His Last Letter

Written by Jeane Westin
Review by Susan Higginbotham

As Elizabeth I celebrates her defeat of the Spanish Armada, tragic news arrives: the queen’s dear friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, has died. With the news of his death, however, has come a farewell letter from the man who was the queen’s greatest love.

Having started at the end of the relationship between the queen and her favorite, His Last Letter proceeds to go back in time, shifting between the remote and the recent past and alternating its point of view between Elizabeth and Leicester. While this was an interesting approach to the story, I found that something was lost: a sense of the characters and their relationship deepening and changing over time. As a result, while I found this novel entertaining and readable, I never felt the emotional connection to the leads that one should feel in a novel that is essentially a love story. Worse, although Leicester’s death provides the framework for the story, Elizabeth’s grief and recovery seemed almost an afterthought. I did find compensations, however, in the scenes between Elizabeth and her other courtiers and in those between Leicester and his wife Lettice. The latter, though unsympathetic, never felt like a cardboard villain.

Westin does seem to feel at home in the Tudor court, and her dialogue has a period feel without sounding stilted. Fans of Tudor fiction will probably find this a diverting read.