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Literature & Fiction

The Virgin's Lover - Rupert Penry-Jones,Philippa Gregory

The Virgin's Lover

Author: Rupert Penry-Jones,Philippa Gregory
Book title: The Virgin's Lover
ISBN: 0007718632
ISBN13: 978-0007718634
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; Abridged edition (October 18, 2004)
Language: English
Category: Genre Fiction
Rating: 4.8/5
Votes: 515
More formats: mbr rtf lrf mobi

Sumptuous historical novel from bestselling author of THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL and THE QUEEN'S FOOL Elizabeth I has acceded to the throne of England, a position she has waited and schemed for all her life. She is surrounded by advisers, all convinced that a young woman cannot form political judgements. Elizabeth feels that she can rely on just one man: her oldest friend, Robert Dudley. It is soon plain that he is more than merely a friend. In a house in the countryside waits a very different woman, Amy Robsart -- Robert's wife. She has no taste for life at court and longs for the day when her husband will return home. She has loved him since she was a girl, but now they are adults she hardly sees him. Meanwhile, the pressure grows for Elizabeth to marry, for it is unthinkable that a queen should rule on her own. Elizabeth's preference is clear, but he is unavailable. But what if the unthinkable were to happen! Philippa Gregory blends passion, personalities and politics in this stunning novel of the Tudor court and a country divided.
Reviews: (7)
Philippa Gregory often bases her books on people who were close to a member of the monarchy but not the "main character" historically. Two examples of this are Mary Boleyn in "The Other Boleyn Girl" and Prince Arthur in ",The Constant Princess." This novel is based on the life of Robert Dudley, the man Queen Elizabeth Tudor loved for decades. The story takes place in the very beginning of Elizabeth's long reign. Robert, her childhood friend, is a member of her court, and serves as her Master of Horse. He truly loves Elizabeth-but he desires her throne as well. Despite having a wife, he sets out to seduce the young queen; and he gradually becomes her primary advisor. His ultimate goal is for Elizabeth to grant him a divorce-so he can become king. This novel is fascinating because the reader meets Elizabeth BEFORE she becomes the revered and fascinating icon celebrated in history. Here the reader sees her as she was in the beginning of her reign: brilliant and perceptive but young, vulnerable, and blinded by love. We also meet Robert's deserted wife, Amy, a pretty, sweet and fragile woman caught between the desires of two charismatic figures. Ms Gregory beautifully brings out the intrigue, tension, and daily realities of court life-and offers a very interesting theory about a murder that stopped Lord Dudley's rise to power- but still remains unsolved nearly 500 years later. Definitely one of Ms Gregory's best.
I really enjoyed TVL. While it's not as good as some of Gregory's other novels (and certainly no more historically accurate...) it's a very interesting portrait of the early days of Elizabeth's reign and of the monumental problems faced by the country. I appreciated seeing the situation from the point of view of the common people, not just the courtiers, and it was a wonderful analysis of a woefully mismatched marriage. I like that Amy Robsart isn't a martyr without any faults: she's a childish, overly dependent, sometimes really annoying person who is willfully blind to her husband's true character and ambitions, and she and Robert Dudley are completely and utterly unsuited for each other, however much they may love one another.


This isn't a criticism of TVL so much as all of Gregory's books: what IS Gregory's beef with Queen Elizabeth I?! Okay, so the real Queen wasn't the saint popular media (both then and now) make her out to be: she was devious, grasping, petulant, bad-tempered and she also committed some atrocities that get swept under the rug. It's good that Gregory shows her faults in this fictional portrait. But--and here's the thing--a lot of Gregory's other characters behave just as badly, and they are not judged nearly as harshly for it.

Take Elizabeth's relationship with Dudley, for instance. When Elizabeth has an affair with him and becomes so dependent she feels like she can't function without him (two circumstances that I find highly unlikely, by the way), Gregory portrays her as a slutty little ditz who's being ruled by men. But when Queen Mary Tudor becomes so dependent on her husband, who cares nothing for her, that she's willing to finance his monumentally stupid war and has a complete breakdown when he leaves her--causing her to utterly neglect her royal duties while her country is sliding into chaos--then she's a martyr to love and a traumatic past who deserves all our sympathy. Similarly, when Elizabeth screws around with other women's husbands, she's a promiscuous, unscrupulous seductress who openly rejoices over other women's pain. But when, say, the White Princess screws around with someone else's husband--incidentally, her own biological UNCLE--while the wife is DYING!--then she's a blossoming young innocent caught up in the nasty machinations of others. When Elizabeth is dismissive of other women, she's a vile traitor to her gender; when Elizabeth Woodville does the same thing, she's just being her glamorous self. Even in the latest novel ***SPOILER***when Elizabeth lies through her teeth about how great the royal portrait is, she's "corrupted beyond hope"--even as the heroine, Kateryn Parr, is also lying! Even Margaret Beaufort's murder of the Princes in the Tower is somehow not as bad as Elizabeth flirting with her courtiers and taking advice from Cecil, a man who actually has her interests at heart.

Gregory writes about many interesting, powerful women; none of them are saints. But, somehow, Queen Elizabeth I is the only sinner.
I'm more drawn to Gregory's stories about the Tudor family, but so have haven't tackled the red/white queen series. This one was an enjoyable read but was dismayed at the rather abrupt ending. It was a case of "what, that's IT?" as it really seemed to finish mid-conversation. Still liked it immensely, and of course the history content behind it all is very much a grey area as well so I'm not sure what else she could have done with the story. Still, even some sort of speculative epilogue or some such might have lessened the end a little for me. I guess we can't have it all!
Elizabeth the First was amazing in dodging the slings and arrows of treacherous politics in the 16 century. Trapped in a female body, shaped by the twists of fate that brought her to the throne, she was manipulative and knew how to use her minions to the best advantage. However clever she was to insulate herself from the "press" of her day, she did have a human side and that female was head over heels in love with a married man. Perhaps, that was in a perverse way the attraction- wanting the impossible- for I think Elizabeth loved the throne of England more than anything else in the world. Gregory's tale bring one more theory into the death of Dudley's wife, one of those unanswered mysteries that have left more questions than answers over the years. Humanizing the other woman- we see the triangle, the possible political fallout and the alleged conspiracy to prevent Dudley access to the throne. Do I believe in the scullduggery- yes. Could it have happened the way Gregory supposes. I could see it. Power hung in the balance, the throne a heartbeat from Elizabeth's lover- one mere woman's life becomes a footnote to the power behind the throne.
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