Sunday, 8 March 2015

Book Review: Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase


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 whose goal is simply to protect 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 under the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager: their daughters' lives against rampant ambition.


My Review:
This was an excellent Tudor novel, telling the story of the three Grey sisters-Jane, Kat and Mary, covering the reign of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. The book has also been published unter the title 'The Nine Day Queen' by the same author. I know that because I bought BOTH thinking they were different novels(totally different covers and blurbs!) and wasn't very happy when I found out.

This book was fascinating and intriguing. The book is written from the changing POVs of the three sisters. I don't usually like this as a plot device but because the sisters are so different in personality, the switching POV works perfectly to tell their stories.

The story starts with the double wedding. Jane is the quiet, studious girl who wants to be left to her studies and her fanatical protestant views. She despises the man that has been chosen for her husband, son of the scheming Duke who plots them to become King and Queen after Edward's death. Kat is the flighty, vain girl who is in love with her rich and handsome young husband-to-be and is worried that Jane's tantrums will ruin the joint wedding. Mary struggles to be accepted by a family and society who are uncomfortable with her deformity, and she forms a friendship with Mary Tudor who knows exactly what it means to be an outsider. Mary is also very good at hiding and spying to find out what her father and the Duke are plotting.

The book tells the story of the power struggle between The Duke's forces proclaiming Jane to be the Queen chosen by Edward on his deathbed, and the rightful heir Mary Tudor as stated in the will of Henry VIII, supported by the common people. Having the views of the three sisters as Jane was overthrown and imprisoned by Queen Mary was quite exciting to read. There was a lot about the plotting of the Duke, and a very interesting sub-plot where Mary discovers the plot to have Mary Tudor arrested and sends her a warning to flee to safety, unaware that this will lead to Jane being deposed and arrested. The guilt that both Mary's carry forward from what happens to Jane puts Queen Mary in a whole new light. I felt sorry for her character in this book-forced to kill Jane or lose her final chance to be happy with her Spanish husband, forced to break her promise to the Grey sisters that Jane would be spared. It was quite sad in places.

Naturally, the plot focuses on Kat and Mary after their sister is executed. Both are given places at Court by Queen Mary, but all three fear the plots surrounding Elizabeth Tudor which could put them all in grave danger. We see the decline of Mary's health and her husband's infidelity against the backdrop of Wyatt's rebellion and up heaval in the Grey family. Queen Mary wants to name Kat as her heir which fills Mary with fear for her sister if Elizabeth has to fight for her rightful throne.

On the death of Queen Mary, Elizabeth takes the throne and wastes no time in gaining her revenge on the Grey family for the plots against the Tudor sisters. Kat and Mary both find love at Court but as Elizabeth cannot marry her love Robert Dudley, she refuses to let other women in her service find a man and children to make them happy. Queen Elizabeth is a scary and nasty woman in this book, and the atmosphere at Court must have been horrible as everyone tried to stay on the right side of the vain woman with the bad temper! Kat and Mary choose to defy their Queen and marry in secret but there are terrible consequences for them.

The book is exciting with lots of Tudor intrigue, tension, scary and sad parts. I liked this different version of the reign of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth doing a role reversal to show Mary as the misunderstood woman and Elizabeth as the tyrant. She darn well scared me and I was safe in my room!!! My favourite of the sisters was Mary-she was smart, witty and resourceful and had a lot to put up with in her life, most of which was unhappy. I really wept for her as she finally finds a good man only for the evil Queen to spoil it for her.

I recommend this book to Tudor fans as it has everything you could want-drama, plotting, death, forbidden romance and great characters.


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