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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Margaret George captures history's most enthralling queen as she confronts rivals to her throne and to her heart.

One of today's premier historical novelists, George dazzles here as she tackles her most difficult subject yet: the legendary Elizabeth Tudor, queen of enigma - the Virgin Queen who had many suitors; the victor of the Armada who hated war; the gorgeously attired, jewel-bedecked woman who pinched pennies. England's greatest monarch has baffled and intrigued the world for centuries. What was she really like?

In this novel, her flame-haired, lookalike cousin, Lettice Knollys, thinks she knows all too well. Elizabeth's rival for the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth's throne, Lettice had been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood. This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire, one trying to protect her country and throne, the other trying to regain power and position for her family - and each vying to convince the listener of her own private vision of the truth about Elizabeth's character. Their gripping drama is acted out at the height Elizabethan age's flowering. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dudley, Raleigh, Drake - all of them swirl through this novel as they swirled through the court and on the high seas.

This is a magnificent, stay-up-all-night listen that is George's finest and most compelling novel and one that is sure to please readers and listeners of Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, and Hilary Mantel.

©2011 Margaret George (P)2011 Penguin

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A different view of Elizabeth

With all the current books about Queen Elizabeth I, it seems there may be nothing new to say. But this book finds a new vision of Elizabeth. The is the old Elizabeth. The story starts with the Spanish Armada and goes to her death. Most stories about her center on her childhood and formative years of queenship. This one is of a mature, wiser Elizabeth. She has lived a long time, outlived most of her childhood friends, and has endured many trials. She sees the people around her in the vision of experience. And she sees herself a becoming more sidelined, as new, younger, men enter the stage of history.
Several of the reviewers have complained about the narrator, but I think her voice is quite right for this queen. She is mature, not a silly, vain girl. I felt like I was listening to the older Elizabeth as she reviewed her past and looked to the future.
In all, I found this book quite entertaining. It is an era that is most often hurried in stories about the times. First there is the armada, Elizabeth in armor, rousing the troops, old Elizabeth playing the fool with Essex, then she's dead. Here, she actively participated in the planning and work of the defense of England, it was Essex who was the fool, and she strode strongly and bravely into that good-night.
I enjoyed this book, and I think others who have read a lot extensively of the time will also enjoy. If this is your first Elizabeth story, you will not enjoy. The author expects the readers to already know the people and the events.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Bonnie
  • Bellmore, NY, United States
  • 03-18-12

Not boring for history buff

The story tells of Elizabeth the Ist reign in it's second half. Those who found it boring may have been looking for something more. I found many interesting things, that I hadn't known before. Margret George is a remarkable writer and does research her stories and timelines perfectly. I loved her"Autobiography of Henry the VIII" (Elizabeth's father). If you are interested in finding out more about this amazing ruler of England, this is a really wonderful book to read. Yes, this woman had to be so many things to keep her on the throne. She picked great advisers, and held them close. This book also shows that no one is perfect especially a monarch. I enjoy historical novels, they are one of my favorite forms of reading. I especially enjoy someone who does their research, follows a timeline, and can create a story that captivates. Those who wore "BORED" with this story, I can only assume that they were looking for a fairy tale. This book was as close to 100% on as could be, since there are no personal letters or diary written by Elizabeth herself. Everything about Queen Elizabeth I st, came from other peoples observances and documented histories of the time. I enjoyed this book very much. I have read many books by Margaret George, I didn't enjoy them all. but her books about English royalty were fantastic. I also enjoyed "Cleopatra". If you have read Margaret George before and enjoyed her books, then I'm sure you'll enjoy this as well. I believe those who criticized, saying this book was boring or slow may not have read any of Ms. George's previous novels. The author at the end explains much, and that very little was embellished except for conversations, and perhaps who was dancing with whom. (after all it is a novel).

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fascinating Listen

I had never read about Elizabeth's later life, so found this story fascinating for that reason alone. Margaret George also tells a great story. The characters really come to life, and I found myself caring about so many of them. The narrator was excellent. I have just downloaded Margaret George's book, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, which sounds as good if not better.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 11-12-14

Very Enjoyable!

Hundreds of novels have been written about Elizabeth I, so one wonders, what could be written about her life that hasn't been covered before? Margaret George takes as her subject a less familiar period of Elizabeth's life, the last 15 years or so, from the approach of the Spanish Armada to her death in 1603. It's a daring decision, since what we generally think of as the most exciting events in her reign--her imprisonment by her half-sister Mary, her dalliance Thomas Seymour, her ascendance to the throne, the string of foreign suitors and her 'affair' with Robert Dudley, the arrest of her cousin Mary of Scotland, etc.--have already occurred. So what could there be in the life of an aging queen that is worthy of another massive tome?

Plenty--especially if you are a reader who is more interested in characters than action. And George starts us off with plenty of action as the English troops prepare to meet the Armada. We're introduced to some of the major players of the period: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the leader of Elizabeth's troops; her spymaster Frances Walsingham (incongruously clad in armor); Sir Walter Raleigh; Secretary Burleigh; Leicester's stepson, the Earl of Essex;--the list goes on.

But characters drive this novel. By focusing on an aging queen with aging advisors who are often in conflict with the younger members of the council, George finds a reason to explore relationships, the changes wrought by maturity and experience, and a growing generation gap that affects both court and country. The effect is enhanced by dividing the novel between two narrators, Elizabeth and her cousin Lettice Knollys. The ten years younger, more beautiful, and thrice-married Lettice is the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of the queen's doomed mother. A third Boleyn cousin, Catherine Knollys, enters the picture as one of Elizabeth's foremost ladies in waiting. It is Catherine who observes near the end of the book that together they represent the three paths of womanhood: one a life-long virgin, one thrice widowed, and one happily married to the same man since her youth.

While Elizabeth and Lettice would seem to be polar opposites (and Lettice had incurred the queen's lifelong enmity for seducing away and marrying Leicester), George's narrative subtly reveals the similarities between them as well. For one thing, both have learned the value of patience; for another, both reflect on the mistakes and lessons of the past and on the process of aging. Whatever else she may be, Lettice is also a devoted mother; and George depicts Elizabeth as a mother much devoted to her "children," the people of England, as well as to her many godchildren. In the case of Elizabeth, George attempts to dig below the myths and give us a closer look at the woman behind the face paint and the crown. The double narratives remind us of how difficult it was to be a woman in those days, especially for a woman who had to remind the world that she was a prince as well.

Now, don't get the impression that this book is all thought and no action. After all, we are talking about a period that encompassed the invasion of the Armada and the continued threat from Spain, the Lopez 'plot,' the Irish wars, the Essex rebellion, the problem of the succession, and more. And for good measure, George imagines a dalliance between Lettice and that upstart playwright William Shakespeare. (Both women comment on his work and ponder its relevance--and John Donne makes two appearances as well.) In short, George gives us a brimming picture of life, both public and private, in late Elizabethan England.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!! More like history than fiction!

If you could sum up Elizabeth I in three words, what would they be?

compelling, must read!

What other book might you compare Elizabeth I to and why?

Any of Philipa Gregory books only I liked this one better! Reason: similar genre

What does Kate Reading bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

excellent reading skills and accurate depiction, helping the listener to visualize the story.

Any additional comments?

This book included information about the Boleyn family, historical figures, and cultural facts that help the reader understand Elizabeth I 's family and time period in a creative novel.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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She is Elizabeth!

I love historical fiction. Margaret George always presents a novel that has been well researched and this is no exception. I enjoyed every moment and the reader IS Elizabeth.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Pita
  • Miami
  • 01-01-15

A different take on Gloriana

What made the experience of listening to Elizabeth I the most enjoyable?

The author presents Elizabeth as an older woman. The first person viewpoint is extremely well done and the combination of material and narrator are just perfect. We see Elizabeth as a willful woman and shrewd politician, smart, well educated and very much used to getting her way...she can do almost everything but stop time. I love historical fiction and the Tudors in particular and just when I thought everything that could be done in literature with the Tudors had already been done and I had read it, I found this. Of course I knew what happened; the historical events are well known....but I was not expecting this Elizabeth, past middle age but so sharp and of course, not easy...never easy. This is good writing by Margaret George who seems to be able to inhabit her characters with great ease. If you are willing to put up with this sometimes annoying Elizabeth, you will enjoy this listen. I did!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Gail
  • Phoenixville, PA, United States
  • 08-05-12

A very remarkable Queen

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, if you like this time period you will like this book. I read a lot of historical fiction and this one is up there in the top 5 reads.

What about Kate Reading’s performance did you like?

The reading was good I forgot she was reading. I was sure i was just listening to the Queen talking.

If you could take any character from Elizabeth I out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Elizabeth, she was a fascinating person.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Boring - Was it the writer or the reader or both?

I have enjoyed other Margaret George books I have read - Henry VIII, Cleopatra, Mary Queen of Scot and Helen of Troy. I have a lot of interest in Elizabeth I. I have always found her one of the most intriguing women in history. I had absolutely no interest in Helen of Troy. So why did I enjoy the Helen novel and not the Elizabeth novel? That is a question I am asking myself. Typically the joy of a long book is that you get to know the characters so deeply. The author mentions at the end that Elizabeth's contemporaries felt they never knew what Elizabeth was thinking and I felt the same about the author. I couldn't feel for Elizabeth because I didn't know her. I didn't feel attached to any of the characters. It felt hollow. There were some very interesting facts that I was unaware of about both people and events. Had the book been shortened in half I could have still found those out and known just as much about the characters. What didn't help is I found the reader unbelievable. If George was confused about Elizabeth's character Reading seemed lost. Maybe I would have enjoyed the book better if I had read it myself. If Margaret George writes another book I will buy. Even the best writers have a book that just isn't as good as the others and the author had set herself a high level to meet. I don't think I will try the reader again though, unless it is for something fluffy.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Shelley
  • Highlands Ranch, CO, United States
  • 05-01-11

Sadly boring

I love Margaret George. I've read most of her books and was excited to see she had a new one. I'm about halfway through and I keep hoping things are going to get more interesting. I'm finally ready to give up. Honestly, there just isn't enough interest for me in Elizabeth's life from age 50+ to keep going. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic or deep. Too bad.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful