The power of the throne wields an exacting price for all within the sphere of its influence courtiers, counselors, bishops alike in Philippa Gregory's robust historical novel, The Virgin's Lover. When Elizabeth I becomes queen, Robert Dudley convinces himself that he can juggle two lives as loving husband of Amy and as willing lover of Elizabeth. He and the new ruler have been friends since childhood, a friendship that even the taint of scandal has not diminished, so Dudley takes his place in the Tudor court as his due. But Elizabeth may no longer be the innocent girl Dudley reveres. Tempered by threats of war and the heightened tension between Protestants and loyal Catholic bishops, the court becomes a place of danger both epic and personal. But it is the untimely and mysterious death of Amy that rips apart Dudley's carefully contrived charade. Gregory has constructed a fascinating speculative history of the age of the first Elizabeth. While steeped in history, The Virgin's Lover highlights the foibles of human nature that still ring true today. A sure winner.

Sandy Huseby reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota, and lakeside in northern Minnesota.

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