Monday 7 August 2017

Watch the Lady (The Tudor Trilogy #3) - Elizabeth Fremantle

Penelope Devereux is a legendary beauty in the court of Elizabeth I, with a smile that would light up the shadows of hell. But it's not just her looks which have won her favour with the Queen wing; her canny instinct for being in the right place at the right time, and her skilled political manoeuvrings under the guise of diplomacy, have rendered her a formidable adversary to anyone who stands in her path.

Including Elizabeth.

For Penelope must secure the future of the Devereux dynasty at whatever cost. Even treason. And the Queen, a woman she holds responsible for the death of her father, the exile of her mother and her failure to marry the one man she ever truly loved, is just one more pawn in a deadly game. Walking the knife-edge of court, whilst ensuring that her reckless brother Essex remains the only star in the Queen's firmament - and out of the Tower - Penelope must plan for the inevitable succession of an ailing monarch.

But her secret letters of friendship to a foreign King - one who has a strong claim to the English throne - could see her illustrious family in the gutter and her own head on the block. It would only take a single mistake, a slip of the tongue, an intercepted message for Penelope to become the architect of her downfall.

In a world where sister is turned against brother, husband against wife, courtier against queen, the rules of the game are forever changing.

What did I think?

I think it's safe to say that Elizabeth I would not have liked this book as she is not the star of the show, instead it is someone I had never heard of: Penelope Devereaux.  I had, however, heard of her famous brother: the queen's favourite, Essex.  I do love to read both fiction and non-fiction set in the Tudor period and it does seem to be a popular topic with lots of authors, but what makes this stand out from the crowd is the main character, Penelope.

Penelope is the queen's goddaughter and also one of her favourite maids; she is such a strong character and is never afraid to stand up to Elizabeth, no doubt because Henry VIII's blood also flows through Penelope's veins.  For Penelope's grandmother, Catherine Carey, was reputed to be the child of Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII.  Scandal continues to follow Penelope's ancestors as her mother is Lettice Knollys who was cast out of Elizabeth's court after she secretly married one of the queen's favourites, Robert Dudley.

Like all maids in the Tudor court, Penelope is subject to an arranged marriage.  At one point she was promised to Philip Sidney, and although the marriage never came to fruition she never stopped loving him and was infact the muse for some of his poetry.  Instead, Penelope marries Lord Rich but it is a loveless marriage and they strike an unconventional deal that will leave Penelope free to follow her heart, wherever it may take her.

With well known names from the Tudor Court, including Elizabeth I, Lettice Knollys, Charles Blount, Essex, Sir Walter Ralegh and Francis Bacon, this is a story of scandal and intrigue with deceit and backstabbing a-plenty as people jostle for position.  Like a Shakespearean play, with the bard himself making a brief appearance, there are a lot of characters so I think it could have benefited from a character list at the beginning or end.  It was nothing that google couldn't fix as I wracked my brain for the history behind certain well-known names.

There's treachery afoot in the Tudor Court and with so many people under suspicion you can't keep your eye on them all, so make sure you Watch the Lady.  Definitely recommended for historical fiction lovers as Elizabeth Fremantle certainly gives Philippa Gregory a run for her money.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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