The Twilight Queen

A King's Fool Mystery

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Pub Date 02 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023

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Description

Court jester Will Somers is drawn into another gripping and entertaining mystery when malevolent forces strike again at the court of Henry VIII – and Anne Boleyn is the target.

1536, London. Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, is in peril. In the mid of night, court jester Will Somers is summoned to an urgent assignation when she discovers a body in her chamber. The queen wants Will to find out who the man is and how he ended up there. Is someone trying to frame her for his murder?

Queen Anne has many enemies at court, and to make matters worse, Henry VIII is lining up his next conquest and suspects his queen of treason. Has the formidable Thomas Cromwell been whispering vile lies in the king’s ears, and could the queen be the target of a Catholic conspiracy? As further attacks plague the court, Will is determined to uncover the truth behind the plotting and devilry, but he will need to keep hold of all his wits to do so!

Court jester Will Somers is drawn into another gripping and entertaining mystery when malevolent forces strike again at the court of Henry VIII – and Anne Boleyn is the target.

1536, London. Anne...


Advance Praise

“Jeri Westerson is at the top of her game”
Louis Bayard, New York Times bestselling author of The Pale Blue Eye, on Courting Dragons

“For readers who enjoy accurate, in-depth historical details in a mystery”
Library Journal on Courting Dragons

“Jeri Westerson is at the top of her game”
Louis Bayard, New York Times bestselling author of The Pale Blue Eye, on Courting Dragons

“For readers who enjoy accurate, in-depth historical details in a...


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ISBN 9781448310906
PRICE $29.99 (USD)
PAGES 224

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Featured Reviews

King Henry VII still looms large in the second installment of the King's Fool Mystery series - in fact, he looms larger and scarier in this book than he did before. I think Westerson really hits home at what a tyrant this man was. She did a great job of humanizing him in book one then showing you his flip side in this book. The Tudors, while interesting to read about, really do scare me because imagine having to censor and watch everything you do because you might piss off the wrong person? Scary.

Will Somers is back and I love him dearly. My bisexual king (... fool?) who is just the definition of a disaster. Good comedians are a smart bunch, you can't convince me otherwise. It takes a wise person to know exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it without pissing people off and it's evident that Will is the man for the job. And even the best man to solve a murder.

This was a great cozy mystery to read during the cooler months and I really did enjoy it greatly. Even if it felt like it dragged a bit in the middle.

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How I love reading about The Tudors!
I especially enjoyed this one as it's told from Will Sommers' POV. A jester in the court of Henry the 8th.
Here in this amazing tale we get a first look of how court life might have been like for Fools like Will.
I think that my heart went out to Marion his sweet wife who definitely endured a lot and to watch Will around others. Especially men. I don't think I'd be as forgiving.
I'd also be scared to death in having to watch my every move because someone is always watching and the rules are always changing. Henry is a tyrant like Hitler almost.
Favors can change in the. blink of an eye in the court of Henry the 8th.
I did love Will's advice on how to treat a wife though but I don't think he digested it very well. It made me sigh and I wished all men treated their women the way Will described.
Henry is one who really couldn't see past his nose so to speak. He wants a son so bad that'd he'd kill to get him. So sad.
I loved the mystery part of this story. It was what kept me turning the pages to see who it was. I had figured it out a while back but I love to read on to see if I'm right. I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, I was right all along but still. It was fun to play the investigator.
I will say that jealousy is and probably still a strong emotion in the courts of whomever is reigning at the time.
This was a very good book and one of my favorite Tudor books. A lot of interesting things going on in this story to keep your attention until the end. It did me. I finished it in an evening. In fact, I just finished it.
Wow! Theme of story is you have to love someone for them to do likewise. Otherwise your marriage will get old.
Henry wasn't capable of that. And really neither was Anne. I've often felt that throughout this story they weren't for each other and they were kind of forced. I've felt more times than one that Anne was used as a pawn for her father's selfishness. Poor Anne!
I'm giving this story 5 stars for a well written novel. Lots of great scenes.
Some will make you hold your breath whole others will make you shake your head at them. Still others will make you keep looking over your shoulder to see if anyone is eves dropping or wanting to plot against you.
Very well written and enjoyable.
A long quote that I wanted to share with you because it's so true and yet so disenheartening at the same time.
Aye me. I expected no less. The wheel turns, and men with evil in their hearts do not get the judgement on Earth that they deserve. And the honest man toils and gets no reward.And the rich man is rich and dies on silken sheets. And we pray and we bless ourselves with the sign of the cross, and hear sermons by learned clerics, and live and die. And sometimes there is justice in the world. And sometimes there is not.
There are some interesting authors notes at the end that I enjoyed too.
My thanks for a copy of this book. I was NOT required to write a positive. All opinions expressed are my own.

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This is the first of Jeri Westerson’s books I have read so not necessary to read the series to enjoy the book, it’s a great stand alone story. However it does make me want to read the other books!

I found this to be both amusing and interesting as it is partly based on fact. You get a good feel for life at court at the time and although vaguely aware of the kings fool it wasn’t something I’d given any thought to…off to learn more now!

I’m not a prude however I was a bit surprised at the ‘love’ scenes however they were quite funny and added to the story once you got about 3/4 of the way through the book.

The villains and murderers were well depicted, not altogether a surprise but made good sense and a good ending.

A solid 4 out of 5 stars and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you to the author publishers and Netgalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review

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I liked this. It was historical fiction, and it reminded me of Philippa Gregory's books, which I have taken some interest in reading when the mood takes me. I have book cravings, and I chose to read this on a day when I was craving historical fiction. It filled that craving. I was invested in the story and interested in the protagonist. There was a hint of spiciness in places, but not too much.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy to review.

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This is the second book in Jeri Westerson’s wonderfully entertaining series featuring Will Somers, the court jester for Henry VIII. At the center of the story is the murder of a musician whose body was discovered in Queen Anne’s chambers. Anne calls on Will to secretly remove the body and discover who was responsible for the murder and attempt to imply Anne’s unfaithfulness. Will knows that there are those at court who would love to see her downfall and Henry has already started courting Jane Seymour.

Will is devoted to Henry, even calling him Uncle. He is also devoted to Queen Anne and her daughter Bess. He walks a fine line as he mocks members of Henry’s court, paying special attention to Cromwell who he believes to be behind the effort to oust Anne. He is loved and supported by his wife Marion, the illegitimate daughter of a lord. When they married, she accepted Will’s attraction to other men.. When courtier Nicholas Pachett entered his life she became uncomfortable with the relationship. As Will puts himself in danger trying to find the murderer it gave Marion an opportunity to see how far Nicholas will go to help and protect him. While Will wants Nicholas in his life, Marion is his true love and he will always put her first, leading to her acceptance of Nicholas as a part of their family. Westerson’s story is an entertaining look at life at court and the ever changing moods and desires of Henry VIII. She brings her characters to life on the pages. You know that even though Will does his best to protect Queen Anne, it is only a matter of time until she will lose her head. I would like to thank NetGalley and Severn House for providing this book for my review.

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There are characters, whether real or imagined, who seem to get reinvented or reinterpreted for each generation. Henry VIII, that towering, looming figure of British history, with his outsized body and equally outsized personality – along with his fascinating and scandalous pursuit of a son and heir for his crown – seems to be one of those characters.

That his story – or rather the reinterpretation of his story through the characters of his six wives – has been reimagined yet again in the Tony Award winning Broadway play, Six: The Musical, is just the latest in a long line of portrayals, beginning with the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, written under the rule of King James I of England and VI of Scotland – a reign that could be said to be the direct result of Henry’s failure to secure a healthy male heir.

Which makes this portrayal of Henry, his court and his wives and paramours, as seen through the eyes of his Court Fool, Will Somers, just that much more fascinating and relevant, as it appears that this series is also going to trip its way through Henry’s nearly 40-year reign through the machinations of his court and his courtiers through each of his successive – but not all that successful – marriages.

The first book in this series, Courting Dragons, took place as Catherine of Aragon’s star at court was rapidly waning, and Anne Boleyn’s was on the ascendant.

In the midst of the King’s ‘Great Matter’, the impending divorce that severed not only Henry’s first marriage but also his country’s religion, a murder took place among the foreign diplomatic corps that threatened to destabilize the already fraught negotiations over, well, pretty much everything at that point.

A murder that was ultimately solved by a not-so-foolish investigation by the King’s Fool, Will Somers.

Just as that first murder of a Spanish diplomat had political implications for Catherine of Aragon, the murder that opens The Twilight Queen has potentially deadly implications for Anne Boleyn, whose brief, tumultuous reign is now in its twilight.

A dead musician has been discovered in the Queen’s private chambers. It’s obvious to Anne that the intent is to stir up rumors that she is unfaithful to her royal husband. A treasonous pot that someone influential at court is already stirring.

Because no good deed goes unpunished, when the Queen has need of a discreet investigator, she calls upon the King’s Fool to poke his nose into all the places he can to figure out who left this dead and potentially deadly ‘package’ in her private chambers – in the hopes that the truth will stave off her inevitable downfall.

Escape Rating B: Genre blends such as historical mystery are always a balancing act – much like Will Somers position is a balancing act between making his sovereign laugh, forcing his master to stop and think – and keeping both his job and his head.

For a historical mystery to be successful, it has to balance upon the knife edge of being true to its historical setting AND following the somewhat strict conventions of the mystery genre. It must allow the reader to maintain that crucial willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to history while still delivering that ‘romance of justice’ that is crucial to a mystery’s satisfactory ending.

As much as I love this particular period of history, this series so far reads like it tilts more than a bit towards the description and details of the historical setting. Not that the mystery doesn’t get solved, but rather that the mystery feels more like an excuse to dive into the history instead of the historical period being a setting for a mystery.

Reflecting on this second book in the series, I believe that impression is a result of Will Somers’ life and work being so far removed from ordinary life either in his time or our own. Even Crispin Guest, the protagonist of the author’s Medieval Noir series, feels like more of a standard archetype, as he’s operating as a kind of private investigator in a big city. Even though the details of his circumstances are even a century or two before Somers, what Guest does and the way he does it – and how he feels about it – reads as something surprisingly familiar.

Will Somers’ dependence on and love of his ‘master’ the King, on the other hand, jars a bit in the 21st century mind whether it rings true or not. A kind interpretation of their relationship would liken it to the relationship between Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings – except that Frodo couldn’t order Sam’s head to be struck off. Will Somers’ relationship with his king reads a bit too close to the so-called ‘love’ of slaves for their masters in the antebellum South. It’s not comfortable, no matter how fascinating a character Somers has turned out to be.

Which he most definitely is.

In the end, I found the history behind this story more interesting than the mystery within its pages. Your reading mileage, of course, may vary. I am, however, still terribly curious about the next book in this series, which is planned to take place during Henry’s brief but fruitful marriage to Jane Seymour, tentatively titled, Rebellious Grace.

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The mystery at the heart of "The Twilight Queen" is pretty lame. Fortunately for me, though, I don't read mysteries for the plot so much as for the characters and the milieu, and on those fronts, this book delivers. The narrator is Will Somers, Henry VIII's real-life fool (who also served in the courts of Henry's three legitimate offspring). Not much is known about the real Will, but this fictional Will is a randy bisexual whose love for his wife doesn't prevent him from bedding male courtiers. His wife isn't crazy about his insatiability, but she does like to hear about his escapades. The relationships between these two, and between Will and Henry, and between Will and a new-to-the-palace courtier, kept my attention and are why I'll likely read the next book in the series. The power games and minutiae of life at court were depicted in what seemed to be a well-researched manner, which also appealed. And though this is the second book in a series, you needn't have read the first (I hadn't) to enjoy it.

Thank you, Severn House and NetGalley, for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I thank NetGalley and Severn House for an advance reader copy of “The Twilight Queen.” All opinions and comments are my own.

Henry VIII’s Jester -- Will Somers -- is still trying to entertain his monarch, and keep him happy (this is book two in the series). And still trying to juggle his own, shall we say, colorful love life, which occupies a large portion of the narrative of “The Twilight Queen.”

To occupy the rest of his time, he has a mystery on his hands; someone has left a dead man in Queen Anne Boleyn’s quarters, and the queen has implored Will to sort it all out and save her reputation, which has already started its downward trajectory. That Will does this is pretty much a given, but how he does it and the trouble he encounters along the way showcases author Jeri Westerson’s ability to spin a clever story of the machinations involved in “a conspiracy to put the queen in disfavor,” as the book has it.

“The Twilight Queen” conjures up the terror and anxiety beneath the surface exceedingly well, as forces attempt to bring down the king’s wife for another -- yet again. Included are real historical figures; “Nan Bullen,” the King, our Will, the master manipulator Cromwell, alongside others, making up a complete and complex plot. An Author’s Note explains the truth and the real history behind the story. Jeri Westerson takes the tenor of the times and turns it into a real mystery, fraught with secrets and filled with gifted characterization and plotting once again.

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Will Somers is the fool or court jester to King Henry 8th, and has an unusual position of trust and freedom of speech to his master.
The year is 1536, Anne Boleyn is Queen and mother to the Princess Elizabeth who is 3 years old, but there is no male heir, and the King’s attention is wandering to Jane Seymour. Anne is fearful of experiencing the same ignominy of being abandoned for a younger rival, and there are many plots swirling about her person.
This story deals with the many dangers that surrounded Anne in the last few months of her life. When a dead body is found in her apartment, Anne asks Will Somers to move the body to stop her come under suspicion, which he does, but then the mystery of who was the deceased, and why the guards didn’t notice such an event, all build into a satisfying mystery.
The story is told from the point of view of a servant, one who evidently had a good relationship with his King, so much that he is in a royal portrait. We are told that Will was married and also had relationships with men at court, this was news to me, but added a certain interest to the sexual morals of this Tudor court.
I loved the language of the time and the uniqueness of being a story about the hidden part of life at court, namely the servant and his world, full of secrets and back stabbing in order to get and keep in favour, it was such a dangerous place to live and have an opinion.
It was so different from other stories about this era, and the glossary was comprehensive and very instructive. Highly recommend this to other fans of the Tudor, eagerly awaiting the next in this series.

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The Twilight Queen

Initially, the first few pages feel a little clumsy and a bit confusing. The author also introduces the tone and language to be archaic and period-specific. Whilst this does take some adjusting to, I quickly got into its flow and it lent the novel a layer of authenticity and immersion into the court of Henry VIII.

Despite its slightly clunky start, the novel picks up pace very quickly and soon becomes a very moreish read. The character of Will Somers is great. I know a little about him from passing appearances in other books and films set in the Tudor period, but have never got to know him. He’s a very chaotic character, who juxtaposes a career of foolery and being an idiot, with the more serious things in life such as relationships and becoming a detective who faces threats from all sides. He’s very likable, facetious and easy to go along on the journey with.

He’s accompanied by a strong supporting cast, from his wife, Marion and his new friend, Nick. Not to mention King Henry himself - with whom he shares a tense but rewarding friendship - and Queen Ann Boleyn - whose honor he fights for.

The plot is well-written, and is believable. There’s romance, violence, politics and twists which make for a gripping murder mystery. No spoilers, but I didn’t guess the culprits until they were revealed, which demonstrates a skillfully written mystery story.

It’s a very readable novel which can easily be devoured in a day (as demonstrated by me), and although it does deal with not-so-pleasant themes and uses language which isn’t as familiar to modern readers, it doesn’t feel slow or heavy.

Overall, I enjoyed this and was intrigued until the end.

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Henry VIII is losing interest in Nan Bullen. She has given him a daughter but Henry is desperate for a son and his eyes are turning towards another woman. Will Somers, the king's fool, is loyal to both King and Queen. However he is summoned to the Queen's apartment one night and asked to dispose of a dead body, planted to cause problems for the Queen. She asks him to investigate and Will finds himself embroiled in a plot to discredit the Queen, one that could also reveal his deepest secrets and brings him into conflict with the King's Chancellor

This is a short and entertaining caper set around the Tudor court. The characters are all known but this is a fictional plot around them. The research is excellent, great use of contemporary vocabulary. It's not very believable but is fun along the way!

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Twilight Queen’s fate moves inexorably towards night!

Will Somers—Fool to Henry VIII. Only Jeri Westerson could craft such a delicious novel of intrigue and hi-jinx set in Henry’s Tudor Court.
There’s people of power who stalk the corridors whom Will in his role is Fool, tweaked their importance and vanity. Dangerous foes like Cromwell.
But Will loves the Princess Elizabeth, his little Bess, has sympathy for Mary no longer counted as legitimate, and has care for Queen Anne, whom he refers to as Nan. Will sees which way the wind is blowing. Who does Nan call when she finds a murdered man in her apartment? Why Will it seems! Can Will deflect the eye’s of the King away from what would be misconstrued as Nan having committed treason. A murdered man in the Queen’s rooms speaks volumes! The court and Henry will assume the worst. We know Henry already has his eye on Lady Jane Seymour.
Henry’s relationship with his Fool is interesting. Will must tread warily.
Then there’s Will’s true love, Marion Greene, illegitimate child of the king’s Yeoman of the Records, Lord Robert Heywood. Marion is now Will’s wife, a talented seamstress and embroiderer, who plies her craft in the courtly ladies enclosures.
Will also finds a new lover, Lord Nicholas Patchett. Can Will trust him though? Will is bisexual and Marion accepts this but we do see the pain it causes her. Nicholas and Marion find themselves joining forces to help Will.
Who is behind this attempted poisoning of the King’s regard for his wife? Who has the most to gain?
A thrilling denouement awaits.

A Severn House ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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Jeri Westerson's King's Fool mysteries are new to me. This is the second in the series, the first that I've read. I read a *lot* of historical mysteries and have a particular fondness for those set in Tudor England. I've read enough of them by now that what I find most interesting is the ways in which these mysteries play with the genre.

In the case of the King's Fool series, the most original aspect of this mystery is its central character, Will Somers, Henry VIII's fool. First, he's in a unique position both part of the court but outside of it as well. He's able to speak to Henry with a directness that would be unthinkable for any of his courtiers. And, Westerson's Will is bisexual: happily married to a loving, self-possessed and self-assured by-blow daughter of one of those courtiers, but also with an eye for the handsome young men the court is populated with. His wife isn't always pleased with this aspect of Will's identity, but she accepts it as genuine.

Another original aspect of the series is that not only is Thomas Cromwell one of the "baddies" in this series, but his protégé Rafe Sadler is as well. I've read the Wolf Hall series multiple timesad am inclined to think of Cromwell as one of the "good guys," though I know many of his contemporaries in those novels see him quite differently. But Rafe Sadler. All I know of Sadler is Mantel's version of him, the polite, thoughtful young man who doesn't seem bound up in the prejudices of his time. So seeing an anti-Sadler, as it were, is surprising and interesting.

This volume in the series takes place at the beginning of the downfall of Anne Boleyn. She's still queen, but Henry is tiring of her and Cromwell no longer finds her useful. Will, however, is deeply fond of Anne and frustrated by the ways becoming queen has made her a less engaging partner for Henry.

So, we've got interesting characters with unexpected traits. We also have court politicking. If you enjoy historical mysteries, particularly those set in the Tudor era, you're in for a treat.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

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Wow - this was a speculative read, it sounded interesting, though Tudors are not my favourite read, and I was blown away but the artistry in the writing. Was it the descriptions themselves that were so good, or did they merely slot into scenes from Wolf Hall and The Other Bolyen Girl? It doesn't really matter how, I was transported to the court of Henry VIII wholesale. The language used was, at first, archaic and odd but soon felt familiar; some words were known to me and others explained in the useful glossary, something I usually dislike.

The homosexual plot isn't my favourite, seems to be a quick, easy way to make a book 'inclusive' without trying, but it did work and the little menage a trois is created was a step more interesting than it could have been.

I wasn't fully aware, though suspected and had it confirmed as I read, this is a sequel, indeed the second of what is likely to be a series, but it works perfectly well as a stand alone book. There is enough back story and explained carefully enough that, even if there were no other book, it works. It becomes the characters having had a previous existence that is alluded to but has little real impact on the current concerns.

A quick and rather fabulous read.

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The latest King’s Fool mystery places Will Somers at the heart of a murder and plots against Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, in 1536, a dangerous year for all parties involved. With the strange murder of a musician, Queen Anne charges Will with solving the case and clearing her from the list of suspects, but this places Will in a dangerous position between Henry and Anne. Other figures from Will’s life reappear during this tumultuous time, and his personal relationships grow more and more complicated as his investigation progresses and the King’s Great Matter continues on. Readers familiar with the Tudor period should enjoy the historical figures populating this book and the spotlight Westerson places on Will Somers, who is both everywhere and no one during Henry VIII’s reign. Westerson’s characters are the stars of the novel, and she does an excellent job working between the cracks of the historical narrative with her unique mystery and the established cast of characters. Placing a murder mystery at court is a fascinatingly complex and lively atmosphere, creating further challenges for Will and his investigation. Readers are sure to enjoy the latest King’s Fool mystery and the twists and turns facing Will Somers as 1536 and Henry VIII’s reign progresses.

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Love all her books - well written and full of court drama

I love this era and read a lot of books about the Tudors

Liked that it was from Will Somers perspective -
Good historical fiction - real people with a helping of fiction

Will must solve another murder - plays well on the Anne Boleyn theme

Period well researched and highlights the drama - back stabbing - alliances of the Tudor Court

Would definitely recommend

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Queen Anne Boleyn is being framed for a murder! A man's body is in her apartment and she is triffied that she will be accused of not only having a man in her apartment, the king is already turning his eyes to the other women in the court, but also will she be accused of killing him. She calls on the king's fool Will Somers to take the body away and find out what is happening. Is it a plot of get rid of her or? A fun read and the very well put together. I recommend with delight.

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Jeri Westerson wrote fifteen mysteries about Crispin Guest, the social pariah and former English knight who in 1383 strikes out on a new career as a private investigator. Now she has given her attention to the court of Henry VIII, which one might think has been thoroughly explored. However, Westerson has turned the slight historical references to Will Somers, the court jester, into a real person and the center of a new mystery series.
In the second book The Twilight Queen, to be released in January by Severn House, some time has lapsed since Will’s debut. The court is in a quiet uproar, as Henry is losing interest in Anne Boleyn, the woman he defied the Catholic Church to marry. Anne has failed to produce a son, and Henry is starting to look around the court for her replacement, a scant three years after their marriage. Some are pleased, as Anne made enemies on her way up and they are eager to engineer her downfall. Others, like Will Somers, are appalled at Henry’s treatment of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and now fear a similar fate, or worse, is waiting for Anne.
Within this hot bed of political treachery, Anne issues an urgent summons to Will. He finds her in her chambers, where she shows him a dead man near her bed. She doesn’t know him and believes the body has been placed in her room to discredit her with the king. She begs Will to take him away and find out who is trying to damage her reputation. Thus Will embarks on his second investigation.
Will is a fascinating character with an innate sense of fairness and decency. He tries to persuade Henry not to abandon Anne so readily, drawing the wrath of some of Anne’s enemies who are working to remove her. Westerson has drawn a vivid and frightening portrait of a court ruled by an unstable egomaniac, where anyone within the king’s sphere could be knighted or beheaded with equal ease and with as little cause.
Will has a far more adventurous love life than a respectably married man should have. The book is as much about his romances as it is about his budding career as a detective. His long-suffering wife holds her own in their marriage, as well as any woman could at that time. How their relationship evolves will be interesting to watch as the series unfolds.
For fans of well-written and well-researched historical mysteries. Recommended.

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I am a hardcore Tudor fan, mostly because of the long ago 70’s TV series The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R. I inhaled everything Tudor during high school and went on to major in history in college. So when Jeri Westerson asked me if I’d care to read her book about Will Somers, Henry VIII’s jester, the answer was easy. Set a few months before Anne’s ultimate demise, Will is called to the Queen’s presence one evening as she’s discovered a corpse under her bed. She doesn’t know who the man is but she does know that a dead body in her chamber will be bad and she asks Will to move the corpse. Reluctantly, he agrees, and moves the man to the garden.

I’ve of course read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy which follows Thomas Cromwell’s path to power as he places two women on the throne, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, followed by his ultimate downfall. Westerson comes at her story from the point of view of a servant instead of a member of Henry’s administration, so the focus is a different one. Will Somers was a real person, but Westerson has embellished his life, adding a wife (with handy ties to the nobility) and a gay sex life that his wife tolerates. Both are good additions, rounding out Will’s character and giving him more range in his investigations, as his lover is also a member of the nobility.

I thought the strength of this book lay in the vividness of Westerson’s portrayal of the court. It’s like a city in itself, with nobles and servants having rooms and apartments within the castle, all revolving around Henry. In this period – 1536 – Anne has given birth to Elizabeth, who is three, and is increasingly desperate about Henry’s obvious infatuation with Jane Seymour. Jane had her own apartment at court, next door to her brother and his wife, and connecting to the King. She’s obviously Anne’s polar opposite – quiet, meek, godly.

Westerson portrays in a non-confusing way the intricacies of court politics, and for the first time, she truly made me understand the way a fake plot accusing Anne of multiple lovers could have been orchestrated. Westerson brings humanity to her story through her portrayal of Will, his loving marriage, and his relationship with Henry, whom he calls “Uncle”. He is one of the few who can tweak the King, and he’s often caught between a rock and a hard place. Pleasing everyone at court is never possible. One of the most trenchant illustrations of this (for me) was Will’s playing with the toddler Elizabeth and then reluctantly catching Mary, Henry’s first child and now a lady in waiting to her usurper, out of the corner of his eye. He tries to give her some message of friendship but he has to hide it.

The mystery part is fairly straightforward, and Will’s investigation is somewhat hampered simply by his status at court, though, as the King’s Fool, he can come and go almost wherever he pleases. He is Henry’s servant though and Westerson is also excellent at conveying Henry’s assertion of royalty.

I loved the details of the food, the clothes, the way people lived in the palace, even the description of the man in the stables who makes the saddles. I really loved Will himself and loved Westerson’s imagining of him, and I appreciated the way she was able to further illuminate Tudor court life through her clever story. If you are a fan of the Tudors, don’t miss this read. She has a good historical afterword at the end that highlights Anne’s upcoming fate. That’s a story I always hope will end differently - but it never does.

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As a lover of all things Tudor, I thought this might be a little repetitive to other books I’ve read. I was so wrong. Written from a completely different viewpoint to anything I’d read before (Will Somers, court jester) you get a brilliantly clever perspective. The company of king and queen slides perfectly next to the company of servants and lowly court players. I loved it and will read the first one asap!

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Court Jester Will Somers is in the favor of King Henry VIII but Queen Ann Boleyn is falling out of favor after birthing Princess Elizabeth but miscarrying the next baby. Cromwell and others conspire against her. A musician strangled is found in her quarters. Will moves the corpse and promises her he will find the murderer. The court is a snake pit and Will is clever but not powerful. How will he find the murderer, stay loyal to the king and keep himself alive? Clever period mystery, The Twilight Queen.

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I have been a big fan of Jeri Westerson’s writing ever since I picked up my first Crispin Guest book many years ago, and she has never disappointed me. She always tells a great story with complex and interesting characters and goes all out with her research for her historical mysteries.

The Twilight Queen is the second book in her A King’s Fool mystery series. The main character in this series is Will Somers, Henry VIII’s jester—who was a real person, but Jeri adds to the character to flesh him out. Another KRL reviewer reviewed the first book in this series, Courting Dragons (you can click here to go read that review), but I will say I didn’t feel the least bit lost reading book two without having read the first one.

This book is set in London in 1536. The current Queen of England, Anne Boleyn, is in peril and calls on Will late at night for his help. There is the body of a man in her quarters, and she has no idea how it got there or who it is. Is someone trying to frame her? Her position in court is not good as Henry now has eyes for another, and some are not happy with how Anne became Queen. Will recently helped solve a murder, so that and the fact that she trusts him is why the Queen called on him for help. Though Will is now married and loves his wife dearly, he also has his own secrets to hide (though I loved how not from his wife)—he enjoys the company of men as well, and there is one new handsome courtier named Nicholas Pachett on the scene who has definitely caught his attention and vise versa. Were he to be caught…

Can Will once again save the day without losing his own life?

Jeri is masterful at bringing other time periods to life with such amazing accuracy and details—and yet not in a way that bogs things down or slows the pace of the mystery. She artfully blends real history with fiction. Last year my son was in a play called A Man For All Seasons about the way that Anne became Queen, so it was also fascinating for me to meet all these characters I had seen in the play.

As usual, Jeri doesn’t disappoint. She gives the reader a fascinating story, great characters, and a mystery filled with plenty of twists and turns. I loved the book, and adore Will. I especially loved his relationship with his wife and Nicholas and hope we get to see much more of that in the next book! I can’t wait to go back and read the first book!

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