The Virgin’s Lover

Written by Philippa Gregory
Review by Sarah Johnson

It is 1558. Bloody Mary has died, and Queen Elizabeth I has come to the throne at last. All of England rejoices – everyone except Amy, neglected wife of Elizabeth’s favorite companion, Robert Dudley. As Lord Robert’s fortunes rise, and rumors spread about his intimacy with the Queen, Amy remains in the country, growing more despondent by the day. Robert chooses to stay at court, seducing Elizabeth and influencing her political decisions, while Amy busies herself with selecting a proper home for them to live in. She never admits that their love match was a horrible mistake.

Elizabeth’s continued life as England’s Protestant Queen faces numerous challenges. Her own advisers, William Cecil most of all, suggest she forget about Robert and marry for the good of the realm. Eventually Elizabeth, deeply in love but determined to rule, comes to realize she must place her country first.

The basic story may be very familiar, but that doesn’t matter. Gregory infuses her characters with such life and personality that I nearly forgot how it was all supposed to end. One can’t help but feel sorry for naïve, deluded Amy, yet despite her cloying behavior, she has a strong inner core that made me almost hope she might win Robert’s love again. Of course, it was never meant to be, and this is made obvious from the start. A rich, enthralling novel of passion, betrayal, and power: what reader could ask for more?