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Did they do it?
The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory
Member Name: katyj10
The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory
Advantages: Fascinating insight
Disadvantages: Bit predictable
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.
Summary: I enjoyed reading this.