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Last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed Eve Edward's debut novel, The Other Countess and was more than a little excited to see a sequel planned. Having finally just finished I can say that excitement wasn't in vain. Reading The Queen's Lady was like slipping into a comfy and familiar pair of slippers and once again Eve Edward's evocative writing whisked me away into the world of Queen Elizabeth I's court and Tudor England.
The Queen's Lady focuses on the story of Lady Jane Rievaulx (nee Perceval), a character who although only played a minor role in the previous book, I had very much enjoyed and hoped to hear more about. We join her as the recently widowed Marchioness, still young at only eighteen, devastated by the death of her elderly husband, who through kindness and friendship had saved her from her own family, and now at the mercy of her greedy and wicked stepsons who want back what they believe rightfully theirs. Taking refuge as a lady in waiting to the Queen, Jane is delighted when James Lacey returns to court and the feelings she once held for him are as strong as ever. However James is dealing with the demons of war and feels unworthy of the beautiful Lady Jane. In an effort to rid himself of the ghosts he carries and to save her from himself he embarks on a dangerous journey to the newly discovered America. Only his absence puts Jane more at risk as her family plans to marry her off once again for their own benefit.
I liked Lady Jane just as much this time round as I did the first. She's a young girl used as a porn in the courts games and seen only as an asset by both her family and the noble men around her. I felt so angry at her treatment at times and can't imagine what it would be like to have such pressures and expectations from society on you. Everything she does is judged, and Jane is the unfortunate type of girl who attracts unwanted attention, gossip and rumour. Yet under the cold exterior she has protected herself with, there is a warm, passionate, loyal and kind person underneath. She knows what she believes to be right and wrong and isn't afraid to show it, which of course at times lands her further in trouble.
I loved the romance between Jane and James Lacey, who is even more droolworthy than his brother Will (who was a main character in the first book). He is dark and brooding, tortured by what he has seen at war with Spain and doesn't believe himself worthy. I adored how together they brought out the best in each other and cursed the awful and mercenary families who stepped in their way. My favourite characters in the book however where Diego, James' African man servant and Milly, seamstress and longtime friend of Lady Jane. Through these two characters we truly see a passion to fight against adversity and overcome a world which has strict rules on rank, propriety and expectations, where crossing the line could cost you your life. I also enjoyed the introduction to the theatrical Christopher Turner, the Lacey brother's illegitimate sibling and have a feeling his story will be very interesting indeed (told in The Rogue Princess released in July 2011)
Once again I found Edward's sumptuous historical detailing and descriptions beautiful. The way she describes the rich and regal costumes of Elizabethan times brings them to life, while the sights, smells and sounds of Tudor London are recreated vividly. I particularly enjoy her charming and easy writing style. As with The Other Countess, this book isn't action packed (although there are one or two sword fights to get your heart pounding) it's more a book to savour and immerse yourself with, perfect for a lazy afternoon when you don't have to rush. I think this book would work as a standalone, but I liked having the insight I'd gained on the social circles and politics of the group from the first. Eve Edward's series of books have become a firm favourite of mine and I eagerly look forward to the next. Recommended to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, romance, has an interest in the period or just wants a beautiful and charming story to curl up with.
Published in the UK February 2011 by Puffin
Thanks to the publishers for providing me with a copy for review.