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The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory

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Author: Philippa Gregory / Genre: Fiction / Publisher: Harper

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    11 Reviews
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      15.03.2014 08:19
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      Overall underwhelming

      Philippa Gregory and I have an odd relationship. Some of her books I think are really fantastic to read; some are far less convincing. But, be it because I'm either stupid or extremely stubborn and determined to get to the bottom of my actual opinion of her work overall, I keep reading more of them to see if the below-average offerings are the anomalies.

      And so I came to read The Virgin's Lover.

      Score another one up for the duds.

      ***GREGORY***
      Earns her crust by writing fictional accounts of historical characters. An award winner in 2001 for The Other Boleyn Girl, which was one of her better offerings, she has also written entirely fictional works (ie, crafted her own characters - more on this in a second), although I have yet to read any of these.

      I admit to a wry smile when I saw a quote apparently attributed to the author in which she says that an important element of her work is "historical accuracy". What utter toss. I've just started another of her books which in the first few pages had me confused, because she has taken a historical figure which in a previous book was cast as a shrewd, sly, resentful and devious wife and turned her into a woman moping over her beloved lost husband after his execution, as if they had been a passionate and adoring all along. She can't keep her own 'characters' accurate, let alone historical accuracy. Don't read this thinking it's a cheat to revise your History A Level; you'll fail. It's fiction and that's that. And anyone who tells you otherwise, even if it's Gregory, is selling something. Well, her especially.

      ***THE VIRGIN'S LOVER***
      Moving on from the Henry VIII shag-fest that was the previous forty or so years, and neatly skipping Mary, I've landed at the start of Elizabeth I's reign. Bang at the start, as in the first pages we meet Amy Robsart who, hearing the bells toll for the new Queen, is bereft.

      She's married to Robert Dudley. He saw his father and brother executed for treason under the previous Queen, and lost his remaining brother in war in France. But he returns alive and finds himself in the court of his childhood friend, Elizabeth. She is a strange creature, having spent half her life in some sort of gilded captivity, declared a bastard by her own father, the daughter of a Queen executed for high treason and little more than a girl thrust into great power over a country that is on the knife edge between power struggles, religion and threat of invasion. And she's unmarried.

      So, effectively, if you happened to be a total rake and focused only on regaining your family's great power, a pretty useful potential bit of skirt. Something of a step up from the era's equivalent of Take Me Out.

      Clearly the solution is plain as day; you're a bit fit, quite the charmer and aspirational as hell, so do your thing and marry the woman. Job's a good'un. Slight problem in that you're already married, but hey, I'm sure she'll understand. There are titles and swathes of land and power at stake, surely your wife won't let her mere existence get in the way.

      ***THE READ***
      Okay. Now as a story as a whole, this is readable, engrossing and trots along at a good pace. At risk of venturing into spoiler-land, I'll try to keep this vague; you can take your own line on conspiracy theories and considerations of historical accuracy, this is Gregory's take on it and you either sign up for it or you don't. As a story, I get it. It works, it's believable enough.

      But the read is ruined for me by the characterisation; I realise by definition of the story itself that to some degree it is necessary but the overriding feeling I came away with was distaste. Not because of the story itself because I don't doubt there is some historical basis for the original rumours, but what ruins it as a book is the fact that the characters are all thoroughly horrible people.

      First of all there is Dudley, the ultimate self-serving male tosser. Totally focused only on restoring himself to his family's former station of power, becoming more and more monstrous in doing so, and seemingly totally incapable of even contemplating that he or someone else might be at threat because of his behaviour. Sod the country, sod the people, sod the wife, do what you want. It's the Robert Dudley show. Then the Queen; young and 'naïve' she may be, and even though she is painted here as vulnerable, she's also a massively stupid, selfish and irrational cow. This character was the tipping point which caused me to start questioning how far from historical accuracy the author can really push her formula; any more spouting of the Queen's staggering beauty and innocence and girlish weakness and stupidity and I was going to vomit. And as for the 'passion' between the two of them, this felt so convoluted and shallow that I honestly reckon I have more affection for my iPhone than these two genuinely had for one another.

      So then there's wifey. Poor little Amy Robsart. Told in this tale to have married Dudley for love rather than arrangement, and then expected to stay away while hubby gallivants about at court casting puppy dog eyes at the Grade A simpering loony we apparently had on the throne. Clearly, here is where your sympathies should lie. Right?

      Wrong. I didn't even find this character likeable. Pathetic, yes, and totally delusional. But overall I had no respect for her. I realise that her character was meant to be painted as the product of a society in which women were subservient to their lord husbands, with the obvious exception of one who had a posh chair, but still. Her total refusal to accept what was going on, and bloody well deal with it, starts as weakness and seems to escalate into total denial and borderline nutter status. And unfortunately, as I'm the reader and my opinion therefore counts for something, I didn't really give a stuff. Which was unfortunate, as that could have been the angle which lifted this tale from being pretty average and further weighed down by a cast of utterly unlikeable individuals, into something quite dark and interesting. But as it is, this is just fluff, and whilst I saw it through to the conclusion it was more determination than being riveted.

      Gregory has done her job well; with the exception of stretching the character and beauty of a certain Queen a bit far beyond reasonable doubt, she's crafted a fictional tale with historical characters, applied her formula of a bit of sex, plotting and political tension and turfed out a perfectly acceptable take on a tale which is readable, engaging enough and clearly going to be popular.

      But in personal conclusion, whilst I can see the popularity and can understand why this book might appeal, but I certainly won't be reading it again. There are too many utter arses in the modern world to deal with, I don't want to indulge the respective ego trips of two of the worst of them play out in front of their surrounding court of simpering, snide, gossipy sub-arses on my time off, thanks very much.

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        28.07.2012 10:42
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        I enjoyed reading this.

        This is a review of the 2007 book "The Virgin's Lover" by Philippa Gregogy who is a historical fictional novelist probably best known for her book "The Other Boleyn Girl" which was made into a big blockbuster film a few years ago. The Virgin's Lover is a good book to read from the Tudor series of books as it follows Anne Boleyn's daughter Elizabeth from the moment she becomes Queen of England.

        You probably already know a bit of detail from school and TV I am sure about Queen Elizabeth or Good Queen Bess as she was known, following a rather strict Queen Mary's rule, in 1558 Mary died and Elizabeth took to the throne. Elizabeth is known as the Virgin Queen as she never took a husband but there is much speculation over her love life and relationship with favourite man at Court, Robert Dudley.

        What makes the book extra interesting is the viewpoint of Dudley's wife Amy who is the narrator of some of the chapters. Waiting eagerly for her husband to visit her from time to time, she wishes that his relationship to the queen is not so close but she remains faithful and committed to him through her whole life despite his wishes for a divorce so he can realise his ambitions with the queen.

        The book only runs between 1558 and 1560 so is not too ambitious in its timeline which helps the pace of the book and makes for pleasant reading. Amidst the 'are they or aren't they going to do it?' story line is the threat of religious and political uprisings. There are people who don't want Elizabeth on the throne and they certainly don't approve of Robert being either her lover or husband. Elizabeth wants to change the strict Papal Catholic agenda that her predecessor Mary set and prefers the Protestant religious approach for England but she is aware that she must make changes steadily and with care to not upset her people. Scotland's rule is also under threat and invasions from Spain and France constantly play on her mind. Her chief advisor Cecil tries to help Elizabeth make the right decisions but he is in despair over her feelings for Robert Dudley.

        I do think this book is so well written, it really makes you feel you are there at Court with the costumes and the dancing and entertainment. Robert and Elizabeth's relationship is full of fun and romance and he plays her suitor perfectly, making her blush and flutter frequently. Robert is frustrated by Elizabeth's reluctance to marry him (despite the fact that he is still married to Amy anyway!) and constantly tries to talk her into becoming husband and wife. Elizabeth is good at playing games with men, keeping them keen and at arms length at the same time. She has several suitors who are desperate to marry her and she considers the political advantages of marriages between Spain, France or Scotland but is reluctant to tie the knot, hence earning her title of the Virgin Queen.

        Towards the end of the book, it takes a more dark turn which is still accurate to historical fact and becomes a whodunnit with many suspects and motives to keep you guessing. You can imagine what it was like at court with everyone gossiping, whispering, plotting and speculating every minute of the day. At least in this book the time in the Tower is covered minimally as some of the other books contain a lot of beheading and imprisonment as you can well imagine.

        Whilst Elizabeth is distracted in her love for Robert, she is still a good Queen who has the country's best interest at heart. She likes to have fun but is still a good ruler and tries to keep any indiscretion as subtle as possible. She is adamant that she cannot have a child in her secret relationship with Robert and luckily he has a hand stitched and beribboned solution to this (an early version of a condom!!).

        I really felt sorry for Amy, who is portrayed as a simple country girl who loves her husband dearly. She has the occasional outburst at his behaviour but always apologises and waits faithfully to hear from him. You can see her spirit dropping as the book progresses; she tries hard to read and write and then realises it is pointless as Robert either ignores her correspondence or gets his clerk to write back to her.

        This book is not as complex as some of the other books in the Tudor series I have read, but still I was entranced by the story and really enjoyed reading 'The Virgin's Lover' which is a great ironic title that really has me intrigued now as to what the relationship between the Queen and Dudley actually amounted to! I would recommend this book if you have enjoyed previous books by Gregory.

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        07.06.2012 11:47
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        A good read but not my favourite Philippa Gregory book

        As a fan of Philippa Gregory and a fan of historical novels I was surprised to have mixed feelings about this book.

        My main issue was that I couldn't stand the main character! I like strong lead female characters and when I picked up this book about Elizabeth I, having read other Philippa Gregory books that touch on her such as 'The Queen's Fool', I was expecting a different woman than who I was presented with. In this book Gregory creates real women who you can connect and sympathise with and who are strong and admirable in different ways to what you expect.

        This was a quick and easy read but one that made me HATE men while reading! The plot is based around Sir Robert Dudley and his relationships with different women.

        You gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of different characters by the changing perspective of the author. One paragraph may be through Elizabeth's eye's and another through Robert Dudley's but this is easy to follow and keeps the story fresh.

        I think this is a good story but not the best Philippa Gregory book and many of the character's are frustrating so I would recommend other Gregory books over this one.

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          11.02.2011 19:58
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          An excellent insight into the Tudor court

          The Virgin's Lover is an absolubtly fantastic book from Philippa Gregory! I literally couldn't put it down... One of the comments on the back of the book is certainly true, "Philippa Gregory manages to makes the smells, sights and themes from the Tudor period real for the reader."
          Queen Elizabeth I is finally on the throne and is determined to make a good job. Torn between the good advice of her "spirit" Cecil and her old family friend, Robert Dudley, Elizabeth has difficulty adapting to life as Queen. Gregory manages to make the reader obsessed with Robert Dudley; making him extremelly attractive to the reader.
          Secret meetings behind closed doors and hidden affairs under trees, Elizabeth is the envy to every reader. The Tudor court is really brought to life through this fantastic masterpiece. I really felt like I was a fly on the wall in the Tudor court, sharing the Queen's secrets and helping her through this difficult time on her throne.
          For historians, some of the facts are not historically accurate, but this really does make a fantastic historical work of fiction.

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            10.12.2010 00:32
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            A good story but would have been better if told from only one viewpoint

            The Virgin's Lover is another of the offer from Philippa Gregory set in a intricately detailed and highly researched Tudor setting. This story is a fictionalization of the infamous love affair that is rumored to have taken place between Queen Elizabeth and one of her courtiers Robert Dudley.

            I've become quite a fan of Philippa Gregory over the past few months. Her writing style does take a little getting used to as she does not write in chapters but rather in small diary like entries set out into seasons or years. This is a bit confusing to begin with, particularly if you like reading a chapter before bed but it doesn't take long to get used to.

            This particular book takes place immediately after "The Queens Fool" and if you haven't read that book already I would suggest that you do so, although you should still find it easy to follow this book regardless. I have to admit that this is not one of Philippa's best books in my opinion. Instead of concentrating on one character as she generally does she chose to tell the story from the viewpoint of 4 characters, Queen Elizabeth, Robert Dudley, Amy Dudley (Roberts wife) and William Cecil the queens friend and trusted advisor. The result of this is that the story feels fragmented and diluted. I don't feel that I ever really had the chance to feel a great connection to any of the characters and because of this their troubles and heartache are just part of the story and not something that moved me at all. In addition to this most of the characters had very little to recommend themselves, they were all selfish and fickle and the only character that didn't fit this model came across as rather pathetic. All of this is big shame as had this tale been told from the point of view of only Robert Dudley I think it would have had a far greater sense of energy and the struggle and loss would have been far more moving.

            Having said all of the above this is a good story and a compelling read that kept me going until long after I should have gone to sleep. Philippa has once again done a very good job of bringing the Tudor period and historical facts to life in a believable way and I would recommend this book just not as highly as some of Philippa's other books such as "The Other Boleyn Girl" or "The Queens Fool".

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              08.10.2009 00:29
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              Brilliant novel

              In yet another superb historical novel Gregory again does not disappoint. A captivating story in which she deals with the time after Henry's reign, during Elizabeth I's first year as queen. She deals with the politics, love and love of the Virgin Queen. It is well researched and beautifully delivered. A must read for any fan of historical fiction. As with most Philippa Gregory books it looks at the history from a new perspective, one that is rarely considered, her we see elizabeth as a woman more than Queen, we see her as a person with emotions and female desire. It is really very interesting.

              It is focused on the love triangle between Elizabeth, Robert Dudley and his wife Amy. There is a twist at the end but I don't want to ruin the story for you....

              I wouldn't say this novel is as good as The Other Boleyn girl but it's not far off. As with all of Philippa's novels is is a completely absorbing read, her characterisation is first class, her description of the colour and vibrance of court is superb and she captures the scandal and terror of the Tudor court effortlessly.

              I cannot recommend this novel with any more conviction - it really is a brilliant read. I love all of Gregory's novels and this is amongst her finest. It kept me interested the whole way through and at the end I was left wanting more and a little bereft at the loss of the story - a mark of any good book in my eyes!

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              20.05.2009 12:14
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              A very enjoyable read.

              For anyone who is interested in the Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley romance this is the book for you!

              This is the fourth book in the Gregory Tudor timeline but is a great read just on its own. It is a book based on an unsolved Tudor mystery revolving around the supposed love affair between Elizabeth I and the married Robert Dudley and the suspicious death of his wife Amy.

              The book tells the story of the love triangle, Dudley's thirst for power and Amy's intense love for her husband.
              Having gone from childhood playmates to lovers, Dudley begins to think that he can set aside his devoted wife and rule England through marriage to Elizabeth. However her adviser William Cecil has other ideas and sets in place a chain of events with are questionable even today.

              Gregory is brilliant at painting a colourful historical tale which gives the reader an insight into the feelings of each of the main characters enabling you to really understand how each of them was affected by the affair.

              Anyone who is familiar with the facts will know that this does not work out to be a happy ending but all credit to Gregory who stays true to the facts rather than glossing over what really happened.

              I bought this in hardback as I wanted to read it as soon as it was released but I also bought it in paperback and it is available from Amazon for £4.99.
              The beauty of Gregory's paperbacks is that they are larger than average making them easier to read.

              It is extremely well written and a very enjoyable read.

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              29.03.2009 16:27
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              I love her books

              This is the last in the series of tudor period books by Philippa Gregory. I started off reading The Other Bolyen Girl, as my mum bought it for me for my birthday, then read the Bolyen Inheritance.

              Unfortunately being a student, I have had to borrow these books from the local library instead of buying the whole series and reading them in the right order. They only have a few in at a time as they seem to be very popular, so now Im on the last one in the series, having missed out a few Im sure.

              The book is about Queen Elizabeth taking the throne when her sister Mary dies. She is presented as being a bit naive and is quite young. I always thought that Elizabeth was supposed to be really powerful but they do the opposite in this book, with her advisers basically making all her decisions for her. This is a them throughout all of the series really.

              There is a love story as well, with Robert Dudley flirting with her all the time. He already has a wife, but Elizabeth becomes head of the church and so has the power to grant divorce. Il leave it at that as dont want to spoil the story.

              The book is well written, and is also quite historically accurate, as Gregory has a big interest in history and getting her facts right. I also like the fact that all her books are based around scandel, and cover large periods of time, so you get to see a good long section of each king and queen.

              Its not just for history buffs, there really is a good story, and they are hard to put down. I think they cost around £8 each, but in the library obviously they are free to borrow. Hopefully I will get some that I havent read for my birthday which is coming up soon!

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                18.09.2008 19:23
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                An historical novel focusing on the start of Elizabeth I's reign.

                As any of you will know that have read some of my previous book reviews I'm a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and her novels on the Tudor period. I've read all of her Tudor novels now and have to say that I'm disappointed that there's no more in the series really!

                The Author

                Philippa Gregory was born in Kenya and moved to England at an early age. She has quite a selection of novels under her belt, including both adult's and children's books as well as several travel publications. Her novels fall into one of four series which include The Wideacre Trilogy, Historical Novels, Modern Novels and The Tudor Court Novels. The Virgin's Lover was published back in April 2005 in the UK and is part of The Tudor Court series.

                The Plot

                The story begins in Autumn 1558 when Elizabeth I has taken the thrown of England following the death of the Queen Mary which left Elizabeth as the uncontested heir to the throne of England. It is based upon the first two years of her reign from 1558 and 1560 and tells the tale of how she became accustomed to life on the throne and the many events that occurred during these first two years.

                The story not only follows Queen Elizabeth I but also Amy Dudley, wife to Robert Dudley who was the Queen's Master of Horse and according to historical accounts, her lover also. The novel follows each character and their relationship with Robert Dudley during those two years and sees the accounts of each of the two women, from very different perspectives of course.

                It shows Elizabeth's weakness at the start and her ability to be very easily influenced by those around her. It shows Amy Dudley's quiet courage and compassion for a man that is blatantly having an affair before her very eyes too. The tale ends with a rather surprising twist which I won't spoil for you here in the plot description as it really is quite a turn if you're not suspecting it.

                The Characters

                The story is told from the perspective of a narrator who focuses very closely on the actions and thoughts of both Amy Dudley and Elizabeth I. As such we do gain an insight into the main characters of the tale but none of the tale is actually told from their perspective which was a little disappointing. Elizabeth I is arguably the main character and we see her as an easily influenced, quite weak individual that clearly has no real idea about Queen. Amy Dudley on the other hand seems to be a women of unfailing strength and belief in God at a time when religion was an ever changing topic. We encounter Robert Dudley, a man obsessed with the Queen or simply with the power that marriage to her could bring to him and finally William Cecil, Elizabeth's First Minister as well as her confidant and guide.

                My Opinion

                Unlike the other books in The Tudor Court series I found I could put this one down quite easily which was a little surprising. This was one of the final books I read in the series as it is actually based at the latest date in the series and so forms the end so to speak. Unlike the other books I did not feel the same sense of urgency to reach the end and discover what happened, nor did I find myself desperate to learn more about the characters or the events. I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by this book if I'm honest.

                I'd also say that it's probably best to have read at least a couple of the other books in the series first to not only gain an insight into the characters somewhat, but also to understand a little about the historical background to the story. Although all major events are explained within this novel I found that I gained and understood a lot more by having already got background knowledge to the tale. However saying that if you were to pick up this book today with no prior knowledge I don't doubt that you would enjoy it either.

                The character portrayal was quite good I felt although I do feel I bonded more with the characters in the other books when the story was actually told from their perspectives. When writing in the first person the story automatically becomes more personal and you feel as if you're gaining a real insight into those characters, it's almost like they are telling you their story and trusting you with it. However when it's told from the point of view of a narrator I never quite find the same bond or same level of intimacy with the characters.

                The two female characters that were focused upon were very contrasting and Gregory did a good job of portraying this. On the one hand we have the immature and young Elizabeth who is easily swayed by her heart and happy to let a man control her country for her. She is presented as quite meek when it comes to ruling a country too. On the other hand we have Amy who is of a much lower stance than Elizabeth yet I can't help feeling that she would have done a better job as Queen, her goodness and sheer strength of character was so different.

                I often find slight complaints with the pace of books, some seem to focus on just one or two events whereas others try to encompass huge periods of time that is just not possible. This book spans two years and managed to do so in a way that I felt I wasn't really missing anything major. Although it often only devoted a chapter to a particular season it seemed to easily detail everything that occured in that season withou the reader feeling that they'd been a bit short changed. On the other hand it didn't go into too much detail either.

                As I'm not overly "in the know" regarding Tudor history I can't really comment on the accuracy of this tale. It is not known if Elizabeth and Robert were actually full blown lovers although it is certain that they loved each other from letters that were found. It is also not known if the twist that takes place at the end really occurred in such a fashion as several culprits for it have since been suggested. To be honest I enjoyed the series and the tale, whether or not they were one hundred percent accurate doesn't really bother me greatly.

                I did enjoy this book although not quite to the same extent as the others in the series. It manages to give a mixture of crime, politics and romance which is quite refreshing within the same book. I did read it to the end and can't have imagined not doing so as I was keen to find out what finished. It's not one of those books that you'll find hard to put down but it is one that you'll have to finish. If you're a fan of The Tudor Period then I'd recommend this book but possibly start with one of the earlier ones in the series.

                Thanks for reading.

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                  10.09.2008 12:14
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                  Historical novel

                  I am a very interested in the Tudor and Elizabethan periods of history and have read widely, both fiction and non-fiction on the subject. I recently read the other Boleyn girl by Phillipa Gregory and really loved it, so the Virgins lover by the same author was a natural choice as part of my holiday reading this summer.

                  The plot
                  ********
                  As this novel is about events that have already happened I don't think I can be accused of spoiling the plot! The novel contains 496 pages but only covers the first two years of Elizabeth 1's reign. It is well documented that Elizabeth was very fond of Lord Robert Dudley, just how fond nobody will ever really know. However the book has Elizabeth and Robert as lovers and secretly betrothed to be married. Lord Dudley was of course already married to Amy Robsart and the story switches between the glamour and intrigue of the court where Dudley spent most of his time, and the misery of Dudley's wife Amy living elsewhere. Amy is portrayed as a catholic and therefore a divorce is out of the question. In reality there is little known about Amy and as being a catholic would have been a dangerous admission at the time it is not surprising that her religious persuasion is not well know.

                  The love triangle between Amy, her husband and the queen ended with the suspicious death of Amy. This is a true Elizabethan mystery with several theories as to what really happened. Phillipa Gregory puts forward an interesting theory and there is a separate authors note at the end of the book giving evidence to back up her theory. I'm not going to tell you what that theory is!


                  The book also looks closely at William Cecil and his relationship with the queen and Robert Dudley. His little known private life is also written about in some detail. During the early part of Elizabeth's reign she was forced to defend her throne against the threat of a French invastion. The politics of the time is described well and helps put the story into its political context.

                  My opinion
                  **********
                  I really enjoyed reading the other Boleyn girl so was expecting great things from this novel. However I felt very disappointed by it and wouldn't recommend it for the following reasons-

                  Elizabeth 1's is portrayed as a weak woman, ruled by men. She is shown as unable to rule without Dudley constantly by her side, allowing him to manipulate her to his own ends. Historical evidence contradicts this view. I would have preferred a feistier queen!

                  Robert Dudley is shown to be a very unpleasant, vain man whose main ambition is to become king of England. Whilst this may in part be true I believe he did love Elizabeth and certainly stood by her throughout his entire life.

                  We know little about the character of Amy Dudley so Phillipa Gregory is able to shape her character in any way she likes. I found myself having little sympathy for the pathetic woman portrayed. I was intrigued by the theory put forward for her death however and am determined to take another look at the historical evidence that exists.

                  If you are interested in reading the book for yourself then it is available from Amazon for £4.63.

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                    25.02.2008 13:58
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                    A tale of Elizabethan political power struggles and a suspicious death.

                    This book covers the first two years of Elizabeth I's reign, 1558-1560. The young queen is portrayed as being frightened, and in need of emotional as well as practical counselling.

                    While reading this account I began to wonder who was her most important advisor William Cecil (The First Minister) or Robert Dudley (The Master of Horse)? Although the Master of Horse was a prestigious position, his advice shouldn't have been the most significant on a wide range of subjects.

                    As well as the problems concerning her relationship with Robert Dudley, she struggles with decisions affecting her cousin Mary Queen of Scots, and the threat of invasion from Scotland, possibly aided by France.

                    While historical records suggest that Elizabeth and Robert loved each other, there are uncertainties about whether they were full physical lovers. This book suggests that a sheep's bladder may have stopped the woman known as the Virgin Queen from becoming pregnant. However the author argues that whatever the full truth of this relationship was, it doesn't alter the main facts.

                    I think the best of the plot lines is a suspicious death, which greatly affects the main characters. Possible causes of death considered are cancer causing bone thinning, suicide and murder. If it was murder, there are at least 3 suspects/accessories.

                    Unlike some other books featuring Elizabeth I's "special friend", I think that a background knowledge of the Tudors is highly desirable before reading this one, to fully appreciate this account.

                    Philippa Gregory, who has degrees in both history and literature, has taken some historical facts that are not disputed and put a different interpretation on them to that which I have heard before. I believe that to fully appreciate her skill in this, you have to know the more common conclusions.

                    As the most powerful have the greatest influence on the contents of historical records that are passed down, I think it is right to consider possible bias when interpreting them.

                    Reading Jean Plaidy's book, entitled Lord Robert, before reading The Virgin's Lover helped me value this latter book better. Jean Plaidy's book tells the traditional version of the whole of Robert Dudley's life, whereas the Virgin's Lover only covers two years of it in more detail.

                    There have been many books and films about Elizabeth I and her Tudor relatives. The only popular entertainment that I would recommend you to avoid, if wanting an historically accurate account, is the recent series entitled The Tudors shown on BBC. I was extremely surprised that the BBC showed a production with glaring inaccuracies, for those who have some knowledge of this time, but it seems that the primary aim of this series was to entertain. On investigation I found that an American channel originally commissioned the series. Search for The Tudors on www.radiotimes.com if you want the creator's reaction to criticism about inaccuracy.


                    *** Recommendation ***

                    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which incorporates a mysterious death with romance and the politics of the time. As with Philippa Gregory's other historical fiction books, the story is well researched, and has interesting, well-developed and credible characters.

                    For me it was a five star read, but readers with no previous knowledge of this period of history may not appreciate it as much as I did.

                    As explained above, I recommend this most to those who already have a love of Tudor history, rather than a starting point to acquiring knowledge.




                    RRP: £7.99
                    Paperback: 496 pages
                    Publisher: Harper (25 April 2005)
                    ISBN-10: 0007147317
                    ISBN-13: 978-0007147311

                    As with some other Philippa Gregory paperbacks, the print is smaller than average. If this is a problem for you, look out for the hardback or large print versions.

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                  • Product Details

                    Sumptuous historical novel from bestselling author of THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL and THE QUEEN'S FOOL Elizabeth I has acceded to the throne of England, a position she has waited and schemed for all her life. She is surrounded by advisers, all convinced that a young woman cannot form political judgements. Elizabeth feels that she can rely on just one man: her oldest friend, Robert Dudley. It is soon plain that he is more than merely a friend. In a house in the countryside waits a very different woman, Amy Robsart - Robert's wife. She has no taste for life at court and longs for the day when her husband will return home. She has loved him since she was a girl, but now they are adults she hardly sees him. Meanwhile, the pressure grows for Elizabeth to marry, for it is unthinkable that a queen should rule on her own. Elizabeth's preference is clear, but he is unavailable. But what if the unthinkable were to happen! Philippa Gregory blends passion, personalities and politics in this stunning novel of the Tudor court and a country divided.