Every girl in England, now, under the circumstances, made sure to be a good Catholic girl. Except her, of course. And, if only she knew it, me.
Escorting 'nine days queen' Jane Grey across the Tower of London from throne room into imprisonment is Elizabeth Tilney, who surprised even herself by volunteering for the job. All Elizabeth knows is she's keen to be away from home, she could do with some breathing space. And anyway, it won't be for long: everyone knows Jane will go free as soon as the victorious new queen is crowned. Which is a good thing because the two sixteen-year-olds, cooped up together in a room in the Gentleman Gaoler's house, couldn't be less compatible. Protestant Jane is an icily self-composed idealist, and catholic Elizabeth is... well, anything but.
They are united though by their disdain for the seventeen-year-old to whom Jane has recently been married off: petulant, noisily-aggrieved Guildford Dudley, held prisoner in a neighbouring tower and keen to pursue his perogative of a daily walk with his wife.
As Jane's captivity extends into the increasingly turbulent last months of 1553, the two girls learn to live with each other, but Elizabeth finds herself drawn into the difficult relationship between the newlyweds. And when, at the turn of the year, events take an unexpected and dangerous direction, her newfound loyalties are put to the test.
Firstly may I thank Netgalley for allowing me access to this book.
Now...to the review...
How would you react if you were locked up in a confined space with a stranger? What if this person was not only a stranger to you but also someone who has come from a completely different walk of life to you? Awkward doesn't begin to cover it.
When Elizabeth volunteers to be locked in the tower alongside Jane Grey she has no idea what is in store for her, all she thinks about is how she wants to run away from her secrets and the lies she has told.
On meeting Jane, Elizabeth finds herself on the backdrop of one of the most historical conspiracies against Mary Tudor just after she became queen. Jane Grey is plain and only interested in her books, generating a very difficult relationship between the two girls as they learn to co-exist with one another.
I have read several of Suzannah Dunn's books in the past and have never found her a disappointing read. Her books always tell history in an exiting way and often from the viewpoint of a background character, The Lady of Misrule being another example of this.
By telling the story through Elizabeth's eyes the viewer travels through Jane Grey's story in a less subjective way. I found myself wondering what would have been going through Jane's mind as she waited to discover her fate with only her books to keep her distracted. Did she miss her husband? Was she lonely? Was she angry with her parents for proclaiming her a queen? These are the type of questions that anyone would have wondered at the time, especially if they were forced to live with Jane day in, day out.
I don't want to give too much away about the ending but I will say that it came upon me by surprise, I was expecting more and wanted to know more about Elizabeth's life when she left the tower and returned to normal society. However I think the fact the book finished so suddenly worked well as someone who had been in Elizabeth's shoes would have felt disorientated on trying to go back to her normal life before Jane. I think the ending reinforces this.