Flemish artist Susanna Horenbout is set from her home in Belgium to the court of Henry VIII to serve as the King’s personal illuminator. Susanna comes from a line of distinguished illuminators, her father having served in the court of Margaret of Austria, but no matter how talented Susanna is, she is constantly living in the shadow of her brother Lucas, that is until her father sends her to England to serve Henry. Aboard the ship, a man dies in Susanna’s arms after revealing to her a secret message for the King, a secret that will put her own life in danger. Upon her arrival she is greeted with an attempt on her life only to be rescued by John Parker, the King’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the Crossbows, but most importantly, the King’s most lethal courtier. Soon Parker and Susanna become entangled in a plot against the King and they must find out who is responsible before they become the next victims. A murder and conspiracy theory set in the Tudor Court.
This is a fantastic debut novel from Michelle Diener! It is a nail-biting, page-turning suspense filled thriller with assassination attempts, political plots and court intrigue. In a Treacherous Court is an exciting blend of historical fiction, mystery, adventure, suspense and romance. The story is a historical suspense novel first and a romance second – and the romance is realistic; not an over the top crazy love story, but one that flows and fits in nicely with the rest of the drama. The characters jump off the pages – I confess that I kind of fell in love with John Parker, in fact he might be my new historical fiction crush. I also love that Susanna is a strong, independent woman who can fight in a dress, not a wimpy female protagonist who falls in love with the hero and does nothing. I like that she has some spunk and fire in her soul. My only problem with Susanna is that though she is brought to court to work as an illuminator, she really doesn’t illuminate anything, but I guess she was a little busy trying not to get killed a half dozen times in one book. I was also impressed with Diener for being able to create a story that is set in the court of Henry VIII but he is not the main character but rather plays a supporting role.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story. If you liked books like The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato, you will definitely enjoy this one too. I can’t wait for the next instalment The Keeper of the King’s Secrets due out in April 2012.