The Virgin’s Daughters
It seems as though everything that could be written about the Tudors has been done in recent years, with a glut of books retreading the same tales saturating the market. So it was with mild trepidation that I opened Jeane Westin’s The Virgin’s Daughters, wary yet hopeful that maybe this novel would succeed where others had become stale. After literally racing through its 400 pages, I happily breathed a contented sigh of relief that yes, indeed, this is a Tudor novel not to be missed.
The Virgin’s Daughters is actually two tales woven together by service to Elizabeth I. The first half of the book focuses on Lady Katherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane, whose illicit love affair and marriage with Lord Hertford leads to disaster when discovered by Elizabeth. Katherine’s nearness to the throne and her impetuous nature fuel this part of the story as she runs headlong past her cousin’s adamant dictate that she remain an unmarried virgin. In the second part of the novel, set almost forty years later, young Mary Rogers begins her service to Elizabeth with good intentions of remaining devotedly virtuous, yet still manages to find herself in love with one of the queen’s godsons. Though much time has passed, Mary’s story begins to echo Katherine’s; time alone will show whether or not she retains the fortitude to withstand her beloved’s advances.
Well told and well researched, this book gripped me from its earliest pages and wouldn’t let go until I’d read all the way through the reader’s guide at the end. I became caught up in the lives of these two relatively unknown ladies of Elizabeth’s court, and the way Westin ties both tales together is unique and riveting. What might have been merely two love stories truly became history brought to life. Highly recommended.