Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Review of Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
Title/Author: Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
Publisher/Date published: Sourcebooks Landmark, June 1st 2012
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Goodreads summary: "As Henry VIII draws his last breath, two very different women, Jane Dudley, Viscountess Lisle, and Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, face the prospect of a boy king, Edward VI.
For Jane Dudley, basking in the affection of her large family, the coming of a new king means another step upward for her ambitious, able husband, John. For Frances Grey, increasingly alienated from her husband and her brilliant but arrogant daughter Lady Jane, it means that she — and the Lady Jane — are one step closer to the throne of England.
Then the young king falls deathly ill. Determined to keep England under Protestant rule, he concocts an audacious scheme that subverts his own father’s will. Suddenly, Jane Dudley and Frances Grey are reluctantly bound together in a common cause—one that will test their loyalties, their strength, and their faith, and that will change their lives beyond measure."
So you guys know by now how much of an anglophile I am. Which means that when I saw this one I knew I just HAD to read it! I mean, Jane Grey is one of my beloved tragic historical figures and I realised that I hadn't ever read a book that focuses on her instead of Mary or Elizabeth during the time this all went down. And now I have, hooray!
I really loved that I got to see all the events come to pass through the eyes of two women who were married to two of the most powerful men in England at that time: Jane Dudley, duchess of Northumberland and Frances Grey, duchess of Suffolk. It was so much more interesting to see a broader viewpoint than just the one shown from the people directly involved would have been, like for example Jane Grey herself. Through their husbands these ladies know a lot of the secrets and court intrigue and I just ate it all up.
I have to admit that I liked the chapters that focused on Jane Dudley better, she was a more engaging character, Frances was sometimes a bit cold in her behaviour and it threw me off. I did really appreciate that we see both of the men history has painted as villains in a different light through their wives' eyes and although I knew it wasn't going to end well for all of them, I was so rooting that maybe this time it would be different. Reading this I discovered that I actually didn't know a lot of things about how this all happened and I was kinda surprised to see THE Robert Dudley married for love! I mean, the only thing I've seen of him was when he was with Elizabeth in the novels and he didn't seem to care much about his wive then. Also, I can't help but picture him as Joseph Fiennes... And I hadn't realised before that Jane Grey was married at the time of her short reign, I was SO sad when her husband died, I really liked him as a character...
But I was sad at pretty much all of the deaths, be they by beheading or illness. Also, I keep getting frustrated that for most of the historical characters who died a 'natural' death (as in that they didn't get sentenced to death), no one knows exactly what they died of! It's probably my medical training, but I'm horrified at the things they didn't know and couldn't do back then and reading about stuff like that makes me all the more grateful to live in the 21st century!
This is not a negative point towards the author or anything, but sometimes I found it a bit hard to keep track of all the different Johns, Katherines, Janes and Marys, there seemed to be a lack of names to choose from in those times ;) I thought the author did a pretty good job at this though, most of the time she would mention their rank and family name along with the first name, so I could more easily figure it out.
I liked that Susan Higginbotham managed to teach me something about the time period and the people involved without being boring. The writing was engaging and like I said before, it was nice to see it through the eyes of these two women, who give the facts colour with their love for their husbands and children. Definitely recommended for historical fiction lovers like me!
My rating: 4 stars