour offers Juliana St. John a place in the household of Katherine Parr, a welcome reprieve. Juliana blossoms under Kate's maternal warmth, but all is not well. Juliana has the gift of prophetic dreams and "sees" terrible events visited upon the highborn. If her prophetic gift is discovered, she will be accused of heresy or, worse, witchcraft.

Katherine Parr is a beautiful, intelligent woman whose generosity is surpassed only by her kindness. Unsurprisingly, she attracts the attention of King Henry VIII, who recently dispatched his fifth wife. Unfortunately, being Henry's beloved carries no small risk for Kate and her household, especially after she becomes his queen. As a member of the queen's inner circle, Juliana bears witness to a barrage of plots within the increasingly treacherous court—many intended to remove Kate's influence and, perhaps, her life.

As Henry's illness progresses toward death, those seeking to claim his power descend on the queen. Meanwhile, Thomas Seymour is revealed to be both more and immeasurably less than the kindhearted benefactor Juliana once thought him to be. As the queen's trusted confidante, Juliana is a well-practiced secret keeper. But when unforeseen violence upends her future, the most heart-wrenching secret she keeps is her own.

Threading historical fact through gripping fiction, Byrd creates a rich tapestry of one young woman's battle to protect those she loves from harm.

My Review:

This is the second in a three part series and is about Katherine Parr. While knowing a bit about the history of England, this series has brought the era to life.

I appreciate how Byrd has highlighted the many spiritual issues of the time. There was an almost superstitious spirituality, thinking prescient dreams indicated one was a witch. Should a woman have the gift of prophecy during this time, she was in great danger. And then there was the changing theology of King Henry VIII. Some previously accepted theological works and translations of the Bible, such as Tyndale's, were banned. Religious reforms were going backward and Queen Katherine thought she could influence the King to move forward as only a wife could. But that put her at odds with others and put her life in danger.

That is just one interesting aspect of the historical information included. Henry, knowing his health was in decline, made changes so that women were included in succession for the first time. Katherine had hope after Henry's death but powerful people had other ideas.

Potential readers should be aware that there is a sexual assault scene in this book. It is not overly graphic but it might be a trigger situation for some. Byrd explains in her note after why she included this heartbreaking scene in her novel.

I liked this novel and all the interesting cultural and theological information it contained. Byrd has taken what I thought was dry history and brought it to life.

You can read my review of the first in the series about Anne Boleyn, To Die For.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Sandra Byrd
 is the author of more than fifty books and has received many awards, nominations, and accolades, including a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and multiple starred reviews and Best Book selections from Library Journal. Other awards include the Historical Novel Society's Editor's Choice award, two Christy finalists, a Bookpage Top Pick for Romance, and inclusion on Booklist's Top Ten Inspirational Books of the Year list.

A dedicated foodie, Byrd cooks through the topic and location of every book she writes. In addition, she collects vintage glass and serve ware in her free time, loves long walks with her husband, and Sunday Suppers with her growing family. She lives in Tacoma, Washington. You can find out more at

Quaystrokes, 340 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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