THE QUEEN'S HANDMAIDEN by Jennifer Ashley

In this elegant historical novel, clever Eloise Rousell is a noblewoman’s illegitimate daughter–a gifted seamstress to Protestant princess Elizabeth Tudor. When Elizabeth’s strict Catholic sister, Bloody Queen Mary, takes the throne, the queen’s ruthless persecution of heresy threatens highborn and common alike. When Elizabeth is arrested, Eloise too is imprisoned in the Tower of London and risks a heretic’s death. Now Eloise must step carefully, trusting only the alluring but mysterious Lord James Colby, if both women are to survive the queen’s malice.


I found this a fascinating read for several reasons. Ashley is a well-known romance author who holds an M.A. in English literature, and has only recently ventured into historical fiction. Her expertise and love of the Tudor period shine through in the writing. Unlike some historical novels, the pacing in this one remains brisk throughout, the heroine strongly likable, and the conflict lively. The satisfying romance between Eloise and Colby adds warmth and sensuality to the tale. Somewhat unusual in historical fiction, the romance-sized page count (an easy 323 pages) contributes to a very fast read. And I was impressed with this author’s appealing and authentic yet accessible historical voice—something I need to work on in my own writing.


:!: Ashley has also written Anne Boleyn’s story A LADY RAISED HIGH, another story I deeply enjoyed and recommend to readers interested in the Tudor period, under the pseudonym Laurien Gardner.

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