Philippa Gregory~~4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews

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The Other Queen
Philippa Gregory
Touchstone Hardcover

            Philippa Gregory's latest fictionalized biography is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but focuses on the doomed queen, Mary, Queen of Scots. This novel covers the years that she was kept prisoner by George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick. The events of 1568-72 are told from the points of view of these three characters.
           George is a man whose very bloodline is defined by his honor. His family has stood by every English monarch for centuries. Yet he finds himself trapped between two desires, his need to serve Elizabeth, and his growing love for the beautiful, vibrant, sensual Mary. Bess is a self-made woman who started from poverty and added to her fortune with each of her husbands. Now, she watches in dismay as this queen without a throne drains their coffers, with no remuneration from Elizabeth. And Mary is a woman born to be queen of Scotland, heir to the throne of England, and once married to the heir of the throne of France. She believes herself entitled to greatness, a greatness which justifies whatever means she can muster in her captivity to ascend to Scotland's throne, and eventually England's as well. She and her many supporters foment rebellion, amass an army, even contract a marriage, and only the wily William Cecil seems to have the cunning to stop her.
            Philippa Gregory uses painstaking research, some of it new and all of it annotated in her bibliography. Lovers of history will gain insight into a little-mentioned period of Elizabethan England, and lovers of a good story will certainly find one here. The chapters, some of which are very short, alternate between the main characters' points of view, and although this makes for a choppy story at first, readers will become absorbed in this tragic tale.

Heather Nordahl Files