Thursday, 13 January 2011

My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt

GENRE: historical fiction

Is Queen Elizabeth I too wily or too afraid to marry? Or is there a spoiler -- Lettice Devereaux -- in the royal romances? The marriage between this beautiful and tempestuous widow and Elizabeth's longtime favorite, the Earl of Leicester, can't have endeared Lettice to the queen. Some years later, on Leicester's death, another courtier wins the queen's heart -- only to break it by secretly marrying someone else and then by plotting against the Crown. This soldier-poet, the Earl of Essex, is the son of Lettice and her first husband, Walter Devereaux.

This book presents the story of Lettice Knollys, the woman who married Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite, and consequently became an object of the queen’s anger and resentment.

This story is rich with historical details and presents life and people at the court of Elizabeth I very skilfully and clearly, without confusing the reader, and it follows historical events. Tudor England is one of my favourite historical periods to read about and I am very strict when it comes to assessing a book taking place in Tudor England, but Holt delivered the story very well and managed to create tension and anticipation in me, although I already knew the historical facts.

The narrator of the story is Lettice Knollys, a noble woman who angered Queen Elizabeth I by marrying the Queen’s favourite, the famous Robert Dudley. I am very pleased when obscure historical people have a central role in a novel and Lettice Knollys is a great example of the fact that sometimes, history forgets people that should not be forgotten, as they played an important role in historical events.

Queen Elizabeth I is known for her love for Robert Dudley (she is well known for other – more important – things as well, of course). She showered him with gifts and titles, but Robert was married and their relationship did not have a future. Then, Robert’s wife died and the path to marriage opened for the Queen and her love, but they could not marry because Robert’s wife died in suspicious circumstances and the Queen could not afford to be blamed for it. That put an end to any possibility of Elizabeth and Robert ever marrying. However, Robert could not marry the Queen, but he could marry any other woman. Lettice Knollys, the Queen’s cousin, came to court, fell in love with Robert, became his mistress and then his wife. Yet although this might seem perfectly natural, the Queen still felt she was the one woman in Robert’s life and she did not approve of his second marriage in the slightest. And so, the Queen of England became Lettice’s enemy and Lettice’s marriage did not contain two, but three people.

Although the Queen did not want to see Robert’s wife at court, the lives of the two women remained linked because they both loved the same man. Consequently, Lettice’s life was one of tension and uncertainty and although she was married to the man she loved and they had a happy marriage, the Queen’s shadow hovered above them. Things finally settled, then complicated drastically years later when Lettice’s son, the Earl of Essex, became one of the Queen’s favourites and mad a terrible mistake.

This novel is a dynamic, intense story about two women – Lettice Knollys at its centre and Queen Elizabeth I in the background. It features a very accurate description of Elizabeth I, her life and her court. Historical details are accompanied by drama and tension, which serves for a great reading experience. Lettice Knollys is well outlined and presented as the woman she was.

The novel is an absorbing read and a faithful account of the Tudor era and of the lives of the people who were a part of the infamous love triangle. The fictional parts and the dialogue seem believable and realistic and becausee the novel is mostly very accurate, it might also provide the reader with a fun way of learning a bit more about Elizabeth I and the Tudor court.

It is a recommended read for lovers of historical fiction.

THIS MISS RATES: / (4.5 stars)


Jo K said...

Great review! My Enemy the Queen is one of my favourite Holt's novels. As you pointed out it is very acurate as to the historical facts, which I liked a lot.

Mary Simonsen said...

Oh what a tangled web the Dudleys and Elizabeth wove. This looks very interesting. Thanks. Mary

Blodeuedd said...

Elizabeth sure seemed very vengeful, but then perhaps that as a trait from her dad. Funny family

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I always thought it sucked that Elizabeth couldn't marry the man she loved and thus did vengeful things as above, although I think he shouldn't have remarried anyway if he truly reciprocated her love.

Great review; should probably read some more historical fiction this year.

Jan von Harz said...

Very interesting time period. I can see why you love it. The book does sound like a great historical read. Great review!

Dot said...

I love the sound of this, I'm a big fan of historical fiction so this shall be going on the list!