Category Archives: Edward VI

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham

Good book. Hate this cover.

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks Landmark; June 1, 2012
Historical fiction
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Frances Grey harbored no dream of her children taking the throne. Cousin of the king, she knew the pitfalls of royalty and privilege. Better to marry them off, marry them well, perhaps to a clan like the Dudleys. Jane Dudley knew her husband was creeping closer to the throne, but someone had to take charge, for the good of the country. She couldn’t see the twisted path they all would follow. The never–before–told story of the women behind the crowning of Jane Grey, this novel is a captivating peek at ambition gone awry, and the damage left in its wake.

In Her Highness, The Traitor Susan Higginbotham writes of the famous Tudor era during Edward VI’s short reign, and the struggle for the crown that followed King Edward’s death in 1553. Although the story is not a new one for Tudor fans, the author chose two intriguing figures of the time to narrate the story: Frances Grey, a niece of the old King Henry VIII, and Jane (Guildford) Dudley, who was married to John Dudley, father of the now famous Elizabethan courtier, Robert Dudley. The Tudor era is fraught with similar names (Robert, Henry, Edward) and nobles who’s titles can come and go on a king’s whim, which makes for confusing reading in any Tudor novel.

Higginbotham attempts to stay true to the story of the women she features, without too many detailed accounts that were going on behind the scenes. Frances Grey is popularly known as the witchy mother of the nine-day queen Lady Jane Grey and is rarely shown in a sympathetic light. If the author strove to right that wrong opinion of Frances, she succeeded. I loved the character of Frances from the beginning: she was stubborn, realistic, and not too fanciful as one may expect born with royal blood.

Jane Dudley’s story is similar to Frances’ as they each have children caught in the tangled web their husbands created. Frances’ daughter was put on the throne of England, attempting to bypass the Lady Mary. Bloody Mary did not get the moniker for nothing, as the novel will demonstrate. Frances and Jane each become Duchesses due to the political prowess of their husbands, but the titles end up having a high price.

The story is told in alternating first person point of views by the two duchesses, which caused me to think twice each time a new chapter began. I felt it may flowed better had the two narratives been told in third person, but eventually I took it all in stride. The author’s own witty sense of humor starts off quickly with the novel, with small joking statements being made which at times seemed out of place, knowing the subject matter to be would include a few deaths of family members, but the serious situations when they occurred were handled with due decorum and were quite emotive at times.

I enjoyed reading about the behind the scenes dynamics of the families of the two women, but felt there may have been a bit left out, but at 336 pages this was not meant to be a hefty historical. The reason for putting Lady Jane Grey on the throne seemed vague, the people who supported this decision were few, and a lot of the goings-on and would-be-drama simply seemed glazed over considering the myriads of upheaval that the women experienced during the reign of Edward VI, Jane Grey, and then Bloody Mary. The men in the main protagonists’ lives seemed to be represented well enough as characters in a novel and not much else, but I did get entrenched in the storyline enough that I wound up wishing for a happier outcome for the families despite what the history books tell us.

Yet, Higginbotham has a firm grip on her details and tells the story as close to fact as she can, adding in the personal details of the courtiers in such a way that they would be proud of. The traits of each of them could be imagined to the fullest, and Higginbotham presents a plausible and pleasurable historical account that all Tudor fiction fans would enjoy. Susan Higginbotham is one of the best accessible historical fiction authors out there and will soon be well known for very enjoyable and well-researched novels.

My cover review where I rant about this book cover to get it out of my system (& not into this review).
My other Susan Higginbotham posts, includes reviews such as Queen of Last Hopes which was a Best of 2011 for Burton Book Review.
Stay tuned for an alternative history (you heard me) guest post from Susan Higginbotham for her blog tour tomorrow, and a chance to win your own copy.


Filed under 16th Century, 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Robert Dudley, Susan Higginbotham

>Book Review: The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner


The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (February 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0312658502
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!!
The Burton Review Rating:Five Glorious Stars!

Once upon a time there was a writer striving to become published so he did it his own way via the self-publication route. Out came The Secret Lion: Book One of The Spymaster Chronicles and although it caught my eye, it wasn’t readily available unless I wanted to pay a pretty penny. Several years later, this same author found huge success with his 2009 novel The Last Queen, and then again with The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. I loved these two novels as C.W. Gortner easily became my favorite male author to read. Imagine my joy when I heard that Gortner’s first spy novel had been picked up by St. Martin’s Griffin for a reissue after Gortner tweaked it up a bit. I was thrilled to receive a review copy of one of the first Tudor novels that had originally sparked my interest a few years ago. Gortner has another hit on his hands, as once again he takes the blogging community by storm with the story of a fictional character inserted directly into the intrigues of the dangerous Tudor courts.

This new novel takes on the name The Tudor Secret and follows a young squire Brendan Prescott who is a new arrival at a court that is about to become entwined once again in its perils of succession. King Edward VI is dying, and the Dudley family that raised Brendan the foundling is controlling all information in and out so that no one really knows what is going on with the young King. Princess Elizabeth has few friends, and one of those is Master Cecil. Brendan realizes quickly that his own survival depends on cooperating with Cecil and his cohort the deadly Walsingham.. all in a bid to save Elizabeth from peril at the hands of the scheming Dudley upstarts.

Most Tudor fans know the story of  how the monarchy changed hands from King Edward to Lady Jane and finally Queen Mary I. Gortner doesn’t bore us with the replaying of these same historical details and the struggle of the people during these times. Instead, he turns this well-known story into a spine-tingling mystery of many depths with romance, friendship and loyalty as underlying themes. I found the mystery angle to be well written and expertly interwoven into historic events, making this an unforgettable story for Tudor fiction fans. The Tudor Secret also shows a rare outsider’s look at Elizabeth and her sister Mary, as opposed to the many Tudor reads that typically focus on a noble or member of the royal family. I relished the tones of deviousness that Gortner put on some regular faces such as the Dudley men who I love to hate, Frances Brandon and Master Stokes. And I loved the rare favorable look at Cecil, who becomes Elizabeth’s biggest ally during her reign. Although some Tudor aficionados may take slight with the convenient plot twists that Gortner utilizes, I loved every scandalous moment. Any book that has me itching to get back to it is a win-win in the entertainment department, and this blends two genres that I love seamlessly together: historical fiction and mystery, set in one of my favorite eras to read about.

The Tudor Secret is full of suspense and fast-paced adventures which is an exciting departure from Gortner’s previous successful novels which focused on members of royal families, and I cannot wait for another Spymaster Chronicles novel! Those who are bored with the everyday Tudor-style novel should find a renewed interest in the genre with this new perception from a commoner new to the courts. C.W. Gortner is easily my favorite male author at this time for historical fiction, whether it is this historical mystery genre or otherwise. Congrats to C.W. for another excellent novel that I would love to recommend to any Tudor fiction fan, and it was well worth my wait. Five stars for its entertainment value, its mystery twists and the scandalous secrets!


Filed under 16th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Bloody Mary, C.W. Gortner, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, Tudor

>Happy Birthday, Lyman Beecher! (October 12, 1775)

>As opposed to celebrating Cristóbal Colón this Columbus Day, who really stole all he could see in 1493, let’s celebrate the birthday of Lyman Beecher who was born on October 12, 1775 in Connecticut.

1775 was a banner year for America, when Americans began their fight for independence from Great Britain, thus becoming the United States of America. Lyman Beecher was born. He was an intelligent man, studying at Yale and following religious pursuits.

He became a renowned preacher, especially in 1806 when he preached a sermon concerning a duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, where Hamilton died from his wounds. It was at this time that slavery was a hot topic and abolition was demanded. He proposed colonization of Africa to send America’s slaves to Africa, to their freedom. Beecher was also anti-Catholic. Despite Lyman’s fiery views and disagreeing ways, hell-fire and damnation sermons, Reverend Lyman managed to marry three times and beget 13 children. In 1851 after Rev. Lyman’s retirement from Lane Theological Seminary, he moved to Brooklyn to live with his son Henry until he died in 1863.

It very well may be through these children that Lyman recieves his fame though. His daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote the fictional account of a slave in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the early 1850’s which inspired many to take a stand against slavery, his son Henry Ward Beecher was a noted preacher who slandered his good name with a tabloid style affair, and another daughter Isabella Hooker was a noted woman’s suffragist as well as an abolitionist who helped create the New England Women’s Suffrage Association. Another daughter Catharine was well known for her views on eduation and founded schools as she promoted the idea of kindergarten, among others.

I became interested in the Beecher’s because I just started reading “Harriet and Isabella” by Patricia O’Brien.


“It is 1887, and Henry Ward Beecher lies dying. Reporters from around the world, eager for one last story about the most lurid scandal of their time, descend on Brooklyn Heights, their presence signaling the beginning of the voracious appetite for fallen celebrities we know so well today.
When Henry Ward Beecher was put on trial for adultery in 1875, the question of his guilt or innocence was ferociously debated. His trial not only split the country, it split apart his family, causing a particularly bitter rift between his sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Harriet remained loyal to Henry, while Isabella called publicly for him to admit his guilt. What had been a loving, close relationship between two sisters plummeted into bitter blame and hurt.
Harriet and Isabella each had a major role in the social revolutions unfolding around them, but what happened in their hearts when they were forced to face a question of justice much closer to home? Now they struggle: who best served Henry — the one who was steadfast or the one who demanded honesty?”

Mathew Brady Studio Albumen silver print (carte de visite), circa 1861 8.5 x 5.3 cm (3 5/16 x 2 1/16 inches) National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  This photo shows Harriet Beecher Stowe, her father Lyman Beecher, and her brother Henry Ward Beecher. Isabella had a falling out with the family when the scandal broke about Henry regarding his adultery trial in 1875, but Harriet stood by him. I am enjoying the book, which made me take a look at who the man was who brought these innovating children to life.

Happy Birthday Lyman, and America thanks you for your children!

Incidentally, it is also the birthday of King Edward VI, the heir that Henry VIII fought so hard for.. but sadly died at age 15. Claire at The Anne Boleyn Files has a great write up here on the boy king.


Filed under Edward VI, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Tudor