Tall Poppies Review: An Author’s Magic Shines Through In ‘The Queen’s Mistake’

in Fiction by

The Queen’s Mistake by Diane Haeger is a work of historical fiction that makes the events of centuries ago feel fresh, relevant, and enticing. This book is luminous, as is its titular queen. The novel tells the story of the very young and very beautiful Catherine Howard, who, as King Henry VIII’s fifth wife is destined, like all of his wives, for a very sad fate. Catherine Howard plunges headlong into danger, even as we wish that she would stay put, in her simpler life, far away from the castle and the king’s rapacious appetites.

The Queen's Mistake Diane HaegerWe know from the first page that the Queen’s dalliance with King Henry VIII will end in disaster. No spoilers here; it’s history after all. But Haeger breathes such vivid life into the young Howard Queen that I found myself turning pages quickly and devouring the story with equal measures anticipation and dread. I actually hoped, until the very last page, that the “mistake” was not the queen’s, but belonged to history instead. I wished for a happy ending, even though I knew it wasn’t possible.

That’s this author’s magic. Haeger convinces us that history is still happening, and that we, as her readers, are somehow able to dip our toes downstream in the flowing river of time. Haeger brings us a queen so dear, so human, so full of life, that we are loathe to see her meet her end. But at the same time, we feel all the richer for having known this Catherine, and for having accompanied her on her incredible journey into the heart of a monarchy and the consciousness of a country. Like all of Haeger’s historical fiction, this is a book to savor.


DIANE HAEGER, who also writes as Anne Girard, holds a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and is the author of 16 novels, both historical and contemporary. She has moved back and forth through time, from writing about the lost loves of William Tecumseh Sherman and Pablo Picasso, to crafting a series set in Tudor England titled “In the Court of Henry VIII.” Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel Courtesan in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work to date has been translated into 18 languages bringing her international success and award-winning status.


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Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award. She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly. She teaches fiction writing at Drexel University and lives in Philadelphia with her family.

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