#43 ~ The Virgin’s Lover

November 5, 2007 at 5:06 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory

Your Attention, Please!

Until Gregory’s novel about Mary, Queen of Scots (entitled The Other Queen) is published next year, I can now officially say that I have read every book in her Tudor series! YES!!!! I read my first in March and, as of October 24, I read the last. If reading 52 books in one year won’t be impressive enough, including this entire series into this year is something of which I am proud. Her books aren’t skinny, you know! 😉

On to the Review:

The Virgin’s Lover tells the story of the first two years of Elizabeth I‘s reign as Queen of England. It was during those years that she had a scandalous love affair Robert Dudley, a man previously held in the Tower for treason. A man who narrowly escaped the execution faced by his father and younger brother as a result of the Dudley family’s attempt to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne permanently (they were successful for nine days…). Even after all of this time, the scene of John Dudley‘s death in Innocent Traitor sends chills up and down my spine. I got those chills quite often while reading this book. I knew that Robert Dudley wasn’t going to end up on the Tudor chopping block, but he sure worked as hard as he could at it.

During much of this book, Elizabeth could not make a single decision on her own. I found this a little disconcerting. Sure, everyone has to grown into their roles in life. Despite what Katherine of Arragon might have been lead to believe, you’re not born a monarch. You are very much tried in fire. Still, Elizabeth was never a shrinking violet. She lived much of her life in danger. I found her inability to do much more than worry without Dudley or Sir William Cecil. This Elizabeth came off as pathetic to me. This Elizabeth certainly wasn’t the Elizabeth I remember from the first movie starring Kate Blanchett. Of course, I’m showing my historical ignorance by comparing one fictionalized Elizabeth to the other. Alas, this is all that Literate Housewife has in her arsenal at this point.

I did enjoy the portion of the book dedicated to Amy Robsart, Dudley’s first wife. She is portrayed as an entirely different woman in this book than she was in The Queen’s Fool. I noticed that from the beginning, but I enjoyed her character. I cannot feel sorry for Dudley’s fate after what he put this woman through.

Of all of Gregory’s books about the Tudor dynasty, this is my least favorite after The Constant Princess. I don’t like Elizabeth as a weak minded woman who can’t be anywhere or do anything without a man. I also found it hard to believe that Dudley, going with the assumption that he was innocent of his wife’s demise, didn’t smell a rat from the very beginning. I know that he loved Elizabeth, but to not for a single moment think she could be responsible for bringing about his latest shame was a little much for me.

Philippa Gregory in Chronological Order

August 30, 2007 at 5:04 pm | Posted in Adoption, Books, Family, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 24 Comments
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I thought that it might be helpful to list the books Philippa Gregory has written around the history of Henry VIII and his immediate descendants in chronological order for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading them for yourself.

1. The Constant Princess
2. The Other Boleyn Girl
3. The Boleyn Inheritance
4. The Queen’s Fool
5. The Virgin’s Lover
6. The Other Queen

Filling In the Gaps

Philippa’s books do not cover everything. After reading The Boleyn Inheritance, I wanted to know more about Henry’s last wife. I found The Last Wife of Henry VIII, which answered my questions and was a great read. Around that time, Alison Weir’s first “g0-round” in fiction came out, entitled Innocent Traitor. It tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the Nine Day’s Queen. I would suggest reading this book after The Last Wife of Henry VIII and The Lady Elizabeth before The Queen’s Fool.

I have also read Portrait of an Unknown Woman, which is about an adopted daughter of Sir Thomas More. This book is no where near as directly related to Henry VIII as the others. What it does, however, is give the reader the feeling of living in Tudor England at the time of Henry’s affair with and marriage to Anne Boleyn. It’s very interesting to read a book where Henry is rearing his head in the book indirectly.

#28 ~ The Queen’s Fool

June 7, 2007 at 2:26 am | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, My Life with Books, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 2 Comments
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The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

The magnificent and deeply satisfying way in which Innocent Traitor ended made it too tempting to continue on with the saga of the Tudor monarchy. Reading Veronica only intensified that temptation. I was not disappointed. The Queen’s Fool is the story of a young Jewish girl who took flight from Spain after her mother was burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Hannah, an entirely fictional character, is no ordinary girl. She works hard and dresses as a boy to look the part of her father’s apprentice in London. She takes pride in her father’s book store and printing press. Still, the fear of being burned is never far away.

It is at her father’s shop in London where she comes in contact Lord Robert Dudley and his tutor, John Dee. When she sees a third person in their ranks, who, it was determined, must have been an angel, Dudley gets Hannah’s father’s permission to be bring her to the ailing Kind Edward as his holy fool. Thus, Hannah takes on Edward’s livery and enters court for the first time. Although he begged Hannah off on the King, Lord Robert wants her services to help him and his conspirators to best plan to take the throne from Lady Mary and keep England Protestant. When she is able to intuit the date of Edward’s death and that a woman named Jane (Lady Jane Grey) is to be queen, Robert sends her away from the King’s side and to stay with Lady Mary as his spy. Hannah is so enamored with Robert that she agrees. Perhaps it was because she has had to lead her life from one lie to another in order to keep herself alive, she found a way to keep her promise to Lord Robert while still remaining loyal to Lady Mary. She loves her the way in which a daughter loves a mother from the very first because Mary is gentle and kind to her.

And another...

And another...

It’s not until the noose tightens around all of England while Queen Mary burns as many heretics as she can find that Hannah’s love for being at court is trumped by her survival instincts. She is no longer safe now that the Queen is deeply depressed due to the state of her marriage and her kingdom. She blames her false pregnancy on God’s displeasure with England. Surely once the heretics are gone the Lord will shine down and provide an heir. It is nearly too late when she sends word to her father, who had moved to Calais with her betrothed husband, to come and take her to safety. Although young and not ready for life as a dutiful wife after living so many years in breaches and living like a lad, she does desire her husband Daniel. Although her mother and sisters-in-law highly disapprove of her, she tries her best to be a dutiful wife. Yet when the French attack Calais, she flees under the protection of Lord Dudley and finds herself once again meshed in the intrigue of the Tudor court.

I had a weird experience while reading this book. I read a paragraph and I felt deja vu wash over me. It was as if I had both read that same paragraph once before and that I had witnessed the scene with my own eyes. Spooky! If Queen Mary were alive to hear me even hint at feelings of reincarnation I’d be dry and crispy right now. You got to love those Tudors.

#26 ~ Innocent Traitor

June 5, 2007 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Amazing Narrator, Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Reading, Religion | 3 Comments
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With this book I have reached the summit!

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

As I have made my way through the wives of Henry the 8th, this book seemed the next logical choice. This book deals with the rise and fall of Lady Jane Grey, the woman who rules England as Queen for nine short days between the reign of King Edward and Queen Mary. Alison Weir is a historian as is known for her academic accounts of the English monarchy. Innocent Traitor is Weir’s first attempt at using fiction to fully flesh out historic characters and fill in those things that can never be known. This book was a wonderful reading experience, independent of the fact that I read it while at the beach. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who has read The Other Boleyn Girl and/or The Boleyn Inheritance. You will not be disappointed.

Lady Jane Grey was born to Henry the 8th’s niece, Frances. Frances and her husband are selfish people who long only for the good life brought about by being wealthy land owners and members of the royal family. After losing two sons in infancy, Frances is bitter when she bares Jane, a healthy, strapping girl. From the moment Jane’s sex is known, Frances hardens her heart. Jane only becomes valuable to her when Queen Jane gives birth to Prince Edward, her uncle’s sole male heir. Within weeks of her birth, Jane is surrounded by people plotting to use her to their own advantage.

From the very beginning Jane experiences only harshness and displeasure from her mother. Because she is unknowingly being groomed to be a future queen of England, her mother uses a heavy hand with her. Jane, an intelligent and inquisitive child who grows into a sober and scholarly young woman, has a will of her own that her mother cannot break. She is content to spend her life reading in the pursuit of knowledge and righteousness before God. While her parent’s faith changes at the whim of the monarch, Jane grows to become a devout, outspoken, and idealistic Protestant under the tutelage of the doctors chosen specifically by Queen Katherine Parr to teach her. Like many stanch idealists, Jane lacks diplomacy and tact when speaking about faith. Believing that she knows the real truth about God, she refuses to hold her tongue, even in front of Princess Mary, an equally devout and staunch Roman Catholic.

It is the combination of the ultimately ill-fated plotting against the succession of the English monarchy and Jane’s unwavering faith in Protestantism that ultimately bring about her demise.

It was interesting reading this book just after finishing March. Both of the narrators are wholly devout to the cause of their faith. They both loved knowledge and its pursuits about all other pleasures. They both lacked tact and diplomacy, believing that they were proclaiming the will of God to the people of their time. They both were taken about as to how others could not believe the way that they do. Where Captain March was led haphazardly by his shame and fear of damnation, Jane stood defiant and confident in her own salvation without fear of death. Interestingly, it is how they differ that brought about their downfalls.

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