This post includes a giveaway so make sure you read all the way to the end!
Perhaps no one likes a good historical mystery more than a historical fiction author. The opportunity to speculate and explore different scenarios, possibilities and who-done-its. Although the mystery of the fate of the Princes in the Tower seems to be a favorite stomping ground, another is what really happened to Amy Robsart. Was her death a tragic accident? A suicide? Or the act of someone who wanted her out of the way and if so, who and why?
Although Amy and her death are usually touched on in any novel about Elizabeth I, Brandy Purdy’s The Queen’s Pleasure (released in the UK as A Court Affair by Emily Purdy) is unusual in that the main character is Amy herself. (There is one other book that I’m aware of - Judith Saxton’s The Bright Day is Done from the 1970’s.) As cancer in her breast causes her health and mind to deteriorate, Amy talks about her life and how she came to meet, fall in love with and be abandoned by Robert Dudley. She is chatty, charming and sweet and it’s easy to see how a young man could fall in love with her. And most would have been happy. But Robert Dudley has higher ambitions and he soon regrets the impetuous marriage of his youth and sadly, Amy must bear the brunt of his bitterness and disappointment.
I thought Purdy did an excellent job of getting inside the head of the lonely and neglected Amy. At times the emotional distress was a little overly dramatic, but given everything that Amy had to deal with, most of the time it felt very real and genuine. If I was married to Robert Dudley, I would probably be a drama queen as well! I also liked Purdy’s take on Elizabeth. Short sections told by Elizabeth are interspersed throughout and help tell the story going on at court. Elizabeth is in love with Robert but she’s no fool and it doesn’t take her long to recognize his faults and to peg him for what he is. But as Amy and Elizabeth both realize, we can’t always help who we love and both women are forced to try and come to terms with what they can’t have.
As for the cause of Amy and Elizabeth’s unhappiness, Robert is a complete horse’s ass. Oh, he can be charming when he wants to be and he definitely knows how and when to turn it on. But he also wants what he can’t have and his ambitions take precedence over everything –and everyone – else. Early in the story Amy is introduced to Robert’s family and from that it is easy to see where his ambition comes from. Although the depiction of the Dudleys is rather over the top, seeing it through Amy’s eyes was quite entertaining!
Since much of the story is told from Amy’s point of view, The Queen’s Pleasure is not about the politics or court intrigues of the day, although they are certainly mentioned where appropriate to the story. The first person narration works pretty well here since the two women telling the story are at the heart of it. In some places, the story seems overlong with too much detail, and Purdy writes some of the longest sentences I have ever seen which lend a meandering stream-of-conscious effect to the sections narrated by Amy. Amy’s heartbreak and anguish over the loss of her husband’s love (not to mention her health) are no different than those any woman of any time period would feel and Purdy’s depiction of it is so raw that anyone who has ever suffered the heartbreaking loss of love will relate to Amy and feel her pain.
In case the FTC asks: Review copy received as part of the author’s blog tour.
If you would like to win a copy of The Queen's Pleasure, please complete the form below by midnight, June 15, 2012. Open to US residents only.