Westin begins the story on the eve of Elizabeth’s victory over the Spanish armada. Elizabeth. As she goes through the intricacies of the court celebrations, she notices Robert Dudley, her favorite, is not there. It is then that she receives the letter, his last letter. Robert was dead. She locked herself alone in her room and begins to remember their life together.
Westin, as any novelist would, takes a few liberties with history. She shows that Elizabeth and Dudley did have a sexual relationship. However, I feel that the way she portrays it would be the way it would have probably happened if they did, in fact, become sexually involved.
I really like that Westin also tells the story from several points of view, not just Elizabeth’s. At times, the reader was seeing as Elizabeth, at other times as Dudley. Perhaps the most interesting parts to me were the scenes from Dudley’s point of view. He is depicted as a bit of a lady’s man, having several mistress…and several illegitimate children. He even eventually marries one of these mistresses, Lettice Knollys, whom Elizabeth despises. I found it extremely fascinating to see Dudley’s reaction to the death of his son by Lettice, and his suspicions that she had something to do with it. I felt that by seeing through his point of view, Westin really captured him as a man, not just a historical figure. You feel his loss for his son, his love for Elizabeth…and his jealousy when Elizabeth shows favor to other noblemen.
The only flaw of the book I found was that it might be a bit much for a Tudor beginner. The memories jump around a lot, as they would in a normal person’s mind. Each chapter starts a different time period, which do not go in sequential order. If you are not somewhat knowledgeable about Elizabeth, the book could get very confusing. I suggest brushing up on your facts about Elizabeth and Dudley before reading.
Overall, I feel like this book is one of the best fictional portrayals I have read of Elizabeth and Dudley, and really captures the love between them. It felt as if Westin was actually there, witness to these events.
I give this novel Four Tudor Roses, and I highly recommend this novel as one of the best fictional portrayals of Elizabeth.
*Note: I want to thank Jeane Westin for providing me a copy of this wonderful novel!