The Other Queen
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date:
- 07 June 2008
- Historical Fiction
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I think this is one of Gregory's best books. I really like the format (moving from one to the other, of each of the three main character's, and showing their view of the same scenario.)
This novel covers the captive years of Mary, Queen of Scots, who trusted Queen Elizabeth's promise of sanctuary when she fled from rebels in Scotland and then found herself imprisoned as the "guest" of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. The newly married couple welcomes the doomed queen into their home, certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court. To their horror, they find that the task will bankrupt them, and as their home becomes the epicenter of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question. If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treachery and treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman.The novel concludes with Bess effectively ‘divorcing’ the Earl and regaining all her land that she brought to the marriage as settlement. The Earl spends the next 16 (?) years living withQueen Mary as a prisoner. Always a gentleman, he never acts on his love for her, and is distraught when Queen Elizabeth eventually orders her beheading for treason and she is killed.Interestingly written. Each short chapter is written in the first person of different characters. The reader gets an insight into the thoughts of Bess, the Earl and Queen Mary.
The heartfelt drama of this story kept me longing to take long car rides so I could continue to listen to it. It follows the Earl of Shrewsbury, his wife Bess of Hardwick, and Queen Mary of Scots and they are thrown together in an impossibly hard situation. Mary is of course a "guest" in England, there by the good graces of her cousin Elizabeth--who could of course always choose to behead her instead. The Earl and his wife Bess are "asked" to host Mary--a task that ends us bankrupting them and destroying their marriage. For the Earl can't help but be captivated by Mary, and Bess can't help but be devastated by this and by the fact that the fortune she brought into the marriage is quickly drained away by the exorbitant expense of keeping a Queen. Each takes turns telling their story--which in the audio version I listened to is expertly narrated--and the author does an excellent job of making this historical characters real people with hopes, dreams, and emotions that capture the heart. I heartily enjoyed it and it made me want to explore the "real story" further--always a plus with historical fiction. Historical fiction fans will love it of course, but also anyone who enjoys getting into the minds of the characters and stories with lots of human drama.
Gregory's books following "The Other Boleyn" never quite measure up to that first one; however, "The Other Queen" is a fantastic read, told from three very different points of view. As with all of her books, the depth of Gregory's research, even if it is used for her own purposes, compels me to read up on the Tudors. This time, I am most interested to read about Mary, Queen of Scots.
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