Audiobook Review: QUEEN’S GAMBIT by Elizabeth Fremantle

Format: Audio; 14 hrs, 24 mins
Narrator: Georgina Sutton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Released: August 6, 2013
Source: Review copy from the Publisher

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.


QUEEN’S GAMBIT is an engrossing novel about Katherine Parr’s life as the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII. I enjoyed Elizabeth Fremantle’s portrayal of Katherine as a survivor, an intelligent Renaissance woman, and a woman who longed to find true love at last. Katherine was the only wife of Henry VIII’s  to make it out of marriage to him without being divorced, beheaded, or dying, which took true smarts and cleverness on her part. As a steadfast reformist and supporter of the “new religion,” she was disliked by many of Henry’s subjects, a few of whom stopped at nothing to see her arrested for treason and heresy. Katherine had a few scary close calls as Henry’s queen, ones she was sure would send her to the Tower.

Another character I loved just as much as Katherine was her servant, Dot. Though she was low-born, Katherine loved her like a daughter, and brought her to court when she became queen. I enjoyed seeing day to day life at court from Dot’s perspective, and also hearing her opinions about certain other characters, like young Lady Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour, Katherine’s true love. Dot was a strong, well-drawn character with her own intriguing story.

I listened to the audio format of this book, narrated by Georgina Sutton. Her performance was amazing! If you enjoy audiobooks and historical fiction, you must listen to QUEEN’S GAMBIT. Ms. Sutton’s charismatic voice brought the intrigue of the Tudor court to life.

Strong female protagonists, beautiful prose, and a perfect blending of historical fact and fiction made QUEEN’S GAMBIT one of my favorite listens this year. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.