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Rival to the Queen by Carolyn Erickson

Distinguished historian Carolly Erickson is the author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, The First Elizabeth, The Last Wife of Henry VIII, Bloody Mary and many other prizewinning works of fiction and nonfiction. This month she brings readers the unforgettable story of two women related by blood, yet destined to clash over one of Tudor England’s most charismatic men in Rival to the Queen.

Powerful, dramatic, and full of the rich history that has made Erickson’s novels perennial bestsellers, this is the story of the only woman to ever stand up to the Virgin Queen—her cousin, Lettie Knollys. Far more attractive than the queen, Lettie soon won the attention of the handsome and ambitious Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a man so enamored of the queen and determined to share her throne that it was rumored he had murdered his wife to become her royal consort. The enigmatic Elizabeth allowed Dudley into her heart, and relied on his devoted service, but shied away from the personal and political risks of marriage.

When Elizabeth discovered he married her cousin Lettie in secret, Lettie would pay a terrible price.

I always try to put myself in the position of the women characters in historical pieces such as this. Men wielded most of the power and even power hungry women like Queen Elizabeth had to take the advice of the men around them much of the time. Elizabeth does not come off well in this depiction, nor in much of history’s accounts. The readers’ sympathy will be with the courageous Lettie most of the time. Lettie is not without her share of greed for power however. The children born to the liaisons between men and women of the court had a truly rough time and always get a share of my sympathy, as do Lettie’s children.

If anything, after reading one of these works of historical fiction, I’m glad to live in this time period!

The story moves along effortlessly and should keep readers entertained for a few hours.



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