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About The Book

Basing her gripping tale on the life of the real Jane Popyncourt, gifted author Kate Emerson brings the Tudor monarchs, their family, and their courtiers to brilliant life in this vibrant novel.

Beautiful. Seductive. Innocent. Jane Popyncourt was brought to the court as a child to be ward of the king and a companion to his daughters—the princesses Margaret and Mary. With no money of her own, Jane could not hope for a powerful marriage, or perhaps even marriage at all. But as she grows into a lovely young woman, she still receives flattering attention from the virile young men flocking to serve the handsome new king, Henry VIII, who has recently married Catherine of Aragon. Then a dashing French prisoner of war, cousin to the king of France, is brought to London, and Jane finds she cannot help giving some of her heart—and more—to a man she can never marry. But the Tudor court is filled with dangers as well as seductions, and there are mysteries surrounding Jane’s birth that have made her deadly enemies. Can she cultivate her beauty and her amorous wiles to guide her along a perilous path and bring her at last to happiness?

Reading Group Guide


Young Jane Popyncourt comes to England from France in 1498 when she is eight years old to be a companion and French tutor to the two daughters of Henry VII. When her mother dies shortly thereafter, Jane becomes a regular member of the royal court.
But all that changes when the duc de Longueville arrives in 1513 as a French prisoner of war. Accompanying the duke is Guy Dunois, a childhood friend of Jane's who will help her discover the truth about her past and her mother's mysterious death.
The chemistry between Jane and Longueville is strong and soon leads Jane to become his mistress. Her new intimacy with the duke makes her privy to French political secrets, and King Henry VIII enlists her as a spy. She is hesitant to engage in this kind of deception, but when she learns the duke has only lustful feelings for her, she uses their relationship to return to France to uncover the secrets of her mother's last days and her reasons for fleeing France when Jane was just a child.
As Jane makes her way to France, she discovers the perfidy that has cost her family their ancestral lands. Now all she has to do is use the skills she honed in the royal court to win over the king of France and persuade him to award her her rightful inheritance.
Discussion Questions

1. Jane learns about her royal connection as an adult, but there are earlier clues to her secret lineage. What are some hints that Jane is "not quite servant, not quite family" (308) to the Tudors?
2. Jane confesses, "For some reason the other girls among the children of honor had never taken to me, and I had always felt more comfortable spending my free time with the boys" (76). Do you think the other women at court treat her fairly? Why or why not?
3. Secret or mistaken identities abound in the novel, from Perkin Warbeck, the executed "pretender to the throne" (24), to Jane's own royal lineage. What threat do "royal bastards" (10) and imposters pose to the crown? Do you think that Jane's mother was murdered because of her royal blood? Why or why not?
4. Jane slowly learns the difference between lust and love over the course of the novel. When does it become apparent that her relationship with Longueville is based solely on "a storm of passion" (100)? When does Jane's love for Guy first come to light?
5. "Friendship cannot truly flourish at any court. Neither could love" (352). Are there exceptions to Jane's statement? Which characters seem to have found love or friendship at court? Do their attachments seem genuine? Why or why not?
6. Jane outwits two kings who try to seduce her: Henry VIII and François. Compare Jane's strategy with each king. How does she sidestep their advances? Which strategy seems more successful?
7. What do you think of Longueville's character? What is his approach to courtly love, sex, and marriage? Is he a villain in the novel? Why or why not?
8. "True pleasure combines happiness and contentment with passionate love" (358). How does the Pleasure Palace fail to live up to its name? Where does Jane finally find true pleasure?
9. Jane realizes that in the English court, "Everyone around me knew exactly who they were and where they belonged"(92). Do you think a person's lineage and social standing are as connected today as they were in the Tudor era? Why or why not?
10. Almost all of the characters of The Pleasure Palace were actual members of the Tudor court. Which historical figures especially came to life as you read the novel?
Enhance Your Book Club

1. Set the mood at your book club meeting by playing music from the Tudor era. You can find music files at
2. Challenge your book club to a match of bowling, Tudorstyle! You can use croquet balls or softballs as "bowls," and a wooden stake as a target, or "mistress." Whoever throws the bowl closest to the mistress wins the match.
3. Using the descriptions of dress in The Pleasure Palace for inspiration, draw a member of the Tudor court in full costume. Try your hand at sketching Jane in her velvet gown, or Henry VIII in his brocade doublet and jeweled codpiece.
4. The Tower of London, "a palace as well as a prison" (85), is a key setting of the novel. Research the Tower's fascinating history. You can learn about the prisoners, treasures, and folklore of the Tower at

About The Author

Glamour Shots

Kate Emerson was born in Liberty, New York, and attended Bates College and Old Dominion University. She currently lives in Wilton, Maine. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and other professional organizations. Emerson also writes a Scottish mysteries series as Kaitlyn Dunnett. She currently lives in rural Western Maine with her husband and three cats. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (February 3, 2009)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416583585

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Raves and Reviews

"History, love, lust, power, ambitions -- The Pleasure Palace is a pleasure indeed." -- Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Boleyn

"In the first in Emerson's series, it's hard to tell where reality ends and fiction begins. Rich and lushly detailed, teeming with passion and intrigue, this is a novel in which you can happily immerse yourself in another time and place." -- Kathe Robin, Romantic Times

"It is this heroine that separates this book from the pack. The characters are subtle and well-drawn.." -- Publishers Weekly

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More books in this series: Secrets of the Tudor Court