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Reviewed by Shannon Hopkins

The Lady Jane Grey is quite possibly one of the most tragic figures in the English royal lineage: at fifteen, she was declared King Edward’s successor to the English throne in an attempt to keep Mary Tudor from succeeding to the throne and reinstituting Catholic rule. Jane’s nine days as heir apparent are recognized as the shortest reign by an English monarch, but there is far more to the story of the Greys than Jane’s fateful visit to the Tower of London.

In Three Maids for a Crown, Ella March Chase weaves a brilliant story of love, ambition and betrayal, about three sisters who became pawns in a game larger than they could begin to understand. Their tandem narration paints a moving picture of the ties that bind, and the desires that can tear worlds apart.

Jane is a quiet, pious girl who finds strength in her faith. She goes into her wedding day with a sense of dread and distaste for her new husband, as yet unaware that her parents have set her up to take a kingdom. When her father and father-in-law press the ring of state into her hands, she is swept into a whirlwind in which she is declared queen and then a traitor when her cousin Mary comes to claim the crown. Despite a promise that she will be safe from reprisal, danger nonetheless looms when the queen chooses Prince Philip of Spain as her husband.

Katherine is as unlike her sister as night and day. She is radiant on the morning of their double wedding, dizzy in love with her new husband and eager to start their life together. Like Jane, though, she has no idea that her marriage is part of a carefully coordinated plan between three of the most powerful families in England. When Mary takes the throne instead, Katherine loses her husband, her father, her sister, and her hope – and gains center stage in the intrigue still swirling about her family. She becomes a lady in waiting at her cousin’s court, and very nearly becomes Mary’s heir; however, when Elizabeth ascends the throne instead, Katherine becomes a threat to be eliminated.

Mary, the youngest Grey sister, bears witness to the treacherous paths her sisters are forced to follow. Stunted, deformed, and uncharacteristically blunt for a medieval lady, Mary is often dismissed to the fringes – where she finds that being invisible has its benefits. She observes and learns secrets of planned campaigns and attacks, but her best efforts cannot stop the chain of events that has been set in motion. Still, hope and love remain for Mary to find even when she has lost her sisters, her cousin and, it seems, everything else worth holding on to.

Chase’s beautiful prose brings both hope and tragedy to life in a story that is well-known but little understood. Each of the sisters tells her part of the story in a back-and-forth that flows smoothly even over the roughness of tragedy and heartbreak, and reminds the reader of the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her fiancé and a room full of books that she peruses when she isn’t trolling Apartment Therapy for new decorating ideas. In her free time she enjoys maintaining her blog, The Writer’s Closet, planning her wedding, and baking tasty gluten-free treats.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Broadway. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.