Philippa Gregory





Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster, February 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Hannah Verde, a bookseller's daughter and Jewish refugee from the Spanish Inquisition, has come to London with her father, following the execution of her mother. Hannah’s mother was burned at the stake for being a marrano, a false Christian, and it was no longer safe for Jews in Spain. Since their escape from Spain, and throughout their wanderings, Hannah has posed as a young boy, while they have pretended to be Protestants.

They have changed their name to Green and hope to live quietly, printing and selling manuscripts, until Lord Robert Dudley discovers Hannah has the gift of Sight. Promising her father she is safe, Dudley takes her to see young King Edward. She foresees the young King's death, and he finds her amusing with her innocent, straightforward manner. King Edward commands her to join his court as a holy fool, but soon after his death, Hannah's gift leads her to become caught up in events at court between Queen Mary and her royal rivals, Lady Jane Gray and Princess Elizabeth. As Hannah crosses the threshold into womanhood, she finds her life dramatically effected by the powerful Tudor women.

But there are equally powerful men who influence Hannah's life. Lord Robert Dudley, the charismatic and powerful nobleman, knows her secrets and uses her maidenly infatuation with him to seduce her into spying. As a child, Hannah wasn't able to save her mother from execution, but perhaps she can save Lord Dudley from a traitor's execution. And there is her betrothed, Daniel Carpenter, another Jew masquerading as a Protestant. Hannah was promised to Daniel before she ever met him, and the intense young man despises the risks Hannah takes to remain at court. What's more, he sees her true motives, and grows to love her in spite of her unbiddable nature and the dangerous games she plays.

THE QUEEN'S FOOL is a mesmerizing tale of a young girl swept up in a tide of religious persecution and royal politics. Hannah is the narrator of the story and readers will see the political drama and fascinating players through her eyes. Hannah's journey from an innocent, motherless refugee to a woman in full, will leave readers spell bound.

Ms. Gregory uses Hannah's voice with masterful skill to carry the story along with taut suspense. Under constant threat of discovery, Hannah is a girl who wants to please and is guided by a futile longing to make things right for those she serves.

Gregory's tale reveals a human portrait of Queen Mary, and depicts the reign of Bloody Mary in terms that give the reader an understanding the woman and the complicated political issues. Sometimes Hannah's naïveté leads her into situations that will likely leave readers on the edge of their seats, crying, "No, don't do that!"

Hannah's infatuation with the married Lord Dudley, juxtaposed to her disapproving fiancé, places the reader ringside in the romantic joust for who will ultimately win Hannah's love. Lord Dudley is a powerful romantic figure who laughingly skirts the dangers and risks of the Tudor court, tempting Hannah, who he affectionately calls "Mistress Boy," with dangerous passions. Daniel Carpenter, a young doctor, knows he cannot compete with the dashing lord and never tries. He steadfastly courts Hannah with his desire to see her lay aside her breeches and become a woman who can stand beside him. The contest for her heart will keep you turning the pages and eager for the outcome.

Ms. Gregory, who has a history degree from the University of Sussex and a Ph.D. in eighteenth century literature from the University of Edinburgh, is also the author of THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (April 2002) reached national bestseller status, and was adapted by the BBC for television. Plus there is also rumored to be an American film in the works. Ms.Gregory describes her novels as a fictionalization of historical events, but she doesn't just limit herself to historical fiction; among her fourteen previous titles are several contemporary stories, including ZELDA'S CUT and PERFECTLY CORRECT.


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