The Virgin’s War

Written by Laura Andersen
Review by Kristen McDermott

Andersen brings her alternate history series (the linked Boleyn and Tudor Legacy trilogies) to a close in this exciting sixth volume. Queen Elizabeth I faces the certainty of war against her ex-husband, Philip of Spain, and turns to their charismatic daughter, Anne, Princess of Wales, for help to unite England against its common enemy and the dreaded Armada. Andersen is clearly a fan of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series and offers a similarly action-packed tour of England, France, Spain, Ireland and Scotland in her novels. The final volume focuses on the romantic fortunes and emotional fates of the lively Courtenay family, fictional Elizabethan nobility whose lives are plausibly intertwined with the members of the Tudor dynasty.

Once you accept her premise – that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s son lived to become (briefly) King Henry IX and was succeeded by his sister Elizabeth – the novels are a satisfying blend of romance, politics, and rich historical research. Andersen’s Tudor England is one where the violence, paranoia, and religious strife of the 16th century are softened by friendship and family loyalties; her great achievement is her version of Elizabeth I who, given the chance to pass on her political genius to a new generation, seems kinder, funnier, and more humane than her character usually appears in fiction. The novels are aimed at a crossover YA/adult audience, which may account for both the optimistic tone and the romantic plots that make up in sweetness what they lack in depth. History buffs will be kept guessing as to which real events will occur and which will change; this adds suspense to what would otherwise be a slightly formulaic story, making this an enjoyable adventure for a wide range of readers.