Simon & Schuster:
"What she sees in secret, she may not tell.
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.
Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, returns to Wiltshire to conclude his affairs with Juliana’s father’s estate and chances upon her reading as lector in the local church. He sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves and wants most to please, Kateryn Parr. Juliana’s mother agrees to have her placed with Parr for a season and Juliana goes, though reluctantly.
For she keeps a secret.
As Juliana accompanies Kateryn Parr to court, Henry’s devout sixth queen raises the stakes for all reformers. Support of firebrand Anne Askew puts the queen and her ladies in life-threatening jeopardy, as does the queen’s desire to influence her husband’s—and the realm’s—direction and beliefs. Later, without Henry’s strong arm, the court devolves to competition, duplicity, and betrayal. The risks could not be higher as Juliana must choose between love and honor, personal fulfillment and sacrifice. Ultimately, her course is driven by a final kept secret, one that undoes everything she thought she knew."
The Secret Keeper is the story of Juliana St. John - a woman who holds her own and keeps the faith during the days of Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI. Through this fictional perspective the reader is treated to a grand tour through history that is rich in texture and personal in nature. From the relative safety of a wealthy home to the colorful but dangerous world of the court, Juliana's story is an interesting one.
Sandra Byrd is a talented author. The Secret Keeper is well-written, although it involves a lot of shuffling. With lots of travel and lots of time passing, the characters keep moving from one scene to the next, or from one year to the next, without a completely satisfying fluidity. There's a lot of ground covered - from the history being conveyed to the emotional journeys of the characters.
I would have liked to see some more scenes involving both the hero and the heroine - some more romance - but that's a personal preference. This is a book where history takes precedence and romance, while a part of things, is in more of a secondary position. The ending takes an intriguing turn and is a gratifying, albeit slightly sudden, conclusion. If you're looking for historical fiction that borders on historical romance, and if you enjoy a story that brings the past to life without shying away from the more unseemly and painful aspects, then The Secret Keeper has a lot to offer!
*With thanks to author Sandra Byrd and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*