This is one of those books that have about six different threads going on, weaving around a central theme, which is in this case, is love.
The true, historical backdrop: Christian IV was king of the Denmark in the 16th century. He’s still the longest reigning king, and is remembered for a number of reforms he brought to the country. After his first wife died, he fell in love with Kirsten Munk, a beautiful young women 21 years his junior. Her mother managed to arrange for the king to marry Kirsten, but because it was outside of the church, she was never made Queen, and eventually bored of the king, and took up with a German nobleman. This book is set during the year that Christian finds out what Kirsten is doing.
The fictional portion: Peter Claire is a lute player from England, newly arrived to play in the king’s orchestra. He also resembles a dear childhood friend of the king, now deceased, which makes the king bring Peter into his confidences.
At the same time, a young women named Emilia Tilsin, whose father’s lands border Kirsten Munk’s mother’s lands, comes to Rosenburg to be Kirsten’s companion. She’s escaping her home, where her mother has died, and her new stepmother seems bent on destroying all memories of her husband’s first wife.
Peter and Emilia meet, and fall head over heels in love. Unfortunately, Kirsten is shortly thereafter exiled from Rosenburg, and Emilia is sent along with her. Whether or not Peter and Emilia can ever be together becomes the central question of the story.
The story is multi layered – I can’t possibly capture the complexity of what happens – it all seems so simple when I try to write it out, but it’s definitely not. I really enjoyed the book, partially because this is a slice of history I’m not familiar with, and Christian’s story is an interesting one.