Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
ARC, Paperback, 336 pages
June 1, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from Publisher for review
“As Henry VIII draws his last breath, two very different women, Jane Dudley, Viscountess Lisle, and Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, face the prospect of a boy king, Edward VI.
For Jane Dudley, basking in the affection of her large family, the coming of a new king means another step upward for her ambitious, able husband, John. For Frances Grey, increasingly alienated from her husband and her brilliant but arrogant daughter Lady Jane, it means that she—and the Lady Jane—are one step closer to the throne of England.
Then the young king falls deathly ill. Determined to keep England under Protestant rule, he concocts an audacious scheme that subverts his own father’s will. Suddenly, Jane Dudley and Frances Grey are reluctantly bound together in a common cause—one that will test their loyalties, their strength, and their faith, and that will change their lives beyond measure.”
Throughout my reading of this book, I felt like the title could be changed slightly to fit almost every main character. At one time or another they were all found to be traitors to the crown and a vast many paid for it with their lives. With that said, THE traitor of the title is not one of our narrators, but her story is told through the viewpoints of Jane Dudley (Jane Grey’s mother-in-law) and Frances Grey (Jane Grey’s mother). I really appreciated this story being told from their perspectives. With the alternating chapters you could see events from both sides of the fence – and usually they were on opposing sides. With these narrators you are right within the crush of events, however they escape with their lives. I feel that the author did a very good job of making these women their own and really getting the reader to care about them.
Regarding THE traitor, Jane Grey – I found it hard to connect with her in this novel. She isn’t one of the narrators, so we have to see her through the eyes of others, and you would think with two opposing narrators we would get a well-rounded view of her. She appears stand-offish and mostly one dimensional. When she meets her ultimate end, I did not feel too much for her. This is diametrically different from my outpouring of tears at the end of Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. I would have liked to have been given the chance to get to know her better in this novel.
This book casts a much more sympathetic light on the Dudley’s and the Grey’s than many other novels do. The relationship between Frances Grey and her daughter Jane is typically characterized as harsh with Frances coming out as an advancement grabbing woman. The Dudley’s, particularly John Dudley, the patriarch, are crafted as villains who are creating treasonous plots. As described in the author’s note, Higginbotham has tried to craft characters that are more likely closer to their historical counterparts as recent research has been lifting that veil of villainy that has long since shrouded both families.
I have to appreciate the cast of characters presented on the outset of the book because titles changed so often during this time period that I would have had trouble keeping them all straight.
While this book did not grab me from the first pages, it slowly began to grow on me. If you encounter this while reading, give it the chance to grow on you and you will appreciate the results.
Susan Higginbotham also has written The Traitor’s Wife, The Stolen Crown, Hugh and Bess, and The Queen of Last Hopes. You can visit Higginbotham’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court