Brandy Purdy’s The Queen’s Rivals gave me a new glimpse into the lives of the three Grey sisters, Mary, Jane, and Kate, nieces of Henry VIII. It was narrated by Mary, the last of the sisters to die. I’m sure this is why she chose Mary to narrate, so she could reflect back on their lives and tell their story, but in other ways I think Mary was a good choice too.
Considered the “lesser” of the three, Mary had an understanding and patient heart that allowed us to view her sisters in what may be for some a different light. Purdy’s writing style models Philippa Gregory’s non-fiction tones, where though it seems more dense than light, a desire to get to know the characters propels you through the story. Writing a historical fiction that is more first person narrative than a lively dramatized story is always difficult and few people can pull it off. Like Gregory, Purdy seems to have a knack for driving us along, keeping us wanting to know more even if we feel as if we are being pulled in the dank existence that seemed to be their lives. While some romanticize their life in fiction, Purdy gives us the hard, cold truth, sometimes more than some readers might want to bear. I’d say you have to really love history and this time period in order to read this book. You must be prepared. It’s a wonderful telling of their harsh lives, but not a juicy summer read.
Purdy’s portrayal of their cousin, Mary Tudor, made me more scared of her than I ever had been before. Showing her as loving and kind at first to the sisters, then out for blood and ultimately causing Jane to lose her head, showed the extreme political and family intrigue that they all were fated to try to overcome.
As the sisters were doted along by court society as the beautiful one, the smart one, and the dwarf one (there was a better written reference from the book), we got to understand how Jane didn’t want more than to be educated and give her life to God. She was prudish, yet thrown into scandal. She was ultimately used as a pawn because of her Tudor blood and thrown to her demise. Purdy writes about the drama of Jane’s affair with Tom Seymour, the alleged incest of their other cousin Elizabeth I by her father (Henry VIII), the mess with the Dudley family, the drunken parties, the Tower, the death and all in all pretty much held nothing back in letting the reader in on just how dark an existence these people lived.
She’s done a great job at research though, as usual, and she absolutely knows her details on this time period, especially on the Grey family. While there aren’t a lot of books out there that includes details on the entire family, many times focusing on Jane’s character since she was a Queen (even though short-lived), I think this is a welcome addition to any historical library or bookshelf.
If you’re interested in a different view of the tumultuous Tudor time period surrounding Edward the VI death and the Grey sisters and family, I’d certainly pick up this book. Her harsh rendering was at times blunt, but most likely authentic, and though her writing was dark, so were the times themselves. For anyone who likes Philippa Gregory, with a little more bluntness and droning from the characters, or Brandy Purdy’s other works, I’d add this one to your shelves.
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THE QUEEN’S RIVALS/THE FALLEN QUEEN, Synopsis~
UK Publication Date: September 12, 2013
Their ambitions were ordinary, but they were born too close to the throne…
As cousins of history’s most tempestuous queens, Ladies Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey were born in an age when all of London lived beneath the Tower’s menacing shadow. Tyrannized by Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen, the sisters feared love was unthinkable —and the scaffold all but unavoidable…
Raised to fear her royal blood and what it might lead men to do in her name, Mary Grey dreads what will become of herself and her elder sisters under the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. On their honor, they have no designs on the crown, yet are condemned to solitude, forbidden to wed. Though Mary, accustomed to dwelling in the shadows, the subject of whispers, may never catch the eye of a gentleman, her beautiful and brilliant sisters long for freedoms that would surely cost their lives. And so, wizened for her years, Mary can only hope for divine providence amid a bleak present and a future at the whim of the throne — unless destiny gains the upper hand.
A gripping and bittersweet tale of broken families and broken hearts, courage and conviction, The Queen’s Rivals recounts an astonishing chapter in the hard-won battle for the Tudor throne.
Please note this book will be published in the UK as THE FALLEN QUEEN by Emily Purdy.
Author Brandy Purdy, Biography~
Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON, THE BOLEYN WIFE (THE TUDOR WIFE), THE TUDOR THRONE (MARY & ELIZABETH), THE QUEEN’S PLEASURE (A COURT AFFAIR), and THE QUEEN’S RIVALS (THE FALLEN QUEEN). An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at www.brandypurdy.com, you can also follow her, and her cat Tabby, via her blog at http://brandypurdy.blogspot.com where she posts updates about her work and weekly book reviews.