Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Read - The Virgin's Lover

The Virgin's Lover
by Philippa Gregory
2004
438 pages

'From #1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) comes a riveting and scandalous love triangle between a young woman on the brink of greatness, a young man whose ambition far exceeds his means, and the wife who cannot forgive them.

In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous news that Elizabeth I is the new queen, yet one woman hears the tidings with utter dread. She is Amy Dudley, wife of Sir Robert, and she knows that Elizabeth’s ambitious leap to the throne will draw her husband back to the center of the glamorous Tudor court, where he was born to be.

Elizabeth’s excited triumph is short-lived. She has inherited a bankrupt country where treason is rampant and foreign war a certainty. Her faithful advisors warns her that she will survive only if she marries a strong prince to govern the rebellious country, but the one man Elizabeth desires is her childhood friend, the ambitious Robert Dudley. As the young couple falls back in love, a question hangs in the air: can he really set aside his wife and marry the queen? When Amy is found dead, Elizabeth and Dudley are suddenly plunged into a struggle for survival.
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I received this book several years ago from a girl who was giving away books she just hadn't been able to get into.  I tried reading it at the time but wasn't as into the whole Tudor history as I am now, and found the book confusing and stupid.  Time went by, I got more and more into the Tudors and have recently been reading about them again, so I decided to give this book a try.  Now that I understand things more, it was much easier to read.

But I was still disappointed.

Okay, I do realize this is historical fiction and that Philippa Gregory has been slammed for being highly inaccurate in her writing.  I'm aware of that with each of her books that I read.  I still read them though because it's an easier way to learn more about this time in history than to struggle through some dry, fact overloaded nonfiction thing.  So yes, I did (and still do) find the story of Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley quite interesting and I have been doing some reading online about it all, getting some more factual accounts.

My biggest problem with *this* story, with Philippa Gregory's take on it all, is that she made Elizabeth into SUCH a wimpy, whiny, spineless girl.  She freakin' bordered on mental in this book!  Her constant repeating of whiny, pointless things in important meetings was so annoying.  Like, they're having very important meetings to discuss going to war, and all she can do is whine and whimper about "Bring the boats back" or some other such nonsense.  She was just made out to be so . . . stupid!  I kept reading, thinking 'Wasn't she supposed to be one of the strongest, greatest leaders ever?'  I vaguely remember the two movies about Elizabeth that Cate Blanchett stars in, and I remember her being strong and capable.  I kept wondering why the author would make her out to be so stupid and whiny, and it really killed the story for me.

I've read other reviews and people seem to feel that none of the main four characters were likeable.  I thought Cecil was okay.  Robert was okay because he was supposed to be an unlikable character anyway.  How accurate this book's portrayal of him is, I don't know, but at least you know what you're getting from him, arrogance and ambition.  Robert's wife Amy started off okay for me but then she too was written increasingly helpless and stupid.  To be simple and meek is one thing, but to be this almost zombie by the end was ridiculous to read.

A brief summary . . .
Robert Dudley and Elizabeth have been friends since childhood.  They've both gone through plenty of hard times, both were locked in the Tower of London for crimes of treason, and both survived and clawed their way back to the top.  In Elizabeth's case, she's taken the throne.  And in Robert's case, he's riding the coat tails of her success and using their old familiarity to get close to her again and gain favor.  Robert has been married to Amy for years.  They married for love when they were young.  She stuck by him through all his troubles.  She is very religious and believes her marriage is 'till death do us part.'  She has no desire for life at court, and that suits Robert just fine.  She is out of sight, out of mind, while he gets closer and closer to the queen.

Cecil is Elizabeth's longtime advisor.  She trusts his guidance absolutely.  That is, until Robert worms his way in.  There is a sort of silent battle of one-up-manship between the two as Cecil tries to keep Elizabeth on a sure and steady course to gain popularity and control of the land, and keep her from falling into further scandal with Robert.  Robert meanwhile has his eyes on the title of King of England as he and Elizabeth grow closer and begin a scandalous love affair.  He starts to gain some power over her because he knows she won't deny him anything.  And Cecil is working to put a stop to all that.

Meanwhile, quiet little Amy become the roadblock on their way to happiness.  He cannot marry Elizabeth because he's already married to Amy.  Elizabeth, in restructuring the church, could grant him a divorce, but Amy refuses.  She can't believe Robert would even consider breaking vows they took before God.  Gossip and scandal grows.  Gee, if only Amy were out of the way . . .

And then she winds up dead.
Who did it???
In reality, to this day, her death is still a mystery.  In this book, the reasoning and the way the author goes about it is quite weak and ridiculous.  The fallout of it all though, is actually quite heartbreaking.  Turns out simply getting her out of the way isn't going to solve anyone's problems after all.

I did enjoy the book enough to continue learning about this particular story now, but I do wish Elizabeth hadn't been written as a helpless ninny.

Are you a Philippa Gregory fan?
A Tudor history fan?


4 comments:

  1. Ooooo! I normally love PG's stuff but some do leave me a little flat. The Red Queen and White Queen series were ones I could not get into. You should read Elizabeth I by Margaret George. It is a beast of a book but I found it really interesting. I have it if you want me to mail it to you.

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    1. White Queen was the first of her books that I read and it introduced me to the story of the lost princes, which I'd never even heard of before.

      Have you seen the White Queen series that was on a couple years ago? It's a mix of her books White Queen, Kingmaker's Daughter (?), and maybe Red Queen.

      I do want to read that book! Maybe I can send you my dvds of the White Queen series?

      ~Deb

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  2. I tried PG back in high school and I remember feeling less than pleased at her writing. I'm okay with taking creative liberties when writing but something about the way she changed the characters and strayed from known happenings struck me as odd.

    The cover of this book makes me want to reread the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. The books are nothing alike but the first book I read with that cover style was A Great and Terrible Beauty. I may have to look for that series now, since I don't think I own it.

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    1. Hmm, I'm not familiar with the Gemma Doyle books. I just looked them up on Amazon and am considering adding them to my wish list. Thanks!

      ~Deb

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