Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle
Simon & Schuster paperback June 2015
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating:
From the author People called “a must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a “terrifically entertaining” (The Sunday Times, London) novel about two sisters who must survive life in the Tudor court after the execution of their sister Lady Jane Grey who was queen for just nine days.
Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Katherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal death of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Fremantle brings these young women and their perilous times to vivid life.Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous career at court.
Flirtatious Lady Katherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act.
It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth Tudor, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.
Other links at Burton Book Review:
Interview with Fremantle for Sisters of Treason paperback release
Interview with Fremantle for Watch The Lady release
Review of Watch The Lady, book 3 of the Tudor Trilogy
Review of Queen's Gambit, book 1 of the Tudor Trilogy
Fremantle's effortless storytelling brings new life to age-old tales, especially those tired Tudor stories. I have thoroughly enjoyed her entire trilogy which featured royal court players of the Tudor courts, along with this one which focuses on the Grey sisters. Lady Jane Grey is best known as the Nine Day Queen, the young girl foisted onto the English throne by eager power grabbing nobles after the young king dies. She lasted a little while until Queen Mary Tudor ordered her death.
While it is a story we know well, the new spin is the point of views from a painter Levina Teerlinc, and the remaining sisters Katherine and Mary. Their mother Frances is portrayed a bit less haughty in this telling, and we can definitely feel a empathy for her as her daughters are merely trying to survive once Elizabeth I rises to the throne. I love how the crook-backed Mary Grey gets a voice through this novel as she seems to have been overlooked many times before. And while Katherine could easily be seen as a flighty, passionate young girl with her trysts, this telling gives her a veil of innocence that we cannot help but to root for her and her romance.
The narrative switches between the sisters and the painter, and we become invested in each of their livelihoods even when we know it will not end happily ever after. A bit of an interesting fictional plotline is thrown in which might turn some folks off, but overall the way the story was presented was done so well that it merits a high rating from me. While the middle started to feel redundant for a bit, it was as I was reading the last pages with tears down my cheeks. So poignant, and so well done. I probably don't need to read Leanda Lisle's biography on the Grey sisters, but I am even more intrigued to do so now.