Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: The Virgin's Daughter by Laura Andersen

Title: The Virgin's Daughter (A Tudor Legacy Novel #1)
Author: Laura Andersen
Publisher:  Ballantine Books (May 26, 2015)
ISBN: 9780804179362
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: historical fiction, alternate history
My Rating: 4.5 cups 

What if Elizabeth the First, the celebrated Virgin Queen, had a daughter? For those who just can’t get enough of the scandalous Tudors, the author of the wildly popular Boleyn King series offers an enthralling new saga of the royal family, set in Elizabethan England. Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir.

Andersen explores the thrilling possibility of a Tudor heir, the daughter of Elizabeth I, in her new trilogy, a captivating continuation of the alternate history of the Tudors launched in the award-winning Boleyn King trilogy. With her originality and imagination, Andersen breathes fresh life into this ever-fascinating epoch. Peppered with realistic period-details and genuine historical figures to add dimension and texture to her captivating story, Andersen brings the seduction and glamour of the Tudor court to life in this spellbinding new novel.

My Thoughts:

"...who ever said that being friends with royalty was fair?"

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of the alternate history Laura Andersen began in her Boleyn Trilogy, so I was incredibly excited to learn she was releasing a new series of books set in that same world and focusing on the next generation of characters. While this book is listed as Book #1 of this new series, it very much builds on the story of the first trilogy. While you could read it as a standalone, I would not recommend it. Your enjoyment and appreciation will be so much greater if you are aware of and love the previous books - I am and I do, so I can say without hesitation that I absolutely adored this book as well.

It feels almost like a reunion with old friends. Nearly all of our favorite characters from the first three books are present, albeit more in the background than on center stage, and established fans of the series will appreciate the manner in which Andersen flawlessly captures and conveys these much loved characters even in small scenes and snippets of dialogue. She also effectively illustrates how these characters have evolved over the unseen intervening years, particularly Elizabeth and the subtle changes the weight of the monarchy has wrought on her personality.

"She had always cared about her appearance, but as queen her appearance was as much a part of ruling as her edicts. The nobility wanted a woman they could admire and pretend to understand, and the people needed a figure of myth so that they might not remember that she was only a woman."

To carry the main crux of the story this time, we are introduced to a captivating new cast in the children of Elizabeth, Dominic and Minuette, and Renaud. Just as The Boleyn King did not solely focus on William, here too the title character is not the only star of the show. In fact, this is actually more Lucette's story than it is Princess Anne's, and I'm fine with that. Lucette is a terrific character, and this focus on her story allows a few remaining questions from the prior books to be explored and dealt with. Andersen writes characters that are easy to care about and does a marvelous job with an ensemble cast, giving them all great depth and individuality. I have high hopes that the upcoming books will delve deeper into each of these newly introduced family members because the glimpses we have seen here are most intriguing.

I found all aspects of this novel to be extremely well done. Andersen once again weaves her altered events in amongst historical fact with great skill and believability. As always, I found it fascinating to discover what changed and what didn't in her version of events, and how even altered timelines might lead to identical outcomes. The plot is multi-faceted and very cleverly done. The romance is handled well and complements rather than dominates the story. This author has a lovely writing style and a great sense of pace that makes the reading fun and effortless. Her prose immerses you in this world perfectly, and I could happily spend a great deal of time there.

My only minor complaint would be that the reader is never really shown 'why' the bad guy came to be bad. I can't fully explain without venturing into spoiler territory, but perhaps others who have read this book will understand what I mean. Don't get me wrong, he totally works as the villain and we know the motivations for his present actions. We simply don't get a clear explanation or trigger for what started him on the path to badness. That was the only real issue I had, and it was in no way troubling enough to spoil my enjoyment of this book. To put it plainly, I loved this book and savored every minute spent with it. It was over much too soon for me, and I am already anticipating the next installment, with fingers crossed that it includes an extra large helping of Dominic...because, even though he's no longer a true lead character in these new books, we could all use a little more Dominic Courtenay in our lives.

"What we think and feel, for good or bad, is all we can honestly offer another human being."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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