My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt.
As you may guess from the book's cover this novel is set during the reign of Elizabeth 1.The story is narrated by Lettice Knollys who is a cousin of the reigning queen, through the Boleyn line. Lettice's grandmother was Mary Boleyn, Anne's sister. After fleeing the country during the reign of Mary 1, Lettice and her family return when Elizabeth is crowned queen. The royal court holds much fascination for the young Lettice and much discussion takes place when her mother is summoned to court by the queen.
As Lettice matures , she finds that her beauty and radiance can be used to her advantage and as such she is tempted by many a handsome man. However, there is only one man she desires, Robert Dudley. Dudley was the Queen's favourite, known as Elizabeth's 'Eyes' , Dudley ascended to an extreme high place at court. Elizabeth , enjoyed the companonship of handsome men, and as such felt very possessive of them. She granted Dudley the title of Earl of Leicester, and many thought this was an introduction to the idea of marriage, but this was not to be . Elizabeth enjoyed Dudley's company but there was no marriage.Perhaps Elizabeth's upbringing influenced her decisions,
'I used to wonder whether her upbringing had had some effect on her. She had been a baby of three when her mother had died, but she was old enough - being- exceptonally precocious - to have missed her.'
Now Lettice although married to Walter Devereaux, was willing to challenge the Queen for the love of Dudley. As the story unfolds and Walter dies a mysterious death, Lettice is banished from court , and the Queen is presented with many suitors whom all appear undesirable.
All except one
'Oh yes, she was still in love with him; and although she announced that she would give a million pounds to have her little Frog swimming in the Thames, it was Robert of whom she was thinking.'
As Elizabeth lives out her life , losing friends along the way, so Lettice lives in the hope of a reconciliation with court. The book covers Lettice's life , her turbulent life, through marriages, children and grandchildren. But the Queen always had the last call and Lettice loses much through Elizabeth's reign.
I read this book for theJean Plaidy Reading group. and challenge.A brilliant read, highly recommended.