04 March 2007

Book Review: The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

The Virgin’s Lover In 1558 Elizabeth inherits an empty treasury and a country racked by political and religious tensions. In her first two years as Queen she must maintain her tenuous grasp on power in a country where half the populace want a Catholic on the throne, and not all of the Protestants support her. To complicate matters further there’s a distraction on hand - the handsome and charming Lord Robert Dudley. He is utterly unsuitable, being not only married but tainted by his father’s treason, but Elizabeth just can’t help herself. Meanwhile his wife Amy is being shunted around the countryside to one set of friends after another, and Sir William Cecil is plotting Dudley’s second downfall....

I’m always interested in Tudor history, but this book took a bit of effort to stick to. Elizabeth was horribly indecisive, vacillating endlessly about whether to go to war against the forces of Mary of Guise and prone to sudden changes of mind. She also was scarcely able to function without Dudley to guide her. I found myself wondering how she ever managed to hold on to power, and now have a strong desire to read a proper biography of her, to see if she really was that dependent on Dudley. And I just wanted to shake Amy. I know doormat wives were the fashion back then but her slavish adoration of him was as wearing as it was puzzling. I could see looks and charm but not much else to recommend him.

The discovery of the mystery surrounding Amy’s death was one of the good things about this book. Gregory offers a possible explanation, but it’s one of several and I’d definitely like to learn more. But the real highlight was all the scheming that went on within the court. Cecil and his spies, Dudley and his spies, Elizabeth playing off the emissaries trying to secure her hand for their employers ... the Queensland Parliament looks almost tame in comparison.


Rating: C


  1. Have you read other Philippa Gregory books? I read The Other Boleyn Girl last year and thought it was great but just haven't gotten to any of her other books. I may try another of her books next to see if I enjoy it as much.

  2. I'm sure I've read another Philippa Gregory book - I think it might have been The Other Boleyn Girl, but I can't quite remember. I think I enjoyed it at the time, but it obviously didn't leave much of an impression on me as I can't remember...

  3. This was my least favorite of the Tudor books by Gregory. The others are much better. I found QE hard to believe in this one. A great queen like her couldn't have been so needy and incapable of making a decision.

    I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance. They are the best, IMHO.

  4. I just bought a copy of this book so I only skimmed your review, but I did see you only gave it a C. I'm also wondering if you've read other books of hers and how you feel it compares. Myself, I loved The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance, remember liking The Queen's Fool and her Wideacre series, although to a lesser extent. The Wideacre ones especially are more escapist-style HF.

  5. I have yet to read The Other Boleyn Girl - it's on the list of books to track down eventually. I have read The Queen's Fool (enjoyed it) and The Boleyn Inheritance (loved it). On this one I have to agree wih Chris; the portrayal of Elizabeth runs counter to eveythig else I've ever heard of her, and I don't see how anyone that weak could have survived Mary's reign.

  6. I have not yet read her, but I do want to read The Other Boleyn Girl. I have heard this is one of her weaker novels.

  7. My interest in Amy Robisard began with Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott. I love books about this period, both fiction and nonfiction. Have had a long time interest in Ann Boleyn and read the new biography in January. You have some interesting possibilities to add to my list!

  8. I'll have to add Kenilworth to the list. I still haven't read anything by Scott! Though I do have Ivanhoe in my TBR box . . . somewhere . . .


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