In honor of Elizabeth I's birthday today, I'm giving away a copy of Carolly Erickson's new novel RIVAL TO THE QUEEN which is due to be published by St. Martin's Press at the end of this month. From the Publisher: Powerful, dramatic and full of the rich history that has made Carolly Erickson’s novels perennial bestsellers, this is the story of the only woman to ever stand up to the Virgin Queen— her own cousin, Lettie Knollys. Far more attractive than the queen, Lettie soon won the attention of the handsome and ambitious Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a man so enamored of the queen and determined to share her throne that it was rumored he had murdered his own wife in order to become her royal consort. The enigmatic Elizabeth allowed Dudley into her heart, and relied on his devoted service, but shied away from the personal and political risks of marriage.
When Elizabeth discovered that he had married her cousin Lettie in secret, Lettie would pay a terrible price, fighting to keep her husband’s love and ultimately losing her beloved son, the Earl of Essex, to the queen’s headsman. This is the unforgettable story of two women related by blood, yet destined to clash over one of Tudor England’s most charismatic men.
My thoughts: This book is a brisk, lively read but anyone who has read Victoria Holt's MY ENEMY THE QUEEN or looking for a juicy historical novel promised by the title is bound to be disappointed by this book. In Erickson's hands, Elizabeth I is a jealous, cantankerous shrew, while Robert Dudley is the Elizabethan equivalent of Errol Flynn. Everyone is a caricature including Lettice's father who is reduced to stern Puritan and an invented sister who serves as the villainess of the story, popping up to ruin Lettice's happiness. The biggest weakness of the book is Lettice herself who seems to go blithely through her life with no self-reflection. It's all "La La, maid of honor to the Queen, la la married to Deveraux, had children, la la, who isn't Robert Dudley a hunk! la la now we're in love and blissful, la la, oops he's dead but I have Christopher Blount to keep me warm la la my son is plotting against the Queen, bad Robin la la." Much is made in the beginning of the book of Lettice thinking that she and her siblings are royal through Mary Boleyn's liaison with Henry VIII but then its dropped. It never manifests itself in any kind of behavior. Tracy Borham describes Lettice in ELIZABETH'S WOMEN as vain, grasping and snobbish and it would have been nice to see just a few of those traits manifest themselves in the book. The Queen takes against Lettice within minutes of meeting her for no apparent reason other than she's pretty.
Because the book is so short (292 pages), 8 of Lettice's siblings fall by the wayside as if they never existed, as do 2 of Lettice's children by Walter Deveraux. For some reason, Erickson fudges the ages of Lettice making her 6 years older than she actually was when she married Deveraux. Erickson places Lettice at events she probably wasn't at such as Amy Dudley's inquest, just so she can jump up and defend Dudley. The most interesting part of the book takes place in Frankfurt where the Knollys have settled during the reign of Mary I.
Verdict: If one is looking for a light quick read this book is for you but I would suggest that you pick up a copy of Holt's MY ENEMY THE QUEEN as well.
Here are the rules: This giveaway is only available to American and Canadian readers. The giveaway is open from today until 12 p.m. on Monday September 13th. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, September 14th.
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