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The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd

Posted By Claire on June 14, 2012

After having enjoyed Sandra Byrd’s first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, I was looking forward to the release of The Secret Keeper, particularly as it was about my second favourite of Henry VIII’s wives: Catherine Parr.

The format of the novel is similar to To Die For, in that the narrator of the story is a lady-in-waiting. In this case, we see the events of the 1540s through the eyes of the fictional Juliana St John, who is chosen to attend Catherine (or Kate as she is known in the book) due to her family’s links with Sir Thomas Seymour. At the beginning of the novel, Catherine is Lady Latimer, but, as we all know, Lord Latimer dies and Henry VIII claims her for his final wife, despite Catherine’s love for Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Jane Seymour.

Juliana is happy serving Kate. She sees Kate as a mother figure and friend, and she loves the climate of religion and education in Catherine’s household. Juliana feels accepted and loved, something she has never felt at home with her real mother. Through meeting other women with spiritual gifts, she realises that she is not that unusual in having the gift of prophecy and that God has given it to her for a reason. However, she is ‘haunted’ by a disturbing vision of the Lady Elizabeth being restrained while her gown is slashed to shreds. What can it mean and is Juliana meant to stop it from happening?

Her time at court also brings Juliana love, but Henry VIII’s court is a dangerous place and Juliana finds herself attracting another man, a rather unsavoury character – will her hopes of true love be dashed? What about the Queen? How will Catherine survive the plotting of the conservatives who are responsible for the execution of fellow reformer Anne Askew? Nobody leaves court unscathed and her time there has a dramatic impact on Juliana’s life and her hopes for the future.

I don’t want to go into any more detail as I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the book,  but suffice to say that this book tells Catherine Parr’s story, from the death of Lord Latimer to the execution of Thomas Seymour. However, it is far more than just a retelling of history because Byrd also tells Juliana’s fictional story. I love the way that history and fiction are intertwined and I got completely caught up in Juliana’s story, which is a tale of secrets, sacrifice and love. It actually moved me to tears! The reader just cannot help praying for a happy ending for the very likeable Juliana.

What I love about Sandra Byrd’s books is that they contain detailed author’s notes at the end. Byrd explains which parts of the story are fictional and why she wrote what she did. This means that there is no confusion. She also cites her “principal works of reference” so that readers can read more about the real Catherine Parr. The novel also contains a reading group guide to promote discussion.

This book was a joy to read. The characters were brought to life beautifully and my tears show just how well Byrd drew me into their lives and story. I heartily recommend it to both Tudor history lovers and historical fiction fans.


Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (June 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439183147
ISBN-13: 978-1439183144
Available from – click here, Amazon UK – click here, or your favourite bookshop.


20 Responses to “The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd”

  1. Susan says:

    Thanks! My daughter loved it, and I’m anxious to read it as well.

  2. Kerri says:

    I think it is a wonderful book, im a huge fan of of the Tudor wives and love the way histoy and Fiction meet.

  3. Caroline says:

    Talk about coincidence.

    I work as a librarian – and the book waiting on my desk this morning
    was from the series
    Early modern Englishwoman printed writings (v. 3)

    Catharine Parr ed by Janel Mueller.

    and now I’ve got another writer to discover – Sandra Boyd.

    Many thanks

  4. Virginia Baysden says:

    Sandra Byrd writes in such a manner that the reader is left fulfilled.

  5. Kylie says:

    I read To Die For and am typically only big on Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I novels, but this looks soo interesting and I’ve always been interested in the Catherine/Elizabeth/Thomas Seymour relationship so I’m definitely reading this ASAP!! also can’t wait to read about what happens to daughter Mary Seymour in this book(: Nice!

  6. Thea says:

    Quiet interesting. I’m going to hunt around tomorrow to see if it’s available here or look for an ebook version at Kobo.

  7. amanda hoover says:

    I cant wait to read it.. I’m really starting to get into the whole tudor books.. Of course the other boleyn girl is what started it!!

  8. Liz Gordon says:

    I love all books regarding the Tudor Period,always thought that there has not been enough written about Katherine Parr, her life, her loves, her house and her death, this book sounds good. I have always wondered what happened to Katherine & Thomas Seymour’s daughter, Mary. Why is there this ? mark regarding this lovely little girl. Liz By the way the Anne Boleyn replica ear-rings look fantastic.

  9. Janet Kerr says:

    “The Secret Keeper” sounds most interesting. & the cover is beautiful.

  10. Camille says:

    Looking forward to reading this!

  11. Lori says:

    I love reading about anything related to King Henry VIII. Can’t wait to read this book

  12. mary k says:

    Okay Sandra, you hooked me when you described Juliana’s gift of prophecy. I have always wanted to know what happened if it did when I read in several books about Princess Elizabeth being restrained and her dress slashed. Maybe the explanation was in one of the novels I didn’t read but I have never seen an explanation nor could I imagine it happening in the surroundings she was in.
    I need this book for the answer to my burning question.
    The whole review sounds like an all night reading for me. Can’t wait

  13. Jeanette says:

    I can’t wait to read this one!

  14. Baroness Von Reis says:

    I really have a love for all the Queens but Queen Catherine Parr was one I really had a great interest in,she was a wise kind and gentle Queen.She loved one man and was married to another ,it did bring many tears to my eyes how all of ,Henry’s Queen’s and mistresses, suffer in there own way. To love another and to be married to The king of Englan.Much like Mary Boleyn was much in love with Henry and pushed away for Anne was in love with Harry Percy and were pledged to one another.Queen Kate was lucky,Mary to they left with ther lives.So many secrets so little time as always Sandra Byrd great read,and to Claire for having you on the site.

  15. Helen H says:

    I read her first novel about Anne Boleyn and I have just finished “The Secret Keeper” I very much agree with your review. I really enjoyed both books, and this one was very enjoyable. I too cried at certain times, and wished for the “happy ending” for Juliana, even for Katherine, albeit I knew her story, I very much recommend any Sandra Byrd book!

  16. Pat Spinks says:

    Sandra Byrd’s historical novels are all wonderful and her latest is no exception. The descriptions of people, events and the time periods are thought provoking, I.e. what mysterious and scary lives the women lived, yet they were strong and not scared to have a voice. Keep on writing Sandra Byrd!

  17. Norma says:

    I found this book to be very interesting as it gives a different perspective on the court Of Queen Catherine Parr. The lives of the Queens, servants etc. have never been as well known as I would have liked. This book is interesting as it follows a Lady-in-waiting/servant in daily life as well as her thoughts regarding the life at court. That the author also has been able to incorporate the history as well makes it even better.

  18. Jodi says:

    I just found this website from ‘The Anne Boleyn Files” and love it!

  19. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Sandra, As I said I have always had a great interest in Queen Katherin Parr,and can not wait to read more about this kind and gentle Queen. I attend Renn Fest every year with the Royal court,and will go as Queen Katherine Parr this year.Thank you and Claire for giving all Ab Friends more insight on this great Queen. Baroness Von Reis x

  20. michell says:

    This was another great book by Sandra Byrd. I especially liked the ending. As much as I love the factual history, I especially love a happy ending even if it means the author uses her imagination to create one.

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