Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

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Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The story of Lady Jane Grey's sisters after her tragic execution written to appeal to all genders in a way that is true to history as well as the spirit of suspense. Yes, Elizabeth Fremantle knows how to keep us on the edge and keep us coming back for more.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Michael Joseph
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0718177089

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Now that their sister Lady Jane and father, Henry 1st Duke of Suffolk, have been beheaded for treason, the remaining Grey sisters, Katherine and Mary have hidden all signs of their protestant reformist faith. Their mother Frances can escape court but Mary Tudor has other plans for the girls, keeping them under royal scrutiny. This is a dangerous spotlight to be subjected to. As the trademark heretic burning of the Spanish Inquisition comes to England, the Greys must work harder to impersonate good Catholics. Their lives depend on it. However, Katherine is less than tactful and set on her own path. Is Mary strong enough to protect both of them?

I'm selfishly very pleased that Elizabeth Fremantle changed careers from fashion editor to historical fiction author. I raved about her debut, The Queen's Gambit about Katherine Parr and now, after reading her second outing, I feel another rave coming on!

Elizabeth ensures that the personalities of the two surviving Grey girls leap across the centuries. Mary – Mouse to the family – is sensible and intelligent but held back from fulfilling her potential by being the daughter of a traitor and disabled. Like her ancestor Richard III, Mary is believed to have suffered from scoliosis, hampering her growth as well as deforming her spine. (Elizabeth has elaborated on this in a guest blog entry. If you're interested, search-engine-ing 'Lady Crookback' should find it.)

Katherine, on the other hand, seeks constant distraction from the darker sides of thought and life. This means she doesn't pause to think of connotations and possible outcomes. Being led totally by heart and impulse isn't only unwise; it's downright dangerous in a world where the wrong word or look can lead to state-licensed death.

Danger and death are indeed the silent stalkers throughout the novel. Initially, they're embodied in Mary Tudor's religious zealousness. Then, on her death, Queen Elizabeth rebounds with the idea that England will only be saved if it's cleansed of all Catholics. Having tried to prove their loyalty to one denomination, the Greys have to prove they were only kidding and their allegiance is actually in the other direction.

I'm showing my ignorance as I'd never heard of the Grey's family friend Levina Teerlinc whom Elizabeth also reanimates for us. She's a Belgian artist specialising in court miniatures and protector of the girls. At least she does her best to protect them in the royal presence but she can only do that if they both want to be protected. Levina's voice provides an authentic alternative viewpoint to that of the English at the time as she tries to acquiesce to both her husband's wishes and royal duties. She also has her own worries, being related to Huguenots.

Elizabeth's major gift (apart from her writing talent that is) is pitching her words in a style that appeals across the gender divide. The facts are beautifully etched into her narrative (along with some very informative notes at the back), any love interest is measured and relevant while not pushing it into romantic fiction and any guesses she has to make to further the plot and characterisation come across as educated and plausible. In short, this is a master class for all potential historical fiction writers and excellent entertainment for the rest of us. Thank you, Elizabeth and long may you continue.

Thank you so much, Michael Joseph, for providing us with a copy for review. We also have a review of Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle

Further Reading: If you haven't read The Queen's Gambit, that'll be your first stop. If you're already a fan and/or are interested in the Greys, try the slightly more fanciful The Nine Day Queen by Ella March Chase.

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Buy Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle at

Booklists.jpg Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle is in the Top Ten Historical Fiction Books 2014.


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