More trials and tribulations of the Tudor dynasty from Maxwell (The Queen’s Bastard, 1999, etc).
Henry VIII’s young daughter, Elizabeth, may succeed to England’s throne someday—and her future husband would be king. There are others in the line of succession and rivals to dispatch, but that doesn’t trouble Thomas Seymour, Lord High Admiral and new husband of Henry’s last wife, gentle Catherine Parr. Scheming Thomas has grandiose plans for his advancement at court. The arrogant lord is convinced that a girl as tender and nubile as Elizabeth will succumb sooner or later to his manly charms, especially considering that Anne Boleyn’s wanton blood runs in her veins. Elizabeth proves to be not quite that easy, keeping in mind her mother’s beheading and knowing well the cost of a single misstep, even for a Tudor princess. Also, she loves and respects Catherine, who befriended the lonely, outcast girl before her half-brother Edward was crowned. But Thomas is determined to have her and commences a carefully planned seduction. Innocent Elizabeth is bedeviled by sensual fantasies. Thomas, licking her royal toes . . . and moving slowly upward. Thomas, kissing her passionately. Oh, Thomas, Thomas. . . . He waylays her in the castle and outside, arranges for her to catch him romping half-clothed in bed with Catherine, whose pregnancy has addled her wits. Or is Thomas slowly poisoning the poor woman? At one point, Catherine even helps her evil-hearted husband capture Elizabeth, then lets him slit open the young girl’s gown and bare her breasts. But it all comes to naught: Thomas’s plot to kidnap the boy king is uncovered, and Catherine divorces him. Accused of treason, Elizabeth is exonerated, but there are unanswered questions: Was Thomas her first lover? Did she secretly bear him an illegitimate child and have it killed at birth?
Fascinating and historically accurate, but the story sinks fast under the weight of clumsy exposition and a stilted style crowded with minutiae.