This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: The Queen's Pleasure

The Queen's Pleasure, Brandy Purdy
4 roses

I was so honored when Brandy Purdy asked me if I'd like to review her newest novel! I have enjoyed her previous novels and was eager to dive into this one. While it covers a time period I am quite familiar with, Elizabeth I's reign, it is about a person that I am only slightly familiar with: Amy Dudley, wife of the Queen's favorite, Robert Dudley. I wasn't sure what to expect with this story as there hasn't been much out there about Amy and the little bit I've read in different books has been contradictory, but I was not disappointed with what I found between the pages.


Before picking up this book I knew who Amy Dudley was and what happened to her and the speculation surrounding that event but that was basically all I knew. The one story I have read that focused on her life was so horrible that I found I didn't like any of the people in it and, as that author's portrayal of Elizabeth I was so twisted from everything else I'd read about her, I had a very hard time believing anything presented about Amy. However, Ms. Purdy has really opened up the life of this rather mysterious historical figure and presented a very interesting story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and actually had a hard time putting down in the evenings. I thought she did a wonderful job of showing Amy as a simple, country girl who only wanted someone to love and to be loved in return and who, though still deeply in love and trying to cling to a little hope, knew that she had lost the man she loved. I could actually feel sorry for this Amy and hated the way she was treated by her husband (whereas in the other novel I read about her I couldn't stand her clingy ways and didn't care what happened to her). I could almost feel her helplessness as she realized that nothing she ever did would be good enough for Robert. Her struggle with the cancer in her breast was absolutely heartbreaking and I can not begin to imagine how terrifying it might have been for someone suffering from it during this time period of limited medical knowledge and medicine. As no one knows for certain what exactly happened to Amy that day at Cumnor Place, there were several theories at the time (and that still persist to this day) and Ms. Purdy has actually manged to weave most of them together, creating a believable story. I liked her portrayal of Elizabeth here as well: a strong, intelligent woman who knows her own mind and what she wants but yet likes to have a little fun, though never letting it influence her dedication to England (this is not the sniveling, unable to function without a man Elizabeth that you'll find in that other novel). I loved the way the author has Elizabeth stepping in as Amy's unknown "champion" when she realizes how Robert had lied to her about his relationship with his wife and how she was being treated. As for Robert Dudley, the more I read about him in various novels, the more I do not like him. I absolutely hated him here not only for the horrible way he treated Amy but for his disgusting arrogance and ambition to be King. I literally laughed in delight when Elizabeth finally put him in his place towards the end and he realized that his dream (or in his eyes, his destiny) to be King was not going to be realized.

No one knows for certain what really happened to Amy and even to this day several theories exist. The little bit of historical information about what happened (namely the findings of the jury investigating her death) really doesn't answer any questions and historians and novelists have been filling in the gaps ever since. I feel Brandy Purdy did a great job patching together the very scanty information available about Amy and creating a believable story. At no point did I think "well, that couldn't have happened" or "that doesn't sound like something he/she would've said." After reading Ms. Purdy's novel I am sad to know that this one woman whose untimely death (natural or unnatural) probably had a huge impact on England's history is so relatively unknown; there is really nothing out there that tells us what Amy Robsart Dudley was really like. I can recommend this to any lovers of Tudor historical fiction. It is also an easy read that readers new to the time period or genre would have no problem following or understanding.

Thank you Brandy for the chance to read your wonderful novel!

Note: This will be published in the UK as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy.