The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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In Print
Gregory contributes another installment to her series of fictionalized tales of the Tudor monarchy. It is yet another opportunity to show off her rare talents—to make a story even more engrossing because the audience knows how it will turn out.

This novel opens as Elizabeth I's reign commences in England. An uncertain political landscape greets the novice queen. No bishop can be found who is willing to coronate the young Protestant monarch. Military threats heighten while her army is in shambles, and Scotland remains a pivotal player as Mary Queen of Scots waits in the wings to take over the throne of England providing that their French allies show the might to bring Elizabeth down. All the while, Elizabeth's most powerful card to play is her own hand in marriage, but will Sir Robert Dudley, her dashing Master of Horse sway her to follow her heart rather than the cautions of her advisors?

Book Cover

On Audio
If this novel weren't historical fiction, we might expect a garden variety romance novel, but Gregory plays history to her advantage. Most readers know that Elizabeth does not marry, and so the story is all the more absorbing because we know Elizabeth's romance cannot possibly take a standard path. What twists and turns will keep Elizabeth and Dudley apart? How will Elizabeth salvage England from political mess without the help of a powerful husband? This novel sustains intrigue throughout and keeps the reader interest by playing simultaneously toward and against expectations.

Like any of Gregory's historical novels, The Virgin's Lover is well worth a read; and rest assured, readers can pick up any novel in this series without having read the others. While the novels may complement one another in some ways, they are in every other way stand-alone stories.


S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.