BLURB: “In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister, Katherine Grey, charms all the right people – until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine, wants simply to protect the people she loves – but at a terrible cost. In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered, and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived at the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager : their daughters’ lives against rampant ambition.”
I’m always on the lookout for new historical fiction books to read, especially those based in the Tudor era, my favourite period of British history. Having never read anything by Chase before, I was unsure of what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by this book. Chase charts the rise and fall of the three Grey sisters – whose parents were not only rapacious but also extremely cruel – with close attention to detail, as well as vivid description and imagery that really captures the dangerously oppressive atmosphere of the courts of the Queens Mary 1st and Elizabeth 1st. It is interesting to see especially close attention being paid to Mary Grey, who, as a disabled woman, has been shamefully neglected and ignored by history. Chase turns Mary into a fascinating character, an intelligent and honest young woman with more power than her mother ever gave her credit for. Jane Grey, the famed nine-day Queen, is written with empathy and insight, reflecting clearly Jane’s well-documented intelligence and faithful religious zeal. Her mistreatment at the hands of her parents and, later, her husband, Guildford Dudley, is written in a heart-wrenching manner that only serves to make the reader all the more sorry upon reading of Jane’s botched execution. Finally, Katherine Grey, a beautiful woman who broke all the rules of Tudor England by marrying for love against the wishes of her Queen, is a romantic figure, longing for freedom and happiness – a character whose emotions many readers can identify to, including myself. Although I have always favoured Jane, in this novel each sister had admirable traits drawn from contemporary accounts that made each and every one of them, despite their flaws, extremely likeable. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction as a light and easy read.