by Kathleen Costa
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a signed hardcover copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Entertainment in the sixteenth century, by our modern standards, was primitive: no moving pictures streaming, recorded music to take on the road, or thousands of books in your tiny hand-held device. No, none of that, it was a “fool” in colorful garb telling quips and storytelling, doing athletic stunts and magic tricks, or performing musical interludes and dramatic interpretations. In the court of King Henry VIII, entertainment was also laced with politics, gossip, romance, and ultimately matters of life and death. As the jester, the king’s fool, he observes, eavesdrops, and wanders about relatively unnoticed, but he knows there’s only one that matters: the king. Please him and you survive to “laugh” another day. Will Somers is such a “Fool,” but looks can be deceiving. The jingling of the bells on his sleeves may cleverly mask his true intent, but even he can find himself on the wrong end of the story.
“…the court was full of dragons lounging lazily on their hoard until they felt threatened and poised themselves to strike at just the right time. Which dragons do I slay to protect Henry? And which to protect myself?” — Will Somers, Courting Dragons
It’s October, 1529, and the king has turned his favor away from his Spanish queen. This aggravates the delicate balance in world politics and puts too many hiding in the shadows. Will Somers seems of trivial consequence in court, but not to Don Gonzalo de Yscar, the close aide to the Holy Roman ambassador. Will does have the favor of the king, even his ear, and is often nearby overhearing the gossip of the scandal surrounding the king’s Great Matter, but Gonzalo has a more intimate proposition. Will is not against a dalliance with male or female, but keeping secret his equal opportunity affairs is imperative to he who is enjoying his life at court. Will sought out Gonzalo the next day, but he was conspicuously absent. That evening, though, when out seeing to the needs of Nosewise, the pup’s “nosy” behavior leads to the gruesome discovery of Gonzalo’s dead body. Will sends out the “hue and cry” to alert the authorities, but it’s the curious note Will receives the following day that is more personally alarming: “… know what you and the Spaniard got up to,” “much we need to know of the king,” and “Be there, or it won’t lie well for you.”
Will’s personal connection to the victim spurs his desire to find the killer, but now, as someone’s target, he is eager to determine if the killer and blackmailer are one and the same. He is definitely talented at getting people to talk, and Marion Greene, illegitimate daughter of Lord Heyward, the one woman Will loves and she him, agrees to join him on his mission along with Gonzalo’s groom Rodrigo Muñoz. With his unofficial team, he has much of the palace covered, in multiple languages, and even his staunchest detractors may hold some value. Yet everyone, even those who hold the king’s interests, have their own desires, their own motives, their own schemes. But, will Will find what he’s looking for without exposing himself? Are those near him targets as well? Is the king’s own determination to divorce then wed a motive for murder?
Brilliant! Jeri Westerson has outdone herself with this brilliant first in a series book with a clever perspective … the king’s fool. I am very partial to her medieval settings and clever murder mysteries, and placing her drama in the court of King Henry VIII was intriguing and compelling. And with book one starting with the Boleyn matter, I see a long run for this series, at least five more books with the five other wives. Even though the names are familiar and their ultimate successes and failures as well as “long live the…” and dead and buried are documented, there is not much prerequisite knowledge needed to enjoy Westerson’s tale. The book reads easy as an old-fashioned murder mystery relying on intrigue, hidden agendas, plots, secrets, and even some sexual liaisons that are tastefully portrayed. As Will seeks answers, he runs into some perilous situations which only keeps me turning the pages to discover who will be targeted next.
Westerson’s writing style is descriptive and uses the cadence and vernacular that best fits the medieval era. The hierarchy is well portrayed from the king to clerics, from courtiers to servants, from woman to men no matter their place in society. The dynamic between King Henry and his “fool” was enjoyable, and may actually have some accuracy since Will Somers was actually Henry’s jester. I thought I had the solution at a few points in the story, but I had been cleverly manipulated by Westerson as Will had been by the real killer. The final answers were realistic, nothing out of left field, with just the right amount of justice. No cliffhangers to fuss over, although the historical events are still being sorted, but still I can’t wait for the next adventure.
Next book: The Lioness Stumbles finds “Will with another murder a little too close to Queen Anne Boleyn. She fears the killer is trying to implicate her and begs Will to solve the crime.”
Be a Big Jeri Westerson Fan! ?Award winning author of “medieval mysteries, historicals, and paranormals,” Jeri Westerson takes readers to different eras, different settings, and different characters, real and unreal. Deep in the fourteenth century, there’s the fifteen-book Crispin Guest Medieval Mystery and Oswald the Thief, the Medieval Caper (99c sale), and steeped in Tudor England, there’s Roses in the Tempest: A Tale of Tudor England (99c sale) and the new A King’s Fool Mystery series. She also writes the urban fantasy series Booke of the Hidden, and the Enchanter Chronicles, a gaslamp fantasy-steampunk series. She also writes the Moonriser: A Werewolf mystery series, and under the name Haley Walsh, the humorous Skyler Foxe LQBT mysteries.
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