A Favorite of the Queen, Jean Plaidy
I love Jean Plaidy and I am a fan of Elizabeth I so I couldn't pass on this book when I saw it at the store. This is the last novel in Plaidy's Tudor series and rather than focusing on the Queen this novel focuses on the life of Elizabeth's love, Robert Dudley. While of course Elizabeth features in the story Plaidy really focuses the majority of the novel on Robert and his family and their thoughts and feelings. It was certainly an interesting look at this well known figure in history.
This is a short book and a very fast read; many episodes are lightly touched on or mentioned in passing after the fact. It starts with Robert's father, 9 year old John Dudley, watching the execution of his father at the beginning of Henry VIII's reign and continues until Robert's death in 1588. Plaidy really shows how his father's determination to rise to great heights at the Tudor court shaped Robert's outlook on life and on himself; he really saw himself as A Very Important Person. This feeling of superiority carried him throughout life and greatly influenced the choices he made. We watch him grow and mature and learn to maneuver through the politics of the day, including managing to survive his father's downfall in Mary's reign. Plaidy also gives the reader a closer look at Robert's various intimate relationships, including his volatile marriage to Amy Robsart. While Plaidy certainly portrays Robert as a man who is ambitious and believes himself to be destined for greatness (but how could he not think this when his family was always telling him how wonderful he was) he does not come across as an extremely sneaky, devious, and manipulative man, willing to go to any lengths to gain a crown; he is actually quite likable and you do have to feel a bit sorry for him at points. They way Plaidy presents the growth and evolution of Robert and Elizabeth's relationship is wonderful, showing how they change and mature from infatuated, passionate youngsters to adults whose love is deep and mature. It is rather sad that two people who obviously loved one another and were very well matched could not be together.
The story of Robert and Elizabeth's relationship has been written about many times in many novels but this would have to be one of my favorite portrayals. Plaidy writes historical fiction in the way it should be written - sticking to the facts (as much as possible for an author of fiction) and not throwing in things just for sensationalism. I would certainly recommend this book to any lovers of Tudor history and fans of Elizabeth. Plaidy's clear and easy to read writing style make this a great book for those not already familiar with the story. Please be aware that this is a reissue of Plaidy's book and they have changed the title. The original title was Gay Lord Robert so if you have read that, it is the same book.