I adored Falling for Henry. I hadn’t read any historical fiction for a very long time and I found this book a refreshing change from the dystopian and fantasy books I love so much. In Falling for Henry by Beverley Brenna (Red Deer Press), a teenage girl named Kate from modern-day London finds herself transported back to Tudor England to the court of King Henry VII. There she is mistaken for Katherine of Aragon, who is soon to be betrothed to a young Henry VIII. It is more than a glimpse at history; it is a story about identity, fitting in and dealing with loss.
King Henry VIII is one of those despicable, murderous, egotistical rulers we hear about in history classes and in the media and he’s probably the king I know the most about. But it is said that in his youth he was quite the charming, charismatic young man. So what happened? In Falling for Henry, Brenna focuses in on the period of Henry’s life when he is being groomed to be King, before his many marriages (and certainly pre-syphilis). Kate, who takes the place of Katherine of Aragon, meets this Henry and struggles with falling for the young prince’s charms. I enjoyed the way Brenna juxtaposes this Henry with the one we all know and shows how societal pressures of the time shape him into becoming the infamous King.
You don’t have to be a history buff to read this story. It is very clear that a lot of research went into the making of this book without it being bogged down by explanations and historical facts. Brenna really found a good balance between the “show vs. tell” dilemma. Kate has to try to mimic the behavior of the courtiers in order to fit in and in doing so the reader learns a lot about castle life such as eating habits and bathing practices (I always thought I would love to go back to this time period but, while I love the clothing, I really don’t think I could handle the stench!) Reading Falling for Henry was both enjoyable and educational. I learned a lot about life in Tudor England and it encouraged me to find out more on my own, such as why someone would be cleaning a tapestry with bread (I’ll let you find out the answer to that on your own). I think that is always a good sign when reading historical fiction: it makes you want to learn more. I also suggest that you read the author’s note at the end where she shares what parts of the story are based on historical facts and in which parts she used creative license.
Falling for Henry is charming and rich with historical detail. If you are at all interested in the history of Tudor England or for those looking for a good introduction to the historical drama genre, I suggest you give this a read. Just see if you can’t resist Falling for Henry.