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.
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
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
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 www.camelotintl.com/tower_site/index.html.