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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.
Bestseller Gregory captivates again with this expertly crafted historical about the beautiful young Virgin Queen, portrayed as a narcissistic, neurotic home-wrecker. As in her previous novels about Tudor England (The Queen's Fool, etc.), Gregory amasses a wealth of colorful period detail to depict the shaky first days of Elizabeth I's reign. The year is 1558, an especially dangerous time for the nation: no bishop will coronate Henry VIII's Protestant daughter, the treasury is bankrupt, the army is unpaid and demoralized. Meanwhile, the French are occupying Scotland and threatening to install "that woman" Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. Ignoring the matrimonial advice of pragmatic Secretary of State William Cecil, the 25-year-old Elizabeth persists in stringing along Europe's most eligible bachelors, including King Philip of Spain and the Hapsburg archduke Ferdinand. It's no secret why: she's fallen for her "dark, saturnine" master of horse, Sir Robert Dudley, whose traitorous family history and marriage to the privately Catholic Amy make him an unsuitable consort. Gregory deftly depicts this love triangle as both larger than life and all too familiar; all three characters are sympathetic without being likable, particularly the arch-mistress Elizabeth, who pouts, throws tantrums, connives and betrays with queenly impunity. After a while the plot stagnates, as the lovers flaunt their emotions in the face of repetitious arguments from Amy, Cecil and various other scandalized members of the court. But readers addicted to Gregory's intelligent, well-researched tales of intrigue and romance will be enthralled, right down to the teasingly tragic ending.