Saturday, April 19, 2008

22. The Constant Princess
23. The Virgin's Lover

by Philippa Gregory

I read The Constant Princess for my online book group, and was listening to an abridged version of The Virgin's Lover at about the same time. I'm reviewing them together because they are both historical fiction by the same author, and are both set in Tudor England. The Constant Princess is about Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII, while The Virgin's Lover is about Henry's daughter, Queen Elizabeth.

In both books, Gregory takes a real-life mystery and builds a story around it. With Katherine, the question is whether or not her marriage to Henry's older brother, Arthur (who died within five months of the wedding), was ever consummated. The mystery in Elizabeth's life involves the puzzling death of Amy, the wife of Elizabeth's lover, Sir Robert Dudley. Gregory takes a stand on what really happened and builds her case in her stories, creating a believable argument with her use of period details as well as historical and biographical facts.

British actress Davina Porter did a great job narrating The Virgin's Lover, using various accents from Great Britain to distinguish the female characters. The men all sounded the same, but fortunately there are only two main male characters, Dudley and Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth's main adviser.

I really enjoyed both books, and plan to read more of Gregory's Tudor series of historical fiction.