Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: Three Maids For A Crown by Ella March Chase

In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister Katherine Grey charms all the right people--until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine whose goal is simply to protect people she loves--but at a terrible cost.

In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived under the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager: their daughters' lives against rampant ambition.

Synopsis from

My Review

4 Stars

Ella March Chase's Three Maids for a Crown focuses on the lives of England's Grey sisters - Jane, Katherine and Mary - whose descent from Henry VII and Elizabeth of York put them in direct line for the English throne.  When it is apparent young Edward VI is suffering from an illness from which he will not recover, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and John Dudley, the powerful Duke of Northumberland and Lord Protector of England, plot to have Suffolk's daughter Jane named heir to the throne in place of Edward's sisters Mary and Elizabeth.   This plotting sets into motion a series of events that will have profound implications for each of the Grey sisters, the most significant of which is Edward VI's naming of Jane as his heir.  Upon the young King's death, Jane becomes England's Queen, a title she holds for only nine-days and results in her execution for treason early in the reign of her successor, Mary Tudor.   It also impacts the life of Katherine, who, upon Jane's death, is seen as a possible contender to first Mary's, and then Elizabeth's, throne.  While I'm somewhat Tudored out at the moment, I gave this novel a try because the primary characters - the Grey sisters - are rarely featured prominently in Tudor fiction and, while I was already familiar with the story of Lady Jane Grey, I knew very little about her sisters and their lives after Jane's death.   

Alternating between the voices of Jane, Katherine and Mary, March Chase successfully brings each of these women to life, vividly describing their hopes and dreams, and their struggles and hardships.  Multiple narration is not an easy technique to get right, but March Chase skillfully moves between  narrative voices without interrupting the flow of the story.  The author also seamlessly weaves the important political/historical context of the times into this novel.  As a result, the book is both entertaining and educational.   Being unfamiliar with the fates of Katherine and Mary before reading this novel, I was especially surprised by the awful treatment of Katherine by Elizabeth I.  While some historical liberties have been taken, these are addressed in the Author's Note, and do not detract in any way from the educational aspect of this novel.  

I highly recommend this novel to historical fiction fans, especially those interested in the Tudor period.

Note: The novel comes from my own personal collection.