The Queen’s Handmaiden

Written by Jennifer Ashley
Review by Susan Higginbotham

Unwanted by her new stepfather, Eloise Rousell ends up in the care of her relation Kat Ashley, governess to Elizabeth Tudor. Growing up alongside her royal mistress, Eloise discovers that she has talents not only for dressmaking, but for intrigue—skills that Eloise will use to Elizabeth’s advantage as the future queen is threatened from all sides.

Spanning the period from Edward VI’s reign to the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, from scandal with Thomas Seymour to scandal with Robert Dudley, this is a diverting tale narrated by the resourceful, loyal Eloise in an engaging, lively fashion. A love story involving Eloise, though not so prominent as to intrude upon the main story, adds a nice touch.

Perhaps because so many events were packed into a relatively short space, however, I found that this novel was somewhat lacking in depth and focus—it was difficult to get a sense as to some of the characters’ personalities and motivations. That being said, I found the characters here to be refreshingly true to their time, not the modern beings in fancy dress that have marred some Tudor fiction, and the novel to be well researched. I look forward to future forays into historical fiction by Ashley.