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Reviewed by Shannon Trenton
The Queen’s Rivals opens on duel storms raging – one a recognizable gusting of the wind outside the window, the other a tempest of emotions and memories surging through the woman who welcomes them through the open window. Such begin the recollections of Lady Mary Grey, youngest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk and the most overlooked character in the story of England’s “Nine Days’ Queen”.
The Grey sisters – Jane, Kate, and Mary – are as different as any three girls could be yet live inseparably at their family home until the day their father announces their simultaneous engagements. The joint wedding of Jane and Kate to their suitors sets the stage for an opportunistic father to install Jane as erstwhile heiress to the ailing King Edward in place of the Catholic Mary Tudor. When plans go awry and Mary ascends the throne, it sends the Greys down the road to tragedy.
Brandy Purdy’s Grey sisters are willful and strong, each chasing her own version of happiness and each forced to confront harsh realities. Jane, so often portrayed as a quiet and studious young girl, is set aflame with the passion of her Protestant faith and a stubborn unwillingness to sacrifice her ideals for anything – usually to the point of denying her own deeper desires. Jane’s icy rejection of her husband’s affections and Lady Mary’s kindnesses make the reader wonder if Jane didn’t ultimately play a larger role in her own destruction despite her innocence of the plotting around her.
Middle sister Kate is a sunbeam. She is “the beautiful one”, determined to have love above all else. When Jane falls Kate becomes the next presumptive heir to Queen Mary, but when Princess Elizabeth ascends the throne instead Kate’s desperate yearning for true love puts her right in the new Queen’s cross hairs. Mary, for her part, is generally ignored or sneered at as the “beastly little one”, a dwarf with the body of a five-year-old tempered with the wisdom of a great elder. She attempts to act as the voice of reason to her sisters and those around her, and through her sisters’ follies learns the hardest lessons of all.
This otherwise well-known story has its own intriguing twists that keep the reader hooked, including a questionable relationship between the Duke of Suffolk and his son-in-law and acts of defiance that could spell disaster for everyone. The writing consists of long sentences reminiscent of stream-of-consciousness, which works well when viewing the story through Mary’s eight-year-old self. The only real distraction from the story is the sometimes obsessive reference to sweets and culinary delicacies; however, those lengthy passages in themselves provide a framework for better understanding the Duke of Suffolk’s role in his daughters’ lives.
The Queen’s Rivals is a worthy addition to any bookshelf, as its appeal extends beyond lovers of historical fiction to capture the interest of readers looking for a sweet and sometimes tragic love story.
Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Kensington. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.