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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I thoroughly enjoyed this description of tudor life. It is partly the story of Elizabeth the first told by her nurse/governess Cat Ashley. I was not particularly looking forward to reading this book because there has been so much written about Elizabeth (some by my favourite authors) that I felt tt was just another tudor novel. I didnt really think there could be anything new left to write about. However this part fact part fiction novel is well written with excellent descriptions and wonderful characterisation. It deals with Cat's early life and also her personal life as well as her life during service to the Tudors. Parts of the book was fiction and we can't really know how strong Cat's influence was on Elizabeth. All we really know is that she was without doubt a great queen. I found the descriptions of Tudor life really well done and loved hearing about the private Cat. Without hesitation I would recommend this book not only to history buffs but to anyone who enjoys a good tale.
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VINE VOICEon 12 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I took five books with me on holiday last week. This was the last of the five that I read; I think I thought it might be too heavy to be enjoyed on a sun lounger but I was very wrong, a couple of pages in and I was hooked! I then worried that I would not have time to finish the book once I got home but I needn't have worried, my plane was delayed by 24 hours and I therefore had plenty of time!
This book is extremely well researched, and it is evident from the notes pages at the end, that much time and effort has gone into making this book as 'true' as possible.
This story tells the story of Kat Ashley, very much a minor player in the scheme of things and starts with her as a young girl and finishes some 30 years later with the crowning of Elizabeth Tudor (Queen Elizabeth I) to whom Kat was fist companion, then governess and finally a trusted friend.
The years 1516 - 1559 were facinating with more twists, plots and schemes than East Enders! Henry VIII and his wives, Cromwell, the Seymours, Queen Mary I and many, many others are all brought to life in this very enjoyable and believable book. I have read many books on this period in time and it was refreshing to read about all the great and good (and bad) in the eyes of a servant rather than one of the main players.
If you enjoy historical fiction then you will enjoy this one.
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VINE VOICEon 30 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Yet another novel written on the Tudors, especially Elizabeth, this book is, by turns, a romance, an historical, and a soap opera. The main problem seems to be that it is written in first person - so little is known about Katherine Champernowne, later Kat Ashley, that a personal retelling doesn't really flesh out the bones of her story. It would have been more interesting to have another person's account of the same incidents running parallel to hers. As it is, it's not exactly gripping reading, beacause any Tudor afficionado will already know 'what happens next'. Making the reader care about it is something else. It is well researched,which is great, but tends to be a little dry. Also, in spite of that research, there are some howling modern language clunkers that slip through. Whilst not expecting the story in the original Tudor (!) I was a bit irked to see modern American language like:'don't you 'sass' me' - not ever a British turn of phrase, surely?! I counted at least three such mistakes, so the editing was also at fault. Character wise, Kat and Elizabeth stand out from the rest of the cast, well, it's their 'love story', so fair enough. However, the rest of the glittering cast is so much wallpaper. Aside from that, Kat is the heroine of a HP novel - a beautiful orphan who leaps at the chance to spy for her betters and so rise in society, from Anne Boleyn's servant to that of her daughter. There's the obligatory rape, a romance that eventually leads to marriage, pursuit by enemies, imprisonment, release,etc etc. The author also doesn't properly round off the story, so Kat's death is dealt with in the notes that follow. Everyone seems interested in these notes,the writer's bio, and the advert for the 'next' book (on Shakespeare's 'wife' apparently) but having persevered that far, I would have preferred the book to follow through.
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VINE VOICEon 30 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a lover of historical novels, I enjoyed The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper, very much. I have read this lovely book swiftly, from cover to cover, including the author's note and the transcript of an interview with her at the end. The book could have stood alone without this, but, it was useful to confirm historicity.

Having watched so many dramatisations of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, I am fascinated by the character of Kat (Ashley?), the Queen's governess, lady in waiting and companion and it was good to have this chance to focus on her own life, and her friendship with Elizabeth I.

Writing of this shadowy lady, the author immediately takes us into the mind of Kat and the settings she lived and breathed within. You even feel the stiffness and rustle of her heavy brocade dresses. This accuracy of imagination was explained when I read that Karen Harper has an authentic, early Tudor era dress, made by her daughter-in-law, and says, "Wearing it gives me an entirely new view of how my main characters can move - or not move - through a scene".

Written in first person in extended diary form, we see through Kat's eyes, the momentous years from 1516 to 1560; from her home and childhood in Devon right through to her service in various Royal households and Palaces. I would say more, but I do not want to spoil this wonderful read for anyone.

The question must arise, just how historical is this novel? I find that the author has "been praised for her historically accurate attention to detail" and has previously taught English at Ohio State University. So an author who has made the historic novel her own, and is to be trusted in this field and a book that is well-worth reading.
Shakespeare's Mistress The Poyson Garden (Elizabeth I Mysteries)
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It has to be said that in the past few years there has been a profusion of 'Tudorlit', fiction based around the Tudor court and the rulers who lived their lives surrounded by their court.

The clever author finds a new angle to engage the reader and Karen Harper has done this. Instead if focusing n the heavies of the era she chooses to write her story from the perspective of Kat Ashley who was Elizabeth Tudors nursemaid and surrogate mother. The circumstances around her appointment to this position are touching. a dying mothers wish that her precious little girl be protected and raised safely and freely. Safety was a concern as Elizabeth was superfluous and Protestant, she and her household, including Kat Ashley, were in danger from the fanatical Catholic Mary.

Although the figure of Kat Ashley has been mentioned in Tudor books she is often a footnote, yet it was Kat Ashley who was the mother-figure who helped raise Elizabeth to be the woman and queen she became.

The political machinations of the period, complete with intrigue and death are vibrantly brought to life, as is the character of the young Elizabeth.

However Harper is clever enough to keep the focus on the heroine of the book - Kat Ashley herself. Elizabeth came to the throne and healed the rifts that had developed. Kat Ashley deserves the credit.

This book was well0writted and the prose brought to life the colours and textures of Tudor England. I really enjoyed the book. I look forward to more books from this talented author. Kudos for finding a fresh approach to the ever-expanding `Tudor lit' library.
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on 26 May 2012
Lady Elizabeth is rejected as a baby by her father King Henry VIII. She is effectively orphaned by the execution of her mother, Ann Boleyn. She is raised in isolation with her Governess (Kat Ashley)and husband, who become her loving surrogate parents.

Although Karen Harper has been a published novelist for over 20 years, none of us had ever heard of, or had read her work. Comparisons were predictable, given the historical period involved, between the flowing but lightweight style of this American lady and the more familiar work of English authors Phillippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy. Other references, by those who appreciate television satire based on history,(albeit loosely)were made to the 1980s BBC's dramatic comedy series `Blackadder'.

Everyone in our reading group finished this book and only one of our readers felt from early on that it was disappointing. It was agreed that the main characters were quite `two -dimensional' and `flat'. This might not have been helped by a lack of gossip whilst they were exiled from the Royal Court and by the author excluding major events in British history when their relevance did not fit into the main characters' experiences.

Most of us easily related information in this book to what we already knew about these troubled times. Those who enjoyed reading found it absorbing and easy to read although they found the ending weak and uninspiring.

Our average mark was out of 7 out of 10.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Really very good. Simple as that.

The writing style is clear, concise, just the right side of descriptive to be interesting and informative and just enough warmth and drama to make a convincing story.

It must be hard for those authors who love this period (which has been written about, dissected and discussed ad infinitum) to come up with something fresh and I've noticed a few new books coming along that are written from the point of view of some of the lesser known characters of this period, and this is one of them. Having said that, Kat Ashley played a very pivotal and important role, so this is an interesting take on a well worn path. It's nice to see Anne Boleyn portrayed in a slightly more positive light than usual and the characters of Mary and Elizabeth have been drawn well and realistically. It fairly whizzes through almost the whole Tudor period, with fleeting mentions of central players such as Catherine Howard, Jane Gray and Edward Seymour, but I suppose we're trying to portray the whole of Kat Ashley's life in a short space and can't include everything in detail.

Effectively done, a real page turner and a good sense of the extreme highs and lows of this magnificent and terrible time. Well worth reading.
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on 17 April 2012
This book tells a great story of how events may have happened, told from the point of view of Kat Ashley, Elizabeth I's governess. It summises on Kat's early life and of how she may have got to London and into positions close to the royal family, starting out as a spy working for Thomas Cromwell, reporting to him on the daily activities etc of Anne Boleyn.

From there we are taken to Hatfield House as governess to Elizabeth. We are taken through Elizabeth's formative years and Kat's love for John Ashley, probably the first horse whisperer and author of The Art of Riding. Some of the facts may not be quite right but the book is well researched and you feel like you are their, and are greatly affected by the ways of life and the lives of the characters. You feel Kat's fear when in the Tower for questioning and when thrown in the Fleet prison. Her joy when she is reunited with Elizabeth and, later on, John.

I couldn't put the book down as I really needed to know what would happen next. One of the best books I have read and the first on my new Kindle.
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on 15 March 2012
Without doubt Karen Harper throughly researched her novel The Queen's Governess. It is the tale of Katherine Champenowne, who married John Ashley author of an authoritative book on training horses, and her famous charge, Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII.

I enjoyed the novel about the ups and downs of Elizabeth's life and her governesses devotion.

The end disappointed me. Kat as Katherine Ashley was known, is the main character in the novel.I would have preferred it to conclude with her death instead of ending it with Elizabeth's recovery from smallpox.

I began the novel with high hopes but, without reading the information about Karen Harper which precedes the novel, knew she was an American. Words such as 'sass' and 'snit' jerked me out of the story. A little more care from Ms.Harper and I would have given rated the novel 5*
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on 14 January 2012
The book offers a credible insight into the life of a Tudor princess and the broken Tudor household. The life of Kat Ashley was put into in a position as precarious as that of her charge. Loyal Kat worked hard to support her mistress .Having read numerous books concerning the lives of all the Tudors the perspective of Elizabeth's life from some one as clcose as her governess was, indeed, most interesting. The imagined tour of the Tower of London was well thought out and disageeably frightening. Their consequent escape from such a place leaves me puzzled as to why Elizabeth never had the place cleared out and torture banned from England from that time onward. The book was well written and provided a good read.
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