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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Tudor Mystery
This historical novel is set in the reign of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, which is a period not quite so done to death by historical fiction writers as the reigns of later monarchs, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. It focuses on Henry's queen, Elizabeth the Good, or Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. Her preoccupation is firstly with her two dead children...
Published 20 months ago by Brett H

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
This story is set during the reign of Henry V11. His wife Queen Elizabeth summons chandler Varina Wescott to the court to make wax images of her dead children and dead brothers (the Princes in the tower). When Prince Arthur dies Varina is asked to go with courtier Nicholas Sutton to investigate the Prince's death. Notes at the end of the book indicate that it is as much a...
Published 15 months ago by Mrs. A. Wright


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Tudor Mystery, 9 Nov 2012
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
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This historical novel is set in the reign of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, which is a period not quite so done to death by historical fiction writers as the reigns of later monarchs, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. It focuses on Henry's queen, Elizabeth the Good, or Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. Her preoccupation is firstly with her two dead children and then with her two dead brothers, The Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. She employs a widow and candlemaker, Varina Westcott, to make effigies of these four lost relatives.

Elizabeth is also keen to revisit that old chestnut, beloved of historical writers both fictional and non fictional - who really murdered the Princes in the Tower. She tasks her husband, the King, with discovering the truth for her. The plot thickens when the Tudor heir, Arthur, recently married and sent to set up court as the Prince of Wales in Windsor Castle, dies suddenly. Elizabeth sends Varina and her beau, Nicholas to discover the truth of his death and to find out whether foul play was involved.

The story is alternatively told from the perspective of the Queen and Varina which makes for varied reading as events unfold. There are plenty of twists and turns which keeps the reader engaged throughout. If you are interested in the early Tudor period you will probably enjoy this novel which is really as much about mystery and suspense as romance and history. To my mind the style of writing perhaps lacked a certain maturity, but this is nonetheless a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting mix of history, women and murder - good mystery., 23 Mar 2013
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
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I enjoy Karen Harper's novels. She has a vivid writing style and a clever way of mixing fact with fiction. In this novel Harper turns her attention to Queen Elizabeth and Henry VII and uncovers their life through the words of Varina, a lowly candle maker. Both women, Queen and candle maker alike, experience the loss of a child and it's that sense of loss which bonds them together. I thought it unique to use grieving women as the catalyst for a plot and it's ultimately that sense of grief that begins the mystery. Did the Royal child die under suspicious circumstances? Queen Elizabeth dispatches Varina to discover the truth but; on her way to that discovery she begins to uncover a network of enemies plotting against the Royal couple.

Typically, for a work of historical fiction there's a fair amount of raciness and strong themes around the rights, or not, of women at the time. I found some of those themes really punchy and quite brutal but they have the effect of making it easier to bond with both women and opens your eyes to their harsh reality.

Karen Harper sets an excellent scene for her novel and it's difficult to tell where the fact and the fiction meet as it's so well researched. Happy to recommend.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, 16 Sep 2012
By 
Hiraethus o Gymru (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
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Without wanting to spoil anything for future readers, I must express my surprise at Karen's aspect on the fate of the young princes considering that she is very much a member of the pro-Tudor camp as opposed to myself. She has arrived at the same decision that I have held for a number of years now. This book is above the standard of the run of the mill medieval mystery novels in that the research is obviously sound. My only downside is her choice of the villain and the way she has twisted the character of a man of quality, but this is fiction as opposed to a factual treatment.
Her portrayal of her leading factual characters, Bess of York, Henry VII, and the young Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon, and even the young future Henry VIII, is respectful and believably accurate, while her fictional characters are adequate to hold the reader's interest throughout.
Having enjoyed her Governess novel I was intrigued to see how she would present the somewhat questionable relationship between Bess and Henry, since Bess had, in fact, enjoyed a closeness with her uncle Richard throughout her younger years, and to be married to the man responsible for his death must have been distressing to begin with.
Enough. This book is an interesting view on a fascinating period and well worth a read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could Prince Arthur have been murdered?., 2 Aug 2012
By 
Mondoro (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
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Yet another book about the Tudors - is there anything new to say? Happily the answer is yes! Karen Harper has turned the death of Prince Arthur [son of Henry 7th & Elizabeth of York] into an intriguing murder mystery. The main character is widow Varina Wescott who makes candle and wax effigies. At the start of the novel she is intent on providing for her son, another Arthur, whilst mourning the death of toddler Edmund and trying to resist the unwanted attentions of Christopher. Her life changes when she is taken to the Palace by handsome Nicholas Sutton to undertake work for the Queen. Although on the face of it would seem unlikely that Varina would become the confident of Queen Elizabeth the author provides a convincing reason for the trust which develops between them [would be a spoiler to say more]. As a result of this trust Varina and Nicholas are sent to Ludlow to prepare the body of Prince Arthur for burial and also to find out, at the request of the Queen, if there is anything sinister behind the death of Arthur. The descriptions of the difficulties of travel, the muddy roads, the differences in treatment between those of high rank and those of lowly origin are excellent. Some of the incidents are a little far fetched - there is an early scene at the grave of Varina's baby son which, with its hints of witchcraft and mystery is very unlikely, but nevertheless the story is sufficiently compelling to make this relatively unimportant to the reader. The ending is satisfactory for two reasons. The author does not attempt to `solve' the mystery of the Princes in the Tower [hurray for Karen Harper for resisting the temptation to do this!]. Secondly, because so little is known about the death of Arthur it is just possible,although highly unlikely, to have been a murder so it is not too fantastical to re-write it as a murder mystery. Having praised the novel why haven't I given it 5 stars? It is a 4 star read for the following reasons. Firstly,not only me, but anyone who has read widely the vast volume of fiction and non-fiction about Henry 7th or simply looked at his portrait in the National Portrait Gallery [it shows a mean looking man with thinning hair, small eyes and thin lips] would find it hard to imagine Elizabeth of York adored him or that their marriage was anything other than one of convenience! Secondly, there are three or four sections which definitely needed the attention of a good editor. [My copy was received from Amazon vine but it was not a proof copy]. One example will suffice: page 317 `We sat, all three of us, huddled over the note. Maud rocked back and forth, moaning, blaming herself.' Page 318 : `I did not tell either of them that I had received a note...'. Page 319 `The words of the note I'd read privily without showing Maud or Gil...'. Either Varina had shown Maud and Gil the note or she hadn't! This ,as with the other discrepancies ,are not of major importance to the development of the story but careless, not so much of the writer who could easily make a slip, but of her editor who should have picked them up. Nevertheless none of these faults detract from what was an enjoyable light read and I recommend it to both those who like a mystery and those who like historical romances.fjs
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 6 April 2013
By 
Mrs. A. Wright "wright0072" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This story is set during the reign of Henry V11. His wife Queen Elizabeth summons chandler Varina Wescott to the court to make wax images of her dead children and dead brothers (the Princes in the tower). When Prince Arthur dies Varina is asked to go with courtier Nicholas Sutton to investigate the Prince's death. Notes at the end of the book indicate that it is as much a novel of mystery and suspense as it is a novel of history and romance. The mysteries are a) was Prince Arthur murdered and b) who killed the Princes her brothers. I liked her solution to that one but felt no real suspense.
Her descriptions of court and fashion are excellent. She uses Varina to demonstrate the role of women in 19 Century England.However I did not feel comfortable reading this book. The story line was just not believable. The dialogue, which was over dramatic, alternated between the queen and Varina which made the book rather disjointed. I know that the death of a child is harrowing but I did not get a true sense of the women's grief. I have always believed that Elizabeth was fond of Richard so her attitude to him and the Yorkists was quite a surprise. I really felt that the picture painted about Elizabeth was nothing like anything I had read before I have read other Karen Harper books and have enjoyed them but this one just did not live up to expectations.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Queen's thingy, 2 Mar 2014
By 
Square Ball (Middle England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
Bought as a present for the wife, she likes these kind of books - I don't (!). She seems to like it so fair play. Shame she doesn't want Fifty Shades of Grey, but that's married life for you!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery, murder and suspense, 19 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
A suspense story and historical of two remarkable women in the England of 1501-Varena Westcott a candle maker who mourns for her late husband, and one of her sons, while carving out beautiful wax models and bringing up her other little boy.
And Queen Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, the sister of the princes in the tower and Queen of King Henry VII (as well as the mother of the future King Henry VIII)
Elizabeth of York's face was also what the the face of the Queen in playing card decks up to this very day are modeled on.

The Queen hires Varena to carve an effigies of her two late brothers and after the death of her elder son and heir Prince Arthur to help resolve what seems to be a murder by poisoning . From then she is swept into maelstrom of mystery, murder, suspense and fear, while being engaged in a romance with the dashing Nicholas.

The characters are strong and engaging and I enjoyed most the novel. Good setting and creatively and engagingly written.Only the end and the role played by Francis Lovell seems a bit off the wall, and detracts from the overall good and entertaining historical mystery
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5.0 out of 5 stars the queens confidante, 13 July 2013
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
This is a good read with some good historicalcontent and just enough fiction to keep you wanting more and keeping you interested.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read, 20 Jun 2013
By 
Beansmummy (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
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I really enjoy Philippa Gregory's novels, and this is promoted as being similar. Indeed it is, and I have really enjoyed Karen Harper's writing.

This story follows the story of a widowed candlemaker, running her own business, who finds herself unexpectedly involved with the Tudor Royal Family, when she is summoned by the queen. There follows a tale of intrigue and female solidarity, as despite their different stations in life, the queen comes to trust her, and they become friends.

Based in the reign of Henry VII, his wife Elizabeth has lost 2 children already, and mourns them privately. She is still struggling to cope with the ongoing mystery surrounding the death of her brothers (the Princes in the Tower), and the family is faced with further tragedy when Arthur, Prince of Wales, dies shortly after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Varina, the candlemaker, has also recently lost a son at 4 months old, and understands the depth of the queen's grief. The two women bond, and the queen enlists Varina's help to investigate the deaths of her family, as well as to assuage her grief with Varina's very special talents.

Superb book for any fan of historical fiction. Loved it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars History, Romance & Mystery, 7 Jun 2013
By 
M. J. Saxton (Dewsbury, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Queen's Confidante (Paperback)
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Though primarily a historical novel this book is also a murder mystery, something which adds to its value in my view. Karen Harper has hit on a winning formula for the genre as we get history, romance and a bit of skulduggery thrown in for good measure.

Varina Wescott is a strong leading character who has to make her was as a chandler's widow in the Guild dominated world of London in 1501. She has a talent which brings her to the notice of the queen, Elizabeth of York. From there it is a short move to becoming embroiled in a Tudor detective story as she and Nick Sutton investigate the possible murder of the Prince of Wales.

Karen Harper ties all the loose ends of the Tudor dynasty and their deaths together in an inventive way and one has to admire her skill in plotting.

The story is character led with just enough detail of Tudor life to colour the story without dominating.

For lovers of the historical genre this is a worthwhile addition to the library.
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The Queen's Confidante
The Queen's Confidante by Karen Harper (Paperback - 2 Aug 2012)
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