I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Clinard Barnhill’s last Tudor novel, At the Mercy of the Queen, and so jumped at the chance of reviewing Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I. Don’t worry, the novel doesn’t claim that Elizabeth had a daughter, it’s actually about her ward Mary Shelton.
Mary Shelton was a real person. She was Elizabeth I’s second cousin and was orphaned in November 1558, the month Elizabeth became queen. She became a royal ward and rose to be Gentlewoman of the Queen’s Privy Chamber, before “betraying” her mistress by becoming involved with a Catholic gentleman. This novel fills in the blanks of her life and presents her as the daughter that Elizabeth never had, with the queen and Dudley lavishing affection on her. Elizabeth wants to arrange a suitable match for her ward, but Mary is torn between her duty to her queen (the woman who has brought her up) and the love of her life. Elizabeth I was not one to be crossed and Mary pays a heavy price for her defiance.
Anne Clinard Barnhill is a wonderful writer. I love her style and I appreciate the way that she takes little known characters like the Sheltons (a Shelton girl was also the protagonist of her first historical novel), a family she is actually descended from, and tells stories through their eyes. We see a more “human” side to Elizabeth I and understand the sacrifice she made by not marrying, and we can understand how she may have viewed girls like Mary as surrogate daughters. A well-known story with a different spin on it.
If you’re going away over the summer, make sure you pack a copy of this in your luggage or on your Kindle as it’s the ideal holiday read. My only criticism is that I didn’t like the incidental chapter in italics which were from Elizabeth’s viewpoint, I found those distracting but I loved the novel otherwise. Beautiful writing; vivid scenes; loveable characters, with a few nasty ones for good measure; romance; danger; intrigue… just the right ingredients for a great read.
Anne wrote a guest article for The Anne Boleyn Files about Mary Shelton.
From Anne Barnhill, the author of At the Mercy of the Queen, comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court
Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.
Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (March 18, 2014)
ASIN US: B00F1R9G1Q (This is my affiliate link for Amazon.com and I may receive a small payment if you buy the book through this link).
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.