#bookreview – Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey – by Adrienne Dillard

An interesting look inside the Tudor Court from the perspective of a minor player. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

corrottoWith my lifelong fascination for all things Tudor, I am always looking for stories about peripheral historical figures of that time, that can offer a new perspective on events and people. And Cor Rotto does this well.

This story of Catherine Carey, the daughter of Queen Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary, who some think is the illegitimate child of King Henry VIII, is someone seldom mentioned in either historical novels or non-fiction accounts of the time. Catherine’s upbringing, long-term marriage to Francis Knollys, and her service to multiple royals including Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves,  and his two daughters — Queen Mary I, and Queen Elizabeth I — provide the focus of this book. And it does provide readers another way to look at many of the events Tudor buffs know so well. Like the “boy King” reign of Edward VI, the persecution of Elizabeth during her sister Mary’s reign, the marriages and abdication of Mary Queen of Scots, the mysterious death of Robert Dudley‘s first wife Amy Robsart, and the origins of Robert Dudley’s infatuation with Lettice Knollys, daughter of this book’s central character, who eventually becomes Dudley’s second wife.

The story of Catherine Carey herself however seemed to me to lack drama. Despite the fact that she suffered some hardship, including the deaths of several of her 16 children, I found Catherine two-dimensional and emotionally remote. Perhaps this is due in part to Dillard’s writing style, which struck me as too contemporary. I prefer getting totally absorbed in novels where authors are able to recapture the tone of this historical period. And in that regard, I felt Dillard’s novel fell short. What I did love is the author’s Afterword where she faithfully explains what is fact and what is conjecture in the novel, based on her own substantial research.

More about the author, Adrienne Dillard.