The fifth book in Gregory’s Tudor series The Virgin’s Lover tells the frustratingly romantic tale of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. Faced with war in Scotland, supported by the French, Elizabeth must make “kingly” decisions without a husband. Thus, her betrothal and resulting marriage become a hot topic, in addition to the uncertainty of religion in England. Robert Dudley feels he’s best suited for the role and woos Elizabeth into a passionate romance. The problem? Robert is married. Elizabeth’s lifelong advisor William Cecil helps her navigate the constant challenges that face her as queen and leads her to her final decision.
First and foremost, if you have any notions of how Queen Elizabeth was as a successful monarch, put those aside for this novel. She is portrayed as selfish, spoiled, and without a backbone. The emphasis on her need for a man is frustrating – though historically accurate. Unfortunately, Gregory made Elizabeth pathetic in her need for a man, rather than stressing the political implications of marrying. I almost put the book down for this reason alone.
Knowing the scandal that surrounded Robert Dudley and his wife Amy during this time, I was very curious to see what stance Gregory would take with the theories. I was not disappointed. I won’t ruin the end for you. It’s a particularly delicious mystery because it’s real.
I struggled with the love story between Elizabeth and Robert for the sole reason that I couldn’t bring myself to trust Robert and his ambition. History tells of an undying devotion to each other, but perhaps in the way the story was written, I was not convinced. Plus, he was kind of a douchebag for the way he treated his wife. Not until I read Gregory’s Note at the end of the book did I get snapped back into historical record and you feel the real love that existed between the two of them. Don’t forget to read it – it’ll make your heart melt.
I’m moving on to the final book in the Tudor series tomorrow. We’ll see how she rounds out the series with Mary, Queen of Scots.