As a new queen, Elizabeth faces two great dangers: the French invasion of Scotland, which threatens to put Mary Queen of Scots on her throne, and her passion for the convicted traitor Robert Dudley.
But Dudley is already married, and his devoted wife Amy will never give him up, least of all to an upstart Protestant Princess. She refuses to set her beloved husband free to marry the queen; but she cannot prevent him from becoming the favorite and the focus of the feverishly plotting, pleasure seeking court.
Others too oppose the marriage, but for very different reasons. William Cecil, the queen's wisest counselor, knows she must marry for policy; her uncle hates Dudley and swears he will murder him first. Behind the triangle of lovers, the factions take up their places: the Protestants, the priests, the assassins, the diplomats and the moneymakers. The very coin of England is shaved and clipped to nothing as Elizabeth uncertainly leads her bankrupt country into a war that no-one thinks can be won.
Then someone acts in secret, and for Elizabeth, Dudley and the emerging kingdom, nothing will be as planned.
Blending historical fact with contemporary rumor, Philippa Gregory has created a dark and tense novel of Tudor times, which casts Elizabeth I in a light no one has suggested before. Passionate, fearful, emotionally needy, this is a queen who will stop at nothing.
Author: Philippa Gregory
Year Published: 2004
My first novel about Queen Elizabeth I. I've read at least five novels of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and one biography about her, but I've never tried at a historical fiction novel of her. For the most part, I did enjoy this book; I liked the writing style and my attentions were caught early on. Beginning this story, I had high expectations for it, and they were mildly let down.
Firstly, what I disliked about this story. I still feel the author's grudge over Anne Boleyn; I feel it carried on to her daughter, Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth I is known for her strength from childhood to queenhood. I don't feel that this novel captured that; it portrays Elizabeth as a dependent, needy, and emotional brat. Also, there is no protagonist in this novel; no antagonist (other than the French, perhaps?). I feel almost as though the author wants you to hate all the characters. Elizabeth, the marriage-destroyer and brat, Robert Dudley, the over-ambitious cuckold, Amy Robsart, the annoying, emotional, and clingy 'inconvinient' wife - while I adore the historical figure of Elizabeth I, I disliked her in this novel, nor did I like Robert Dudley or his wife.
Beyond character portrayals and what not, this book had no plot whatsoever. It was simply a friendship-turned-romance between Elizabeth and Robert, which excited me at first, with some historical events in the background, and it just continued like that. More progress on the war with the French, more progress in Elizabeth's and Robert's relationship: nothing solid really happening. I did enjoy the flirtation between the queen and her master of horse, but after a while, the same sequence of events got pretty boring. Nothing really changes until the end, which I don't want to spoil for you.
What did I like about this novel? I enjoyed the writing and the strong romantic dynamic. I like how the English battles with the French were described in a non-textbook sort of way, and how, since this novel wasn't in first person, you could get inside all the characters' heads! What also interested me was the idea that the Virgin Queen Elizabeth had sexual relations with Robert Dudley. Now I've never even considered Elizabeth having sexual intercourse with anyone, so this was a very interesting theory to me.
Overall, this was an entertaining read with a surprising ending (though not a very strong one - I was left wanting a lot more) and romantic elements. My only problem was that it seemed to just drag on. It didn't follow a plot. But, I would recommend it to anyone curious as to the early years of Queen Elizabeth I's reign.
2.5 stars/5 stars