The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase
|The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: It didn't take Elinor de Lacey long to realise why her mother didn't want her to attend Queen Elizabeth's court. There's a reason why Elinor resembles the Queen; a reason that can only cause trouble.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: January 2012|
|Publisher: Ebury Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Elinor de Lacey (Nell) has an eager, quick mind that's been trained by her scholarly father, against her mother's wishes. Nell would rather be discussing Copernicus' latest theories than learn how to keep a wet larder or how to be a dutiful wife. It's Nell's greatest wish, in fact, to attend the court of Queen Elizabeth I so that she can discuss and argue with the finest scientific and philosophical minds of the day, but her mother is ardently against it. Nell doesn't understand why. Not, that is, until her dream becomes a reality but by then it's too late to go back.
This is a fascinating 'what if' historical novel based on two pieces of information that Ella March Chase happened upon. Firstly Katherine Parr once found 14 year old Princess Elizabeth in Thomas Seymour's bed. Secondly a midwife of the period told of how she was whisked away to deliver the baby of a 'very fair lady'. The author put two and two together and came up with an intriguing notion. She didn't make it easy for herself though. When a main plot twist of a book is given away in the book's title, there has to be something else to entice the reader through the story. In this case it's some good, page-turning writing.
The majority of The Virgin Queen's Daughter is set within the confines of the Elizabethan court. Once Nell gets there, there aren't many scenes set elsewhere. Confining the action to such a small area adds another restriction to an author's freedom. However, Ella March Chase uses this confinement to great advantage, highlighting the claustrophobic bitchiness of life amongst people who are there just to better themselves and ensure that the Queen notices them, often at the expense of others. The Ladies in Waiting are a sisterhood, but a sisterhood prepared to disengage from any of their number who displeases the monarch, just in case that displeasure is contagious. There were a couple of occasions where I found myself mumbling under my breath 'Show, don't tell!' as life outside the court's confines was relayed to the reader in conversation. However, on the whole the dialogue was deftly written, moving the story along and deepening the atmosphere of intrigue and, ultimately, fear. For the Elizabeth of this book is the 'Queenie' of Blackadder without the comedy. She's capricious, spoilt and her moods change with the weather.
The other characters also come to life beautifully. I relate so well to Nell, the ungirly-girl who just wants to devour books and learn rather than conform. The frustrations of Elinor's mother sweeps off the page as she tries desperately to make her daughter marriageable to ensure her future. As for Nell's father, he's very much the man in the middle, wanting to feed his daughter's natural abilities whilst knowing the importance of his wife's viewpoint.
The thing I'm left wondering, though, is if the main twist hadn't been used for the title but had been revealed in a 'ta daaah!' moment would this have been a better book? Yes, quite possibly, but then a writer has to find a way to encourage the books to leave the shelves in the first place. In this case, it may well work.
I would like to thank Ebury Press for giving The Bookbag a copy of this book to review.
If you've enjoyed this and would to read some more about the Tudors, try The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.