Thursday, July 21, 2011

REVIEW: In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener

Susanna Horenbout sets sail from Belgium to join the court of King Henry VIII as his newest painter. En route, a fellow ships passenger dies suddenly, revealing secrets to Susanna that thrust her into a web of intrigue and danger.  Sent to escort her to court, much feared courtier John Parker now becomes Susanna's protector as numerous attempts are made on her life in order for the secrets she carry to remain buried forever.  John and Susanna must figure out why the knowledge she has is so important someone wants her dead and to unravel the truth in order to save her life and maybe even the throne of the King himself.

I liked Susanna and John right off the bat.  Often with historical fiction I am drawn to strong female characters who defy the conventions of their time.  Susanna fit the bill here as a painter which was mostly considered a man's profession in Tudor times so she had to struggle for her art to be taken seriously. John came from nothing and fortunes elevated him to be one of the King's most trusted courtiers.  He does some serious butt kicking throughout the book and I thought these two characters melded well with each other.

For me though, there was a big problem that kept me from really enjoying this book and that was the plot.  Susanna is trusted with a big secret which could mean the down fall of the king but she can't figure out exactly what it is she knows that makes her such a big target.  The book goes back and forth between an attempt on her life occurring to Susanna and John trying to figure out the big mystery and stop the attacks.  The problem is when the whole reason for Susanna (and the King) being in danger is revealed, it is kind of lackluster and it isn't really a surprise who is behind it.  When Susanna falls into enemy hands the book gets a bit more interesting and involved but this occurs almost at the end of the book.

One area the author excels at is describing characters and setting.  The description was almost too much at times.  Also she includes little snippets of etiquette for being a gentleman or lady at a royal court which I thought was interesting. The writing itself was kind of simplistic.  It almost felt like it was written for a younger reader except there was a lot of violence and more than a few sex scenes.  There is a romance in the book as well and while it felt like it developed rather quickly once I got used to the idea I warmed to the relationship.  It is worth noting that both Susanna Horenbout and John Parker were real historical figures and I liked that she decided to give life to two lesser known people of the era.

This is the first novel in a series and I am not sure yet if I am going to continue on with  future installments.  I am one of those that will probably never get enough of books set in the Tudor court but even though the book had great characters, the plot only made it an ok read for me.  I will say though that this book has received 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads so maybe this just wasn't the book for me.

In a Treacherous Court is being released on August 2nd.

I received this book from Simon and Schuster via Galley Grab.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.


  1. Thanks for the honest review, Holly. Based on your review I think I'm going to avoid this one.