I took a little road trip this weekend, and as I was the passenger I had the perk of getting a lot of reading done. A book I dove into on this trip, and a little late into the night at the hotel when I should have been resting, was Anne Clinard Barnhill’s Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter. It’s a novel of Queen Elizabeth I, but actually it’s mostly a novel of Mary Shelton, her lady-in-waiting, second cousin, and ward.
I immediately got lost in the easy ebb and flow of Anne’s words across the page and her story of Mary. Juxtaposed with a story line told from the Queen’s point of view, it gives us a look into the thoughts of the two women in relation to how Mary is treated and the goings on of the time period. Elizabeth took Mary on as her ward, as was the law, when her two parents died. However, Elizabeth doted on Mary, sometimes much to Mary’s chagrin as she barely was able to have any life of her own, let alone date or marry who she wanted.
Anne’s offers exquisite detail and always sets her scenes visually so that as you read it feels as if you were transported in time and are viewing the novel through the eyes of the protagonist, Mary. She had good and authentic character development as she takes on Mary’s need to please and respect Elizabeth amid her own desires to rebel and live an independent life and as well writes Elizabeth’s character in a way that shows her struggle between being kind and and loving, as a mother, and strong-willed with an iron fist. Elizabeth’s paranoia and desire to keep only those loyal around her is much understood due to her upbringing, yet we see in this novel how that impacts others.
Though there are a lot of Tudor era novels on the market, I particularly enjoy those that utilize sub-family members, friends, court, and staff in order to tell us more about how the Tudor rule impacted all the people around them. In that regard, this book on Mary was unique to me and I enjoyed reading of what her life might have been like. Full of emotion and with easy to read dialogue and plot, this book was entertaining and a breeze to finish.
Anyone who likes Tudor era books with light prose that isn’t heavy or dreary, this book is definitely for you. I bet it will be one of the best books of that sub-genre to publish this year. I know it will be one of my favorite Tudor-era historical novels for its excellent writing, flowing style, intricate and visual detail, and strong character development and emotional connections.
Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter, Synopsis~
Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.
Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.
Buy the Book~
Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants.
Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity.
She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.
For more information, please visit Anne Clinard Barnhill’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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