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By Bonnie-Ann on 03-30-13
Interesting Mixture of Fact and Fiction
Let me first do my standard disclosure: I do not like Elizabeth Tudor. Whenever I write a review about Tudor fiction, I feel it is only fair to state that up front because my dislike of Elizabeth I may or may not color my opinions. I try to be fair, but I don't like her.
That said, I DO like what Robin Maxwell does with Elizabeth in this fictional portrayal of her teenage life. The story is set during the time period, following Henry VIII's death, when Elizabeth had been restored to the line of succession, but came in behind her brother Edward (now King of England but a child) and her sister, Mary Tudor. Elizabeth lives with her stepmother, the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr, and with the Lord Admiral of England, Thomas Seymour. The story of Katherine's quick marriage to Thomas, her pregnancy and death from childbed fever is incorporated into this novel of the relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour -- which was always suspected, never confirmed and which is the source of all of the rumors that Elizabeth may have had a child after all. There are no spoilers here -- Alison Weir wrote a brilliant novel on this same subject and her research is always flawless.
I like Robin Maxwell's writing. I like it a lot. As I said in a previous review about The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, I do not want to like Elizabeth Tudor, but I find my eyes opening just a little. Any author who can get me to feel sorry for Elizabeth is talented by definition. That said, I find the Princess terribly whiny in this novel; not the narration, the dialogue. However, we are talking about a teenage girl who has had a difficult life, always fearing for own life, never certain of her place. I continuously thought to myself as I listened to this novel that "if there was an older man hitting on a teenage girl NOW, his backside would be locked up." That alone, the pursuit of Elizabeth by Thomas and the lengths to which he manipulated her young emotions, is worth the listen.
You will not, after listening to this book, like Thomas Seymour. He was never the most likeable person to begin with, but Ms. Maxwell portrays him in such a way as to be beyond detestable. He borders on evil and that is my sole criticism of this novel -- my own research has not shown Seymour to be evil, just grasping and scandalous and greedy beyond measure. From the historical viewpoint, he probably deserved his execution for treason; I'm just not sure he deserves as much loathing as Ms. Maxwell creates for the reader/listener. I have no doubt he seduced Elizabeth Tudor. I have no doubt he attempted to steal the Protectorship of England from his older brother. I do have my doubts as to the lengths he may or may not have gone to in order to gain the power he sought.
Overall, this is a fantastic book. I listened to it avidly and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's well worth a credit (in fact, I purchased extras to get this book and Ms. Maxwell's other Elizabethian novel, The Queen's Bastard).
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