The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper

by Sandra Byrd

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439183144
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 06/05/2012
Series: Ladies in Waiting Series , #2
Edition description: Original
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 313,773
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Award-winning and bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published four dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including Mist of Midnight, Bride of a Distant Isle (A Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick), and her most recent, A Lady in Disguise. For nearly two decades, Sandra has shared her secrets with the many writers she edits, mentors, and coaches. She lives in the Seattle, Washington area.

Read an Excerpt

The Secret Keeper


  • PROLOGUE

    Her voice sounded by turns pleased and then pleading, her laughter scaled from bass enjoyment to treble fear. A highborn woman held fast the girl’s arms while the rougher hands of a man ran over the young woman’s jawline, her hairline, her hemline. I could not see his face, but on his left small finger he bore a costly gold and black onyx signet ring. With the other hand he took his dagger and began to slash.

    Pieces of her black gown fell to the ground, one by one, like the locks of a condemned woman shorn before execution, though he stayed himself from touching her bright red hair before sheathing his dagger again. Her woeful face betrayed that she knew this would be her utter undoing. The gown was ruined and the black clumps, which had plummeted to the ground, received the breath of life of a sudden and became a flock of beady-eyed ravens that took wing toward the Tower of London, whilst we watched in horror and dread.

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for The Secret Keeper includes discussion questions and a Q&A with author Sandra Byrd. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
    .
    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. People sometimes say that, with historical fiction, we insert twenty-first–century values like “girl power” into the world of sixteenth-century women. But could that be a bit dismissive? How were women such as Kateryn Parr, Anne Askew, and Juliana St. John empowered in ways similar to and also different from contemporary women?

    2. Two of the charges against both Askew and Calthorpe is that they were unnatural and unkind, mainly because they continued to use their given names in some capacity and for their forthright speech, especially where the exercise of their spiritual gifts was involved. Has that changed with, for example, women such as Anne Graham Lotz, or is there still a sense of that today?

    3. Juliana felt social pressure to remain quiet about her sexual abuse, as there were messages, both overt and subtle, that she was “damaged goods” after having been assaulted and that those in power could twist the circumstances to harm her reputation as well as bring trouble to those she loved. Are today’s women equally pressured to “keep quiet” due to the shaming of society, with messages that the way they act, dress, or speak encourages rape? Or are young women today likely to speak up?

    4. Why do you think most women are drawn to “bad boys” at one time or another?

    5. Have you ever learned a secret that changed your life or the life of someone you know? What was it?

    6. Although we come to understand why Frances St. John acted so dismissively toward her daughter, it did not undo the longing Juliana had felt her entire life. Kateryn Parr stepped in, as she did with so many others, as mother and mentor. Do you have a female mentor, or have you had a good mentor? What role did she/does she play in your life that is different from or the same as that of a mother?

    7. When Kateryn Parr was mothering Juliana, she had no idea she was teaching her how to be a mother. That kindness was repaid in a way Kate could never have imagined, as Juliana then mothered Kate’s daughter, Mary. Have you known of a circumstance in which you or someone you know has given to another only to be rewarded unexpectedly in kind?

    8. Juliana let her pride—her concern that Jamie would view her as unlovely if he knew the circumstances of her life—play a role in her silence. Are there issues today that women are reluctant to be forthcoming about, worried that others would view them badly, when in fact, the truth would set them free? What are some of those common issues?

    9. Do you believe that prophecy is an active spiritual gift in today’s world? Why or why not?

    10. In the end, the haughty Lady Seymour was reduced, herself, to begging on bended knee for the life of her husband. In the end, Juliana got the man she loved and her own child, though perhaps not the way she expected it to happen. Do you believe that people eventually “get what they deserve”?


    A Conversation with Sandra Byrd

    In the opening of the novel, we learn that Juliana occasionally has prophetic dreams, and her mother suspects of her being a witch. Indeed, many meaningful dreams end up coming into play in the novel. Why did you choose to use these as a medium?

    I had a few reasons, all of which fused in the novel. “Seers” often appear in the Tudor genre, perhaps because spirituality was such an overt part of many peoples’ lives then, or they more readily recognized it. I like keeping some traditional elements of a genre in the books I write, as long as I can do them a little differently. I hadn’t seen it utilized and explained as a gift of the Spirit as explained in the Bible’s book of 1 Corinthians, and so I decided to do that.

    Much of this book is about women overcoming the roadblocks they faced, partly in the expression of their spirituality. Various women in the book have the gifts of teaching, of preaching, of giving, of prophecy, and one is called to martyrdom. I wanted to show women publicly exercising their spiritual gifts in an era which did not readily accept anything outside the norm—therefore, dangerous. And then there is that document that historian Zahl says was dropped and then found, warning Parr that accusations which would threaten her life were coming. I believe that was no accident, but was providentially arranged. My plot illustrates one way that could have happened.

    Both The Secret Keeper and To Die For tell a story from the perspective of a friend. Do you think it is easier or more difficult to write from this perspective? How would you write differently if you were writing in the voice of Kateryn Parr?

    I think it’s easier to write from the position of a friend, because a friend sees things a bit more objectively than we might see ourselves and is able to report thusly. A friend sees our good moments, and our bad moments, and loves us anyway. Telling the story from the position of a friend gives access that, for example, telling it from the position of a servant would not allow. I don’t know that it is easier to write this way; I think it depends on what you want to put across. In this series, I’m seeking an insight into the queens’ hearts.

    I never considered writing as Parr, because it was important to me to tell a projection of Mary Seymour’s story too. If I had written as Parr, I would not have had the relative outsider’s viewpoint. Juliana was less protected, less studied in the ways of court, and less noticeable, with more freedom. It gives a different point of view than had it been from someone of great power. It was important to me to show the vulnerability of those at court.

    Is there a reason you chose this particular moment in the Reformation as your background? What kind of research did you do for this novel? What was it like to write a fictional account of this monumental moment in British history?

    I’ve always been enamored of Tudor England, so setting the books during that era was bliss. The English Reformation was transforming the nation during those years; religion played a major role in every sixteenth-century English reign and even those which closely followed thereafter. It is an angle which I felt was underexplored in historical fiction, but was a huge part of the everyday lives of Tudor-era women. Kateryn Parr was an on-fire reformer, perhaps much stronger than I’ve even put across in the novel.

    To research, I read her biographies, I read her own written works, I researched what was happening in the world around her, and I read how she’d influenced others. I did a study of the rise of gentry during these years and also of the development of the Church of England. So much has been written, and will yet be written, about this amazing era; I simply hope that whatever books I contribute bring a new shading or nuance to the genre.

    Juliana is raped by a man at court, John. Some of John’s excuses seemed all too familiar to the modern reader. Was this a difficult scene for you to write?

    Sadly, I believe the self-justification and excuses for rape are as old as humanity, and they haven’t changed. It was a terribly difficult scene to write, and I didn’t add it to the story line gratuitously. I wanted to show the real dangers women faced, and face, because of the lack of access to power and protection. Women then and now face significant emotional, physical, and social repercussions from rape. Wrongly ascribed shame and the physical damage persist long after the attack. Women today are still shamed into silence, though, thankfully, there are now legal consequences and help available in many countries. But it hasn’t changed the numbers.

    Up to half of all women still suffer sexual trauma of some kind during their lives. I wanted to acknowledge that, while also encouraging them that they, too, can still have a happily ever after, and to remind them that God sees all and promises to repay.

    Anne Askew is another woman to face a horrible fate. As she burns at the stake, her religious convictions remain strong. Do you think that same level of conviction remains today? Or has it faded? What role does faith play in your life?

    My Christian faith is central to my life, though as in any long-lasting relationship, there are times when God and I are close, times when I feel distant from Him, questions I wrestle with that aren’t quickly or even ever answered, times I feel like I’m deeply in love, and times when I am angry with Him. When I work through things with God honestly (He’s said, “Come, let us reason together,” right?) our relationship grows deeper and more intimate. I don’t feel the need to have a tidy, easily boxed-up relationship.

    I think Askew’s convictions remained strong because she had that certainty, that intimacy with the Lord, conviction, and the courage to stand. There are definitely people today with that kind of strength, but I don’t think you’ll find many where the living is easy! And if you do, once they begin to stand apart, the living won’t be easy anymore. What it will be though, is deeply rewarding in a way that an easy faith, or an easy life, is not.

    How you imagine the fate of Lady Mary Seymour is a lovely answer to the long-standing mystery. Did you think of the ending before you wrote the novel? During? After?

    I knew before I began the novel that I wanted Mary to live. There is no record that Mary Seymour died, and even the hints are ambiguous. I admire Kateryn Parr, I feel deep affection for her, if I may, and I wanted to give her daughter a life. The book is, at its heart, about mothering: the mothers we are born to, the ones we choose, the people we mother unofficially, and how important good mothering is. How we crave it. There is no doubt that Kateryn Parr mothered the Tudor children well. I think she had a gift for mothering. She mothered Juliana. And in a way she could not have expected, she reaped what she’d sown, in teaching Juliana how to mother Mary.

    On your website, www.sandrabryd.com, the first line of your biography states: “After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd persevered and has now published more than three dozen books.” Was this the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?

    Actually, it was a poem. And in my innocent naïeveté, I sent it off to a publisher and thought, well that is that, now I’ll be published. I am forever grateful to the intern who took the time to send a rejection postcard to me. I think the first full story I ever wrote, as a teen, was about star-crossed lovers who were magnetically, tragically, melodramatically, attracted to one another, although they were from opposite poles, North and South. You can see why that didn’t get published, either. But writers learn by writing and reading, and by being edited, so I expect it helped somewhere along the line, because here I am, published!

    You offer your services as a writing coach on your website. If you had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

    I’d echo author Jane Kirkpatrick, whose work I admire:

    My best advice is to silence the harpies, those negative voices that say “who told you that you could write?” or “what makes you think your book will get published?” Just write the story of your heart and put duct tape on those harpies.

    Sometimes the harpies are inside your head, sometimes they’re other people. Find people who will nurture both you and your story, who help you protect your talent all the while insisting that you grow in your craft. And trust yourself.

    Customer Reviews

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    The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and at the end I felt that Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour's daughter, Mary, had a wonderful life with Juliana and her family.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Why do these posters feel the need to write mini books on a review, some of which contains multiple plot spoilers. Tone it down and just write if u liked it or not. Stop with the dissertations
    SilversReviews on LibraryThing 20 days ago
    Life in King Henry's Court definitely had advantages for men, but not women, but the life in the 1500's was quite interesting. There were ladies in the Queen's Court that waited and served her and gentlemen who went to war. No one could disobey the King and his edicts. One false move, and it could be off with your head, imprisonment, or a burning at the stake.Life seemed quite harsh with the many do's and dont's in terms of religion and what was required and expected in terms of following what the King declared. It definitely was a difficult life during those times....people had to fear for their lives as well as to be concerned that they didn't do anything against the King.Lady Juliana St. John is the main character. The book focused around her and her activities in the court and in her personal life. It also focused on a secret that kept her from happiness and it also focused on her prophesies that seemed to come true in time. She also discovered another secret toward the end of the book that has been kept for a long time. No matter what was transpiring, Juliana had a part in it and was loved no matter what. Her life revolved around the Queen, and she originally was brought to the castle for the purpose to serve the Queen and to learn the ways of the Court. The women that tended the Queen were friendly but each one was worried they would do or say something wrong. A few of the ladies were always looking to see who was not following what the King had made law and they included the Queen in their watch. Everyone in the court had to be proper yet the undercurrent was less than favorable. Julianna was very loved by the Queen, but I think also used by her.The book is historical and very informative. The author makes you feel as if you are in the book living the lives of the characters and feeling their terror, their pain, and at times their joy, but I definitely am glad I did not live in that era. The formality and the strictness would have driven me crazy. It was intriguing, though, in terms of history, and I liked the author's notes at the end that told how the lives continued after the last year in her book of 1550 was noted. The extensive Family Trees definitely helped spell out who was who. The author did excellent, extensive research. The ending was redeeming and uplifting even as the turmoil of life in the King's Court and in the 1500's continued. Seeing the set of rules the citizens had to live by and following Juliana throughout it all was very educational. Even though I am an avid history buff and loved the storyline, my rating is going to be a 4/5 because it did get tedious at times.I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
    Meganleigh844 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
    I'm so excited to share this amazing novel with you from Sandra Byrd! The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr is a historical novel that will whisk you away into another time full of court life, grand banquets, intrigue, and of course secrets. The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd is the second in the Ladies in Waiting Series. It releases June 5, 2012.The first book in the series is To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (a 2012 Christy Award finalist). To Die For is an amazing book on its own! It follows the lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn, Meg Wyatt. Although Meg Wyatt appears in The Secret Keeper, it can easily be read as a stand alone novel. Meg Wyatt makes a brief appearance, but Byrd does a good job of explaining who Meg is.The Secret Keeper begins at the end of King Henry VIII's reign. He is no longer the handsome, virile king he used to be. The story is told from the perspective of Juliana St. John, the daughter of a well-to-do knight in Marlborough. Through different family connections, Juliana ends up serving Kateryn (Kate) Parr as her lady in waiting. Juliana develops a special relationship with Kate. Juliana is worried though, because she discovers that she has the gift of prophecy. King Henry has become more strict with his laws regarding religion, accusing anyone he deems suspicious of witchcraft. She decides to harbor this secret to herself, although many of her visions concern those in high positions, including the Lady Elizabeth, in great danger. She has to continually make choices regarding how she will act on her prophecies. Juliana also learns many of her own lessons about life, love, and faith throughout the novel as she struggles to adapt to the life at court. She must learn to rely on God, who will never leave us nor forsake us.I appreciate that Byrd realizes that most of her readers are familiar with the basic outline of historical events that she is writing about. Therefore she doesn't tell the same old story, but decides to take the perspective of the lady in waiting and really get inside her head. She asks the question, "What would it be like to serve in the court of King Henry VIII?" Another question she asks is, "What kinds of things would a lady in waiting have to give up to serve the queen?"Sandra Byrd adds greatly to the richness of the time period and has obviously done her research. Byrd describes the detail of the period clothing so vividly that I could see it vividly in my imagination. I also loved learning more about courtly manners and the customs of the Tudor period, while still being immersed in Juliana's story.Kateryn (Kate) Parr is another character that I appreciated. How much do we really know about her, except that she survived? I loved learning more about this Godly woman! She is very admirable, has a sweet temper, and is humble I do not know what I would have done if I were in her position and was basically forced to marry the king when I loved another. The situation is even worse because the king is so old and physically disgusting, with his oozing sores, obesity and... er... bodily functions. Kate handles the situation with such dignity and Christian character. I love how she actually prays about it and then feels that God is telling her that it is His will for her to marry the King because she can influence him, especially with the new laws. God is saying that the realm is going in the wrong direction with Scripture being banned and she can help make a difference if she is to become the king's wife. By the end of Kate's life, she has turned the king's wrath, and the king's council has ended up being led by reformers who have made strides in religious matters. She wrote religious books on her faith that were published. She also mothered many of her former husband's children, King Henry's children, and Lady Jane. Clean Content: This is a clean read. Juliana does have to deal with the terrible struggle of being raped. There is a
    MsDollie More than 1 year ago
    The Secret Keeper in another example of wonderful historical fiction by Sandra Byrd ... delightful. While the storyline is about Katherine Pharr the underling tale is about women, their friendships with each other, relationships between mothers and daughters AND of the cultural challenges that bind all women together. Interesting historical detail about the lives of historical characters told from the perspective of a fictional character. Loved it; will read it again.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I think that Juliana got her abilities from Gentina mutation.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Lane_Hill_House More than 1 year ago
    Wednesday, September 3, 2014 The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr by Sandra Byrd, ©2012 Ladies in Waiting, Book 2 Kateryn Parr (b.1512-d.1548) Sir Thomas Seymour seeks Hugh St. John to settle some business and comes upon his daughter, Juliana, as a lector at the church. Assured she would be just the one to serve as a confidante lady-in-waiting for his beloved Kateryn, her mother initially agrees to one year's service at court for her daughter. Kateryn Parr has long been in love with Thomas, brother of late Queen Jane Seymour. Getting rid of his wives at whim, the King seeks to have Kate Parr as his next wife. Unknown to Henry VIII, she will be his last wife. King Henry VIII in failing health, the Court goes on without him ~ until he hears about it and has them beheaded. To the Tower is a command that doesn't return many. Desirous of keeping all the power himself, he is not overly pleased with the influx of reformers entering and promoting influences amid his reign. If only he had realized the true Queen he had, he would have had a much better outcome. He was swayed by opinion and pompous self-pride, on again ~ off again allegiance to Kate. For all of his misleading, Thomas does indeed do a great service for Kate when bringing Juliana to court for her. She is a faithful friend and continues at court for the duration of Kate's life. Kate, in turn, is the mother figure Juliana unknowingly sought. Benevolence on both parts, they are valuable to each other's lives. Juliana has prophetic dreams that forewarn of coming events, even before she knew she was to be a part of the outcome. Juliana tells the story as an observer and participant in the life of Queen Kateryn. She gives the Queen her complete attendance beyond a life of her own. Juliana is my very favorite character and I was overwhelmed with the acceptance she receives as she leaves court after the death of the Queen. Very satisfactory and a beloved friend. As a believer, she realizes she was never alone nor forsaken. This Tudor story is very thorough and well-written of hidden times revealed within the private chambers. Although Juliana is fictional among the actual happenings portrayed, she stands out as the very needed member. Enjoy the rich stories told in the Ladies-in-Waiting series by Sandra Byrd. Further historical readings of Principal Works of Reference are included in the back of the novel. Also included is a Reading Group Guide and Author Q&A. ***Thank you to Author Sandra Byrd for this story and the opportunity to read and review The Secret Keeper. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
    Celticlady1953 More than 1 year ago
    How I love the Tudor's, let me count the ways....oh there are so many ways I love the Tudor's. The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr is the second novel in the Ladies in Waiting series by Sandra Byrd and this is one of the ways I love the Tudors. Kateryn, also known as Catherine was the Queen Consort of King Henry VIII, his sixth and last wife. This story is also about Juliana St. John, a lady in waiting to the Queen. She does not want to marry the man that her family has chosen for her but would rather go to court. Juliana becomes very close to Kateryn (Kate) and enjoys her day to day duties serving her. A close family friend is Thomas Seymour, who has aspirations to further his career but is in love with Kateryn and she him but she chooses to marry Henry . This time in the Tudor era sees the King as older and maybe a bit more mellow as Kateryn was instrumental in having Henry restore his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth to the succession to the throne of England after Edward. After Henry dies, the throne goes to Edward, but he is a child and as such is subject to the machinations of the Seymour family. Julianna continues in the household of the dowager Queen Catherine, as she is concerned for her welfare as she has had visions of a woman having her dress shredded and does not know who the victim is but knows that something is not right. Thomas Seymour returns to court and pursues his love of Catherine and they are married in secret. King Edward and Princess Mary do not approve of the match and rightly so as not too long after the marriage and after Kateryn becomes pregnant with her only child, Thomas Seymour starts behaving in an improper manner with the Princess Elizabeth who is living with them. Kateryn dies only six days after giving birth to a daughter. Little is known as to what happened to the child but the author does a great job of tying this tidbit of information into a believable ending. This is a story full of courtly intrique, mystery, religious persecution and greed. Rich in descriptions and thoroughly researched, this is an amazing novel about the lives and pagentry of life in the Tudor era. A wonderful blend of fact and fiction that historical fiction fans will love. I look forward to reading the last installment in this series Roses Have Thorns, A novel of Elizabeth I.
    DanicaPage More than 1 year ago
    Beautiully written. One of my favorites of the year. My Rating: 4 out of 5 rating. Disclaimers: I received this book for review from the publisher Howard Books in exchange for my honest opinion. Thanks! My Overall Thoughts/Impressions: I love this time period, but I haven't actually read a lot from this period outside of required English class. I went into this novel with high expectations. I was a little worried about how Byrd would tie in the paranormal-ish element of visions into her story. I had no reason to be concerned. Byrd's writing was masterful, her characters masterfully crafted, and her novel absolutely brilliant. I adored this novel. Thirty pages in and I was hooked. Byrd's novel had a depth to it that I appreciated. So often I read novels and I leave thoroughly entertained, but they don't have the depth to make me want to come back to them time and time again. Byrd's novel left me entertained and thoroughly enraptured. I absolutely adored this novel. Juliana was a character that I found myself rooting for from the very beginning. She was down-to-earth and yet so spunky. I loved her. And then there was Jaime. Oh how I adored him from the second I was introduced to him. He definitely made my "top male characters" list. This was the first novel I read by Byrd; it won't be the last. I desperately want to go back and read the first in the series. I can't wait to see what Byrd comes up with next. Definitely recommend this series, especially to all you history buffs out there. In Summary: A beautifully written novel with masterfully crafted characters that I absolutely adored. This novel is a must-read. Go get it now! Warnings/Side-notes: A rape scene (not too graphic but it's there). References to sex. But really this novel was very clean. The Wrap-up: Very rarely do I get to read a novel about the time period of Henry VIII, because usually they are quite filthy. This one was very clean and had a Christian element to it. Naturally I was ecstatic to read it. The Christian elements were never overbearing or seemed forced, which is another huge plus. Trust me read this one! Love, Danica Page
    girlsmama More than 1 year ago
    As those in London are celebrating the 60 year reign of their beloved Queen Elizabeth with the Diamond Jubilee, we in America have cause to celebrate as well. For us, it’s the release of another “Tudor Treasure” The Secret Keeper which comes to us compliments of the multi- talented Sandra Byrd. For those that enjoyed her first offering of To Die For featuring Ann Boleyn, I am sure that you will equally enjoy this new book highlighting dear Henry’s last wife Kateryn Parr as told through the eyes of her friend and lady in waiting Juliana St. John. As with any Queen of Henry the VIII, there were those amongst her court that were for her and those that were definitely against her- “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is very apropos here. Those in power are seeking out more power and the sharks are circling particularly as the King’s health is waning. There is much jockeying for position in the court and in influencing of the Henry’s children. Kateryn Parr tries to influence her step-children as best she can particularly in reformist type ways, which brings out enemies against her. With her friendship with Juliana St. John, she gains a powerful ally as Juliana has the gift of prophecy through dreams which proves to be very beneficial to Kateryn. The Tudor history and reformist storyline is well written and woven into a convincing chain of events, but also as compelling is Juliana’s storyline which showed the demands of the court as well as secrets, intrigue, and heartbreak. Juliana endures some difficult situations at court which I don’t want to give away here, but at one point my heart broke along with Juliana’s and I was cheering for her to not give up and press on. Juliana’s loyal friendship to Kateryn plays out to the very last page and when you finish this story you can’ help but think of her love, her sacrifice and loyalty to her friend and Queen and admire her for it. This is Historical fiction at its finest as I love how you are transported back to Tudor England, picturing the knights and ladies in waiting, the gowns, etc, but the dilemmas of the character’s are not that different than what we face today- heartache, betrayal, greed, as well as joys and triumphs. It was a wonderful book, which I am sure many will enjoy. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own. 5 stars.
    Mirella More than 1 year ago
    Sandra Byrd has written another excellent novel. This time, the story is about Kateryn Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife – one of his wives who survived marriage to the notorious, murderous monarch who got rid of wives by way of the executioner’s axe. I thoroughly enjoyed Sandra Byrd’s interpretation of Kate Parr’s life. She is portrayed as a kind-hearted, generous, and loving wife and mother figure with a strong faith, great patience, and high tolerance for others’ shortcomings. The story is told through the voice of Juliana St. John. Juliana is no ordinary noblewoman. She has the gift of prophecy through her dreams. When Sir Thomas Seymour spots Juliana, he arranges for her to become lady in waiting to Kateryn Parr, the woman he loves, and soon to be wife of Henry VIII. Kate’s trust in Juliana is profound and their close relationship results in Juliana becoming her ‘secret keeper’. But unbeknownst to Juliana, there are secrets about her own past that beg to be exposed to her. Sandra Byrd’s novels always delight, and I found this one quite refreshing – about a lesser known Tudor wife. Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII. There, Kateryn’s support of Anne Askew, a woman unwilling to bend to new religious laws, puts her and her ladies lives in jeopardy. This tale nicely blends historical fact with fiction. The story is well-paced, well-written, and a gentle read. Sandra Byrd’s extensive research about the Tudors is evident in the rich details and descriptions. The conflicts Julian faces when having to decide between love and duty and sacrifice kept me interested from start to finish. And of course, the biggest secret of all is revealed in a highly satisfying, but rather unusual ending. A thoroughly enjoyable book well worth reading.
    mrsinserra More than 1 year ago
    This is a historical fiction book told from the POV of Juliana St. John, the daughter of a knight. She becomes a member of Kateryn Parr, King Henry the VIII’s last wife’s household. There is a bit of the supernatural mixed in with the history, which adds an interesting element to the story. I enjoyed this book, but not as much as other books I have read. I think that was mostly to do with one of the scenes in the book, it left a sour taste in my mouth and influenced my opinion of the rest of the story. There was a vividly described scene in which Juliana is raped. This event influenced Juliana’s life greatly. She forever felt unworthy of any decent gentleman’s affection since she was ruined and tainted by that event. This was even emphasized by a suitor telling her he wanted nothing to do with her after her so called friend betrayed her and told her suitor of the rape in order to gain his affection for herself. How Juliana ever forgave her, I will never know. Secret Keeper is full of lies, deceit, and intrigue, portraying almost all of the bad things that can happen to one involved in the inner workings of court life. I would never have wanted to be a courtier or even a woman in that time period. I know that it looks fun and that the clothing was beautiful, but women were treated terribly. The double standard of what was acceptable behavior was so much more pronounced then, and women were so cruel, crueler than women are to each other in an average person’s life today. On a happier note, this is actually more of a romance story than one would think given the title and what you may know about the life of Kateryn Parr, at least it is for Juliana. I am not going to give away anymore of the plot, except to say that it is very good and keeps the reader riveted to the story. This book has so many levels, plots and sub-plots that all mix and intertwine to give the reader a fresh perspective on the life of Kateryn Parr and the women who were loyal to her. Even if you are not fans of the supernatural, that element of this story is so small that it is almost insignificant and should not deter you from reading this book. In case you wanted to know, there is sex in this book, besides the rape scene. There are not many sex scenes and there is a significant amount of material between the rape and the next sex scene, but sex in general is brought up fairly often because of the insecurities that this traumatic event created for Juliana. I would recommend this book for adults only because of its overall content including but not limited to sex scenes, the rape scene, and events that follow due to the rape. I do not feel those would be appropriate for kids. If you are very sensitive to rape and all that follows, this book would not be good for you. It may bring up things you don’t want to think about and the scene is described in quite a bit of detail. It is also a main part of the plot and continues to be brought up throughout the entire novel. I received this book as an ARC. I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy. Please read more of my reviews on my blog: sarahereads(dot)wordpress(dot)com
    steelergirl83 More than 1 year ago
    Wow! Does Sandra Byrd know how to write a book or what? I'll be the first to admit that I don't often seek out books set in 16th century England but since having read To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn last year I make a point to read all Ms. Byrd's stories. I don't know a lot about the Tudors or English royalty but reading books like The Secret Keeper makes it feel like I'm living it up at court or that I'm right in the midst of a royal intrigue. Juliana St. John, a companion and maid of honor to Kateryn Parr, quickly becomes attached to the last wife of Henry VIII especially since Kateryn shows more affection for her than Juliana's own mother. Life within the palace's inner circles isn't without its disadvantages, especially to an innocent young woman like Juliana. The secrets that she must hold close abound and if they ever come out everyone could be in danger including the new queen herself. Writing seemingly authentic to the time characters and the ability to make the struggles of a person who lived hundreds of years ago relevant to the modern woman takes true talent and Sandra Byrd definitely has it! Every moment of Juliana's story was gripping, entertaining, and chock full of emotion. Getting to know Juliana as a naive young woman and follow her as she matured while in service to queen, king and country was truly a joy. Don't get me wrong there are definitely moments that will make you want to weep, especially concerning the treatment of women and assaults, but the ending was terrific without being an over the top happily-ever-after. I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Tudor court set fiction regardless of whether or not they like Christian fiction.*I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.*
    Carlybird More than 1 year ago
    I have been a fan of Sandra Byrd since her French Twist series. When I first heard about her Tudor novel, To Die For, I was uncertain that I would like it. I thought it might have been boring and dry, but my goodness, was I wrong. I loved that book, actually that’s an understatement, but close enough. When The Secret Keeper was released, I thought no way could Sandra do it again, this one won’t be as good. About two pages into the book (right about the time I got hooked), I had to ask myself why I keep doubting this absolutely amazing author. Sandra is incredible and she has done it again, perhaps even better? It’s hard to say because it has been a while since I read To Die For, but it doesn’t matter which is better because they are both excellent and impossible to put down. One of the things I tend to struggle with is when authors overdo it on trying to get the language and accents authentic to the time and place of the story. I have always found that it slows the story down and that is a huge negative for me. Somehow Sandra is able to be completely authentic without the book lagging. I never once felt like I wasn’t right there in the court of Henry VIII. Sandra’s talent is truly unmatched in historical fiction. So, the stage was expertly set with authentic historical detail and we have an amazing story as well. So many times I have read historical novels in which the author focuses too much on either the setting or on the story. That can create a disconnect with me because either the story is lacking or it is hard to tell just where and when the story takes place. The balance between historical detail and story is absolutely flawless in The Secret Keeper. I highly recommend The Secret Keeper, and To Die For. I also recommend reading the author’s note at the end. I always enjoy reading those anyway, but it was especially interesting in this book. The Secret Keeper is my favorite book so far this year! I can’t wait to see what’s next and I promise that I will have only high expectations. Sandra has earned it.
    Faye_reviews More than 1 year ago
    A sweeping historical novel of the little known Kateryn Parr. We've all heard about Henry VIII and his six wives, and we know about his first and second wives Katherine (or Catherine) of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, but what do we know of Henry VIII's sixth and final wife, Kateryn Parr? If you read this book you'll find out. The Secret Keeper is another book to add to my exclusive favorites pile, rich with real-life characters and full of intrigue The Secret Keeper is everything and more than I expected. I loved being able to sit back and seep into another time and place, a world of power, secrets, and rarest of all true love. I absolutely loved Ms. Byrd's attention to detail and how she brought a character so often tucked away into the back round to the forefront, through the eyes of Juliana St. John. I knew that there was alot going on in the court of Henry VIII during the time he was married to Anne Boleyn, but I never guessed how dangerous it was even in the time of Kateryn Parr! I was absorbed into the era through the eyes and ears of Juliana, a young woman who had secrets of her own. I came to be so invested in the tale that I read it all in two sittings, only because my mother insisted I go to sleep! I loved getting to know Kateryn better, and learning more about the time between Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth. The Secret Keeper is a lush historical read, that gripped me in a strangle-hold from beginning to end, and that I HIGHLY recommend to anyone looking for a fully engrossing read. Many thanks to Sandra Byrd and Howard Publishers for providing me with this copy of The Secret Keeper in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
    skovach More than 1 year ago
    This book has everything that I love about historical fiction / romance novels! Sandra Byrd is now one of my favorite authors! I absolutely loved her writing style - so very easy to read. She has an obvious expertise in the Tudor time period. The book was so rich in historical facts, but not so much that it took away from the narrative. I have not read the first book in this series, but I know now that I will - as a matter of fact, I just ordered it!!! Juliana St. John is a fascinating heroine. I loved that the author did not paint her to be perfect - rather showing her flaws / weaknesses. Juliana had the gift of prophesy, which was very dangerous in this time period. She had her share of both friends - some of which were quite controversial - and enemies - adding to the danger. Juliana became part of Kateryn Parr's household, prior to her becoming queen. During this time, Juliana became close friends and confidant to Kateryn. This allowed Juliana to take part in most everything - even the most intimate events. Such detail was provided throughout for the characters and events that I often felt as if I were actually there - taking part! The imagery was amazing! I fell in love with both Juliana and Kateryn. Both women were very generous in character, in ways beyond wealth. It was a shame that not everyone loved them - although many did. Their relationship was very complex, and so different than the bitter, jealous women of that time. The love interests of both women were very intriguing. The motives behind the interests in these men, quite captivating. There is definitely no comparison to today's world - quite a difference. There is an obvious difference in the roles of women at the time, no matter what your status. I must say that I have learned quite a bit about Henry VIII. I had learned a lot in school about him, but this put a new perspective on the time and person - and the novel was quite accurate to any of the historical accounts that had ever read or been exposed to. Kateryn's love, Sir Thomas Seymour, sure had some ups and downs. I both loved and hated him. The plot twists involving him and Juliana were quite surprising!!! I was immediately attracted to Juliana's love interest, Jamie. Although at first, I was not sure they would have a chance, he was very persistent. The romantic story-line the author created was very enjoyable. This is a very cleanly and accuratley written historical fiction, that I would would recommend to anyone who loves this genre, and especially those that like this time period. **I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own."