Like fine wine, author Alison Weir is better with age. Or maybe it’s just taken this long to forgive her interpretation of Elizabeth I’s early years. The more Tudor historical fiction one reads the more one is apt to forgive the glossing over of certain persons and events, as well as the concept of artistic license. Still, it would be safe to say that this novel is Weir’s crowning achievement as she flawlessly manages to both realistically and sympathetically portray Elizabeth’s endless sidesteps and intricate machinations in avoiding “the married state.” Her Elizabeth is vibrant, and at times the words seem to leap from the page, to the effect that you find yourself feeling sorry for William Cecil – among others who bore the brunt of her frustrations. Her infamous affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, also makes up a large portion of the novel and I found Weir’s handling of their complex relationship to be well balanced and true to the spirits of both parties.
While some readers may not agree with Weir’s personal interpretation behind why Elizabeth stayed single, you can’t help but be awed at the way Elizabeth managed to juggle multiple suitors, advisers, parliament, and her own dear Robin during a forty-five year reign considered to be among England’s finest.