I've always heard good things about Gregory's books. This was my 1st one and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. It was not a bad story, per se, but not the great story that I was expecting.
I was disappointed in the way Queen Elizabeth was portrayed. Gregory shows Elizabeth as an almost weak-willed, indecisive woman ruled by her love of a person she knows she can not not have. She can not make a firm decision about war with France. She's left scandal about her and Dudley to run amok, let her attention stray from matters of state and her safety, since early in her reign it was anything but secure, all for her love of Dudley.. except when Dudley is ready to be her King and not King-Consort, as Phillip was for Queen Mary. And then she was ready to scheme with Cecil to remove him as a love interest and remove any hope Dudley has of becoming her husband and King of England. The switch was too sudden for my taste. In a night's time, she is gone from not being able to function without Dudley to being able to put him aside.
Also, from the jacket cover, the story outline leads you to believe this book is about the issue of Amy's death and the impact it had on the Queen and her court, especially Dudley. This is not even really touched on. Amy didn't die until almost at the very end of the book (her death was on page 410 of about 438 pages of actual story material). The scandal of her death and Elizabeth and Cecil's seemingly forehand knowledge is barely mentioned. As a book that takes place during a period of history that I find very fascinating, I have to say it was not nearly as good as I would have hoped and didn't really explore the aftermath of the scandal in the depth I thought it would.
A very different picture of Amy Dudley than was in the Queen's Fool. Also a very different picture of Queen Elizabeth than most biographies would show. Even so, this was a very enjoyable read and follows right along with Ms. Gregory's historical novels.
I probably should've read the "prequel", The Queen's Fool, prior to reading this since there were lots of references made. I couldn't really get into this book because quite frankly, the two main women, Elizabeth and Amy Dudley, annoyed me to no end. The book started to read as a broken record esp. with Elizabeth's dialog. Started to pick up at the end, though, as we read more into foreign policy and negotiation (well, I find that stuff interesting). The historic note at the end is really thought provoking.
While I loved The Other Boleyn Girl, and enjoyed The Queens Fool, this book was a bit of a disappointment. While I still enjoy the way Gregory makes historical figures real, I was very disappointed with her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in this book. Instead of the strong Queen, after which an entire era was named, we have a whiny, insecure, indecisive ninny. This I took great exception to. Although I am willing to accept a great deal of leeway in fiction, this seemed over the top to me. I did enjoy the rationalization of the crime, distasteful as it may be, but for the most part found the depiction of women in this book to be rather misogynistic. Not one of her better efforts.
Well, I think this book was a bit over hyped and a let down to Philippa Gregory's prior works. Any fan of the Tutor age will love this book. The writing is sharp, clever and is written so colorfully that you really do have an idea of how people were back then. An enjoyable read full of lust, deception and plotting (not unlike our modern day politics). Go ahead and try it!