If you’re like me, then you probably go through about a million-plus “what if” scenarios daily. I can’t help myself; I think its just my genetic makeup, but I am an over-thinker extraordinaire…which is sometimes bad, and sometimes good. I like to think of it as me being super prepared for anything that might happen.
Thanks to That’s Normal, I just found an author who combined my love of all things British monarchies (specifically the Tudor family) and some great big what-if scenarios. Laura Andersen’s books are a match made in heaven for me!
I was sent the final book in her Tudor Legacy series – The Virgin’s War – to read. I saw when I got it that it was the third of a trilogy and so I took my happy self over to Amazon to purchase the first two, because I LOVE all books with Elizabeth Tudor in them. Y’all…I read the first two books in two days because I could NOT put them down. Then I had to go back to work and so it took me a few days to read the final book. Work is never as good as a good book – but I can’t afford good books without it…damnit.
Real quick British history lesson: King Henry VIII (Elizabeth I’s dad) had a son who was king after his death, but pretty much in name only, because he only made it to 15 years old. I know most people know the whole Henry VIII and his 8 wives thing, and that he annulled or executed most of those wives because they didn’t bear him sons. (Only Edward VI and one other made it past infancy) BUT, Henry had some strong daughters – two of them later became queen: Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Elizabeth I (Gloriana, Queen Bess, etc). I’ll let you Google all the details – they are fascinating!
There is a prequel to this series, which I haven’t read yet, and in it Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn have a son who lives to adulthood and becomes king, and Anne Boleyn keeps her head. Henry IX, also known as William, is Elizabeth I’s brother, and through some twists of fate, Elizabeth I becomes Queen of England.
The entire mesmerizing Tudor Legacy series is about Elizabeth I and what might have happened had she gotten married to Philip of Spain and then had a daughter with him. It is SO GOOD. There are so many pieces of real (or very close to real) history mixed in with the fiction that I found myself going back and forth to the internet to verify what was and wasn’t factual. Andersen is a master at dropping real people who lived and breathed, and situations that actually happened in the Elizabethan court into this alternate reality world of Elizabeth Tudor.
I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, so this is a spoiler-free review. In the story, Elizabeth has had a lifelong friendship with the Courtenay family, specifically with Minuette Courtenay. The Courtenays are a very loyal family, even after the hardships of being part of court life many years previous. She also surrounds herself with people who are very trusted advisors, and she has no problem using her friends and family to meet her goals. She’s a great manipulator.
Princess Anne is Elizabeth and Philip’s daughter, and she is a beautiful character all on her own, with extremely close friendships with the Courtenay children (there are 4), and is very intelligent in her own right. The entire premise of the series is two-fold: Philip of Spain wants a Catholic ruler on the throne of England, and he wants it to be either Mary, Queen of Scots (Elizabeth’s cousin – imprisoned by her) or someone of his choosing as Anne’s husband. The other theme is about Anne coming into her own and learning to be a great leader, while sometimes sacrificing those who mean the most to you. There is so much political maneuvering in these books, and it is surprisingly easy to keep straight. There are also a few threads of love stories woven in.
The Courtenay family and Sir Francis Walsingham, as well as Robert Cecil, play prominent parts in the series. Philip of Spain also appears frequently, and I felt he is a sympathetic character, at least until the last part of the third book. Mary, Queen of Scots is portrayed as she has been throughout history – spoiled and not liked by a lot of people, but wanted on the throne because she was Catholic. My favorite characters of the whole series are two of the Courtenay children, the twins Pippa and Kit. Their stories are integral to the plot, and although they are themselves fictional characters, Andersen makes you want to be best friends with them. This series had well-developed characters, without them being overdone with so much detail that they become overwhelming. One small warning, though – you will get attached to a beloved character, and they will die.
Overall, this whole series was absolutely intriguing to me – it did a fabulous job of answering the “what if” questions it posed, and it was really just a very enjoyable read.
So…if you could change any “what if” in history, what would it be?