This is my fourth Philippa Gregory historical novel about the dramatic times in the Tudor court and I have noticed a bit of pattern… I’m enjoying every subsequent book a little less than the one before. I must clarify though, if I was to rank my audiobooks, Philippa Gregory’s would all be given a high placings. They’re still great books, it’s just the plots of my previous listen, The Queen’s Fool and this one, The Virgin’s Lover, take the action away directly from whichever Tudor monarch was on the throne and instead focus on other characters who just don’t hold my attention as much. I basically want all these books to be from the POV of the monarch or key royals, as per The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance, but that’s just personal preference.
Was that a bit of a back-handed intro? Possibly. But onto the plot! Known as ‘The Virgin Queen’, (due to her never marrying, rather than the literal interpretation, as there is, in fact, much evidence to say she was far from a virgin) in the early years of her reign, Elizabeth I had a well-known relationship with Lord Robert Dudley and it is he the title of this book refers to. Due to this, we get a lot of the story from his POV and chapters in the voice of his wife, Amy Dudley. The thing is, I found Amy to be dull, dull, dull so every time I had to listen to more of her pining for Robert, I just didn’t care. I understand it was to give a voice to this woman who history has relegated to the poor, cheated on wife, but she had nothing interesting about her. I can see why Robert Dudley was so taken with the dazzling Queen Elizabeth… There was also a lot more of a political theme running through The Virgin’s Lover than in previous books. The Queen’s most trusted advisor was William Cecil and he played a very strong and influential role in her life. Due to this we have a lot of political strategy discussed (mainly about the French invading) and men sitting around discussing things. BUT there was also so much I loved – the young Queen Elizabeth getting to grips with how to run her court and flashes of her Machiavellian character made her so utterly addictive. Plus, the actual story of what happened to Amy Dudley is fascinating (even is she isn’t.)
In the second half of 2018 HarperCollins publishers released six new unabridged Philippa Gregory audiobooks, all with fantastic narrators. There are the four I have listened to and mentioned above (including this one), fifth on my list will be The Other Queen about the Elizabeth I / Mary Queen of Scots story, which does appeal to me a lot as it’s such a fascinating story. If you’re wondering about the sixth audiobook, it’s The Constant Princess about Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon – I have not yet listened to it.
With The Virgin’s Lover, Philippa Gregory once again proves she is truly a master of weaving together real historical events with fictional characterisation to give you a history lesson and entertaining novel all rolled into one.