Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham bears Susan’s signature style and that is an excellent fictional tale woven with rich historical detail that will hold you captive within its pages. I became a fan of Susan’s early on in my blogging career when I read The Traitor’s Wife (my review) and loved it. I then read Hugh and Bess (my review) and The Stolen Crown (my review) and loved them as well so it’s easy to see why I was drawn to reading her newest and I have to say I think it may well be my favorite. Now part of the reason can be that it takes place in the Tudor period which is my favorite so it’s familiar territory but also because Susan brings to life this time in history so well that I feel I’m reading a really good fiction book but then I step back and realize that much of this is true and that makes it all the better for me.
The opening of the novel finds King Henry VIII on his deathbed. With his death Edward VI becomes King and those who follow Tudor history know that his reign was a short one. Following his death the battle for the crown begins. Edward VI had ordered that Lady Jane Grey be his heir because he believed that both Mary and Elizabeth were bastards but of course that would never do as Henry VIII’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth still lived and Mary especially still had many supporters.
While the story may not be a new one I found it interesting in that it is told from the point of view of two women I had not heard from before and that is Frances Grey and Jane Dudley. Frances Grey of course being the mother of Lady Jane Grey who becomes queen for a short time and Jane Dudley who was the mother of Robert Dudley of who many a novel is written about as he had an interesting relationship with Queen Elizabeth I. The novel is told in alternating chapters between these two women and this takes a bit of getting used to as it seems everyone named their children the same thing and it can get confusing at times. Once I got adjusted to the flow of things the story flowed smoothly for me.
Jane Grey by all accounts is a headstrong young lady. She’s not at all interested in the normal pursuits of a young lady like sewing or singing; as a matter of a fact she is described as being very bookish on more than one occasion. When she is told she has to marry the boring Guildford she is none too happy but does as her parents wish. Shortly thereafter she is informed, much to her astonishment, that she has become the Queen of England. Now keep in mind Jane is only sixteen and completely unknowledgeable of the world around her. She has no idea how to be a queen but of course there is the council to guide her. Needless to say her reign is short lived as Mary lays claim to the crown and imprisons all those against her in The Tower.
I felt sorry for Jane as she didn’t have any idea of what was going on. She just did as she was told as most children did back then and realistically she did have a claim to the crown being of royal blood. Unfortunately for her once Mary became queen and reinstated the Catholic religion Jane was doomed as she refused to convert and ultimately Jane is beheaded along with her husband for treason. I am always amazed by court politics. One minute you can be in favor and living the good life and the next you can find yourself having your head chopped off. The least affront to your king or queen can cause your fall from grace and ultimately your death. We all saw how quickly Anne Boleyn fell from grace and was beheaded. It seemed no different for Jane Grey. Royal blood did not mean you were safe in any way.
While there is so much more detail to this story and I’ve only skimmed the surface I’m going to leave my thoughts here. This is definitely a book to lose yourself in for a few hours while you experience court life at its best. There is all the backstabbing and treachery that make this time in history so intriguing. Her Highness, the Traitor is well worth reading whether you’re a fan of Susan Higginbotham or not. It’s an excellent journey back in time!
Her Highness, the Traitor is a well told story that left me anxious to learn more about Lady Jane Grey – so anxious in fact that I went and reserved a few of the books that Susan mentions in her author’s note. Another thing that I’d like to mention about Susan’s books because it’s something I really respect and that is that she sticks to the facts. When you read a novel by her you don’t have to wonder if what you’re reading actually happened or if that’s the fictional part because Susan’s very true to her historical detail. I never fail to come away from one of her books having immensely enjoyed her writing, her story, and most of all that I’ve learned more about that vast world of history out there so thank you for that Susan!
Source: Review copy provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own.