Amid the turmoil of the final days of King Edward’s reign, who will succeed to the throne? His Catholic half sister Mary, his Protestant half sister Elizabeth or perhaps someone else with a little Tudor blood running through her veins?
With her second foray into alternative historical romance (The Virgin Queen’s Daughter, 2008), Chase explores another intriguing mystery: How did Lady Jane Grey and her two sisters react to the political machinations that imprisoned them? Chase sets the fates of Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey against a field of political and personal ambitions. The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk scheme to maneuver their daughters into politically advantageous positions in the hopes of drawing nearer to the throne. With conspirators Northumberland and Pembroke, they marry scholarly Jane to Guilford Dudley, Northumberland’s son, positioning her as a direct threat to Queen Mary. They marry beautiful Katherine to Henry Herbert, Pembroke’s son. They set Mary, with her twisted spine and unsightly face, as decoy, unwittingly reassuring Mary of the Suffolk family’s love despite their treachery. Edward soon dies, Jane is set up as queen for nine days, and Mary escapes the conspirators’ clutches to snare the throne for herself. Thus, the three wagered maids begin to tumble to ruin. The political machinations could easily overwhelm the novel, but Chase keeps the narrative reins firmly in the Grey sisters’ hands. She allows the Grey sisters to tell the story using a kind of snapshot technique, letting each woman tell different parts of it. Jane tells the harrowing details of being forced to wed a man she does not love, to wear a crown she does not want, and to accept beheading for the treason she did not intend. In turn, Kat tells the tale of betrayal, as she is married and set aside, and trust, as she secretly marries for love. Mary tells the tale of the forgotten sister who, too, finds love by putting aside social expectations.Each sister’s story reveals the competing desires that both invite love and provoke jealousy.