Title: A Love Most Dangerous
Author: Martin Lake
Publisher: Lake Union, Seattle
Format: E-Book, 354 Pages, $10.99 [Amazon Paperback], $3.99 [Kindle — KindleUnlimited], $9.95 [Audible], $11.06 [Barnes & Noble Paperback], $9.95 [iBook Audiobook]
Her beauty was a blessing…and a dangerous burden…
As a Maid of Honor at the Court of King Henry VIII, beautiful Alice Petherton receives her share of admirers. But when the powerful, philandering Sir Richard Rich attempts to seduce her, she knows she cannot thwart his advances for long. She turns to the most powerful man in England for protection: the King himself.
As beautiful as she is intelligent, Alice easily captures the King’s interest. He takes her to bed on the day of his son Edward’s birth. But the King is capricious, and he casts out Alice when Queen Jane dies. Although Alice knows well the risk of becoming the King’s wife, it isn’t long before she charms her way back into Court and the King’s heart. The challenge is remaining his favorite while avoiding the dangers of becoming his next bride.
Reveling in her newfound power, Alice soon forgets that enemies lurk behind every corner at court…and there are some who are eagerly plotting her fall…
The story begins at Hampton Court Palace, where the heroine Alice Petherton and her friends are all Maids of Honor to Jane Seymour, the current Queen of England. Alice begins: “My name is Alice Petherton and I am seventeen years of age. I came to Court as a simple servant but caught the eye of Anne Boleyn when she was newly crowned. I was good at singing, could dance like an elf, and made her laugh and think. She took me as one of her Maids of Honor and my slow approach to the furnace began” (Lake, 2). The book begins with some rather arresting words from the protagonist which cannot help but draw the reader in.
From the outset of the story, the reader is given an overview of the danger that exists at the Tudor Court. Women can be clever but not too clever. One knows full well what can happen to a clever woman and Anne Boleyn is a testament to that. Our heroine is a clever young woman but it seems like she has a plethora of wonderful and useful skills in her arsenal. There is something about Alice that is attractive and, as she states in the story, she seems to have a jolly predisposition. As a Maid of Honor, she is surrounded by an interesting cast of characters: Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Thomas Cromwell (aka the Lord Privy Seal), Susan Dunster, Mary Zouche, Philippa Wicks, Dorothy Bray, and Sir Richard Rich.
On May Day, Alice has the great displeasure to meet the licentious Sir Richard Rich who immediately takes a liking to her. This causes a rift between Alice and Philippa Wicks, her one-time friend. From then on, Philippa Wicks and her sidekick Dorothy Bray have it out for Alice, wanting to ruin her life completely. While Philippa turns her back on Alice, Susan Dunster and Mary Zouche completely stand by her in her time of need. Alice makes mention of a “furnace” which is a good way to describe the vipers’ nest that is the sixteenth century royal court, a place of intrigue and where one’s position is precarious. One can meet one’s downfall at any time. Sir Richard Rich pursues Alice with dogged determination and, knowing that he is a man of power, she finds that the only place to escape his reach is to find herself in the King’s good graces.
All in all, I feel that A Love Most Dangerous was a very well written and interesting read. It is clear that the author, Martin Lake wrote a very thoughtful story about a strong-willed heroine who is living in a dangerous place, where she can lose her life if she so much as does or says the wrong thing. While I enjoyed the depiction of the life at the royal court, I found the characterization of Alice to fall a little flat. There was something rather “Mary Sue” about her, almost that she was too perfect. It made it very hard to believe her as a character. Of the many fascinating characters in the story, I found the characters Mary Zouche, Susan Dunster, Philippa Wicks, and Dorothy Bray to be rather static. There was very little growth for them as characters. Mary Zouche and Susan Dunster suffered from the sidekick stereotype and there was very little to commend them. As for Philippa Wicks and Dorothy Bray, they were the stereotypical Tudor “Mean Girls.” For these reasons, I give the story 4.5 Crowns instead of 5 Crowns, as it was only a minor detraction from the story.
Finally, I would like to mention that I was exceedingly impressed with Lake’s depiction of historical characters: the frightening Henry VIII and the stoic Thomas Cromwell. It is no easy feat to portray actual historical figures and Lake did a great job in fleshing out the aforementioned characters. I was most impressed with his depiction of the crafty Thomas Cromwell which is something that I was pleasantly surprised about.