Sweeping us into glittering, intrigue-riddled Elizabethan England, bringing to vivid life an actual heroine in the queen's court, New York Times bestselling author Virginia Henley blends rich historical detail with sumptuous romance in her latest novel--a dazzling feast of romantic fiction....
Young Bess Hardwick knew that the only way to escape a commoner's life was to serve in a noble family and marry well. So the headstrong beauty set out for London and the Tudor court, the arena for the richest, most ambitious men, none more powerful than the four men who would claim her. None more dangerous than Princess Elizabeth, who made Bess friend, confidante, then lady-in-waiting in her own glittering court...
Dangerously seductive, William Cavendish, the king's dashing financial adviser, vowed to have Bess at any cost. Frail, adoring Robert Barlow offered a marriage she couldn't refuse. Newly crowned Queen Elizabeth bade her marry courtly Sir William St. Loe. But reckless passion drove Bess into the arms of George Talbot, the devastating Earl of Shrewsbury, whose wicked daring ignited in Bess the passion of a lifetime--even as it sparked the jealous interest of the most perilous ally of all: the Virgin Queen....
Veteran romance writer Henley (A Year and a Day) would have readers believe that sexual liaisons were the primary focus of society in 16th-century England. Based on the life of Elizabeth (Bess) Hardwick, the determined commoner who served Elizabeth I as a lady-in-waiting and later became the Countess of Shrewsbury, the book's formidable heroine is unfortunately stifled here by the confines of the romantic fiction genre. Haunted by the nightmare of being ruthlessly thrust out of her beloved home during childhood, Bess decides early on to raise her station in life, vowing to become a lady of position and wealth, and to win back her beloved Hardwick Manor. The exuberant Bess makes speedy progress toward the elevated noble status to which she devotes single-minded energy. Circumstances lead her to wed four husbands, including royal financial adviser William Cavendish (whom she loves) and Sir William St. Loe (whom she doesn't). Henley fixates on her heroine's numerous sexual experiences--from a fumbling, unconsummated first marriage to the many passionate encounters that result in six children by the time she is 28. The amply researched tale aims to delve into the notorious court life celebrated by Henry VIII and later, his daughter Elizabeth I, but much of the period detail and dialogue stray into a jarringly modern-day sensibility ("we are two oversexed people who can't keep their hands off each other!"). The complex politics of the day persistently take a backseat to the licentious habits of royals and upper-classes. While the scintillating sex passages may please some readers, others may feel that Henley skirts the challenge of fully exploring the spirit of this indomitable English woman whose remarkable legacy remains in historic sites such as Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall.
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A woman of passion