The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory

I’m trying my hardest to finish up my Alphabet Reading Challenge. In this case, I was looking for a book title starting with V (finding titles starting with a specific letter requires wandering the library and just scanning titles until something catches my eye. Turns out I already had a V title that I hadn’t recorded so I didn’t need to read this one). Haven’t read any British historical fiction in a while, so this looked interesting and different.

Published: 2004

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 438 pages

Setting: England, 1557-1560

Summary: Robert Dudley has great ambitions and hopes to succeed so well the stain of “traitor” is wiped from his family name. His wife, Amy, would prefer to live quietly on a small country estate. His first plan is to succeed in the military, but he’s part of the campaign that loses Calais to the French. His fortunes change when Queen Mary dies and Elizabeth ascends the throne. Elizabeth makes Robert Master of the Horse and falls in love with him. She has many issues to deal with in the first years of her rule (returning the Church to Protestantism, a Scottish rebellion, lack of money, who to marry) and often turns to Cecil, an old friend, and Robert for advice. Robert hopes the Queen will annul his marriage and make him King. He even starts to act as if he’s already King. Many noblemen are worried by Dudley’s influence, but can do nothing to change it until Robert’s wife dies under mysterious circumstances.

Final thoughts: High quality historical fiction. By the end, I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to know how they would get out of the fix Elizabeth was in. I knew she survived these first tumultuous years (I was pretty sure Elizabethan England referred to her reign), but it seemed like she was doomed to failure. Elizabeth acknowledged the fact that she couldn’t say “no” to Robert, so Cecil had to eliminate his influence without involving her. Too bad it meant Amy had to die. She just wanted to live quietly with her husband, and he wanted nothing of the sort. Not a good match. Turns out the real Amy Dudley did die under mysterious circumstances, just like in the book.

I also felt sorry for Elizabeth – she didn’t know what to do or who to trust (beyond Cecil and Robert) and dithered on all the big decisions. Robert could manage her tempers, but had his own ambitions and agenda. At least Cecil was a counteracting force.

Title comes from: The book focused on Robert, lover to Queen Elizabeth, who was supposed to be a virgin until she married (like all women at the time).

Reading challenges fulfilled: #98 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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