Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter
When she is orphaned as a young child, Mary Shelton becomes the ward of her cousin, Elizabeth I. Enchanted by the girl, Elizabeth raises Mary as her daughter. Sir Robert Dudley plays the role of father, fulfilling Elizabeth’s desire for the family she knows she will never have. Mary grows up to be fiercely intelligent, sweet and beguilingly beautiful, and gains the admiration of many in the court. Elizabeth hopes to make a good match for her charge, a noble man or a prince perhaps, but Mary has other ideas. She wants to marry someone she truly loves. Unfortunately her true love, Sir John Skydemore, isn’t even close to meeting the qualifications that Elizabeth has in mind. He is a widower with five children, very little money and is only a minor knight – but most damning is he is a Catholic. Mary is forced to decide whether to follow her heart and marry Sir John or to obey her Queen and the only mother she has ever known, and accept a more suitable marriage for her status.
Barnhill’s story is fast-paced and engaging. Her description of the court, its feasts, and the fashions of its players are sumptuous and will delight fans of the Tudor period. Mary and John are appealing characters, and their love story is charming. The only character who does not shine, unfortunately, is Elizabeth, who is portrayed primarily as a bitter and vindictive queen as opposed to the multi-faceted character readers might expect. Overall, however, readers will be pleased with this new take on the Tudor story.