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The Queen's Lady (The Lacey Chronicles, No. 2) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 10, 2012
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About the Author
EVE EDWARDS has a doctorate from Oxford University. She has visited Tudor houses, attended jousts, and eaten Elizabethan banquets to get the sights, sounds, and tastes right for The Lacey Chronicles, of which The Other Countess is the first book.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Richmond Palace, Surrey
"Now, when the Queen wakes, she is never in the best of spirits," advised Blanche Parry, leading Her Majesty's newest Lady of the Privy Chamber into the Queen's private apartments. Elizabeth was out hunting in the park of Richmond Palace, leaving the way clear for the induction into a lady's duties. The court had followed the sovereign like the train dangling from the back of her petticoats, sweeping across the snow in a glorious swatch of rich velvets and plumed hats, all mounted on first-rate horses--quite a pageant to entertain the commoners lucky enough to witness their passage.
"Your ladyship may be asked to sleep nearby to be on hand for messages. I, or one of the other Ladies of the Bedchamber, sleep within." Blanche gestured to the canopied bed in the room beyond. The apple-red hangings were exquisitely embroidered with flowers--pansies, roses and love-lies-bleeding.
The Dowager Marchioness of Rievaulx, as Jane was now known, smiled down at the stooped elderly attendant who was her guide in her first days as one of the Queen's ladies. Mistress Parry had served Elizabeth since before her coronation; now, at seventy-six, she surely had earned a better bed to sleep in than the one at the Queen's feet. Then again, perhaps the faithful retainer did consider it the best place in the kingdom. "I will await your commands, mistress," Jane said with a smile.
Blanche returned the smile and wagged her finger at the young widow. "I know what you are thinking, my lady."
"That someone as aged and half-blind as me should have been pensioned off some years since."
"No, mistress, not at all." But she had been thinking something a little similar, truth be told.
"All you young girls do. You try to sit me in the chair nearest the fire, make possets and other such foolishness as if I'm already an invalid. But as I've told Her Majesty, this old warhorse has served her for over fifty years and intends to die in harness."
Jane thought that to have survived the reign of four Tudors so close to the center of power was something of a miracle and certainly not to be rewarded with the patronizing treatment of untried youth. Jane touched the lady's arm gently. "If I make you a posset, I give you permission to pour it over my head."
The Queen's chief gentlewoman bubbled with laughter and patted the back of Jane's hand where it rested on her elbow. "That I will, my lady. Come, I'll take you to the steward so he can find you a room. You may have to share with one or two others, depending on how many are at court. I tell all my noble ladies that they would have been much more comfortable had they stayed with their families, but still you all beg for the honor of serving our sovereign--it speaks well of you."
"Thank you, but your praise is undeserved. I am proud to serve the Queen, but I have to admit that I came in the main because the late marquess my husband asked me to do so."
"Ah yes, dear Jonas." The lady's eyes flicked over the pretty widow shrewdly, taking in the mourning weeds still worn long after the month's mind had passed. "You grieve him truly, I see."
Jane twisted the heavy wedding ring of the Rievaulx on her finger. Before Jonas was cold in his grave, his eldest son, Richard Paton, had demanded it back for his own wife, and Jane had taken great pleasure in refusing to part with it. The sons had been predictably cruel from the moment Jonas had been laid in the family vault, spreading foul rumors about the young widow. She knew many--if not most--people at court would think she had married Jonas for mercenary reasons; Blanche's insight came as a surprise and a blessing.
"Yes, I miss him. He was a kind and wise husband. I had him for too brief a time."
"It gives me great pleasure to find a place here for his widow, though that is scant payment for the generosity he always showed me. Which reminds me: when you receive gifts from those trying to gain an audience with the Queen, it is appropriate to declare them to me or one of the other senior ladies. There is a fine line between a gift and a bribe, but we can help you discern the difference."
And so the instruction continued until Jane felt quite dizzy with information. Having spent her time since Jonas's death four months earlier on her own in Yorkshire, she found herself shocked by the sudden flood of people, noise and movement that made up the continual parade of court life. Jonas had passed peacefully, and his sons had let her remain in her home until the details of his will were settled. It was only when the lawyers had locked horns over her widow's rights that the new marquess had ousted her from Rievaulx House and refused to move the tenants from the dower property that by right should have been hers for the remainder of her life. Having no desire to put herself back in her father's care, Jane had been thankful for the foresight that had caused Jonas to arrange a place at court for her.
Blanche led Jane at a slow pace to the steward's apartment not far from the Queen's suite.
"What else can I tell you? Ah, yes. Naturally, you are entitled to the bouge of court, meaning lodging, food, lights and fuel for your fire if your room has a grate. Two suits of livery are also yours--I'll give you the cloth; you'd best see a tailor as soon as possible, as the Queen likes her attendants to be appropriately attired, the better to emphasize her appearance. We are the setting; she is the jewel--do not forget this."
"No, mistress. Then may I beg leave to go to my needlewoman this afternoon?"
"You have your own? Will not one of our court servants do?" Blanche did not sound too impressed by the fastidious habits of the rich ladies who thought themselves above a service that served others well.
"I am patron to a deserving woman, mistress--an old friend before her father's fortunes were overset. She depends on my custom for her finishing business. I would not want to wreck her prospects by withholding my custom."
"As kind as you are beautiful," chuckled Blanche, her opinion of the young marchioness restored. "I am sure you can be excused. You are not due to be sworn into the chamber until the morrow, so the Queen will not look for you this day."
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Top Customer Reviews
This novel is the second in the series, following a year or so after The Other Countess. You don't HAVE to have read the first book; this stands alone okay. But I think you SHOULD read the other one first, because it gives you more background on the family dynamics, as well as the reason for the distance between Our Heroine -- Jane -- and the man of her dreams -- James, the second son in the Lacey family.
When we begin, 18-year-old Jane is struggling with the loss of her husband, the 70-year-old duke who had saved her reputation (and helped her escape her family's machinations). She goes to London to serve the 50-ish Queen Victoria, where she meets the ever-so-dashing (but dangerous) Sir Walter Raleigh; an old childhood friend now turned to a trade; and... James. Again. Oh JAMES. It's obvious from the first that James and Jane are meant to be together, of course, but first there are challenges to be vanquished: nasty relatives, old guilts, and an ocean of distance.
The end result is... a lovely afternoon read. The story is well-told, the characters believable, the costumes cheerfully outlandish, and the setting entertaining. (Sex is implied but the only action described is kissing. I know that matters to some people.)
If you're looking for a don't-make-me-think novel to curl up with on a rainy weekend, accompanied by a bag of chocolate-chip cookies, this is just the ticket.
Jane is an AMAZING character. Too often the rich, pretty, girl who loves fashion and so on is portrayed in a negative light.
After flipping THAT idea on it's head in The Other Countess, we know get to see what happened to Jane after her selfless decision at the end of that book.
Jane's story starts with her by her husband's deathbed(yep, she got married between the books). In another great upheaval of perceptions, her husband IS an old rich man, but one who isn't the creepy, nasty, slimeball you'd expect.
Jane's short time of peace is over as her stepsons seek to take her dower rights and dowery away. While her father and brother try to find a way to control her despite her deceased husband's(Jonas) attempts to free her from any man ruling over her.
There was more of Diego and Kit, two great secondary characters in both books.
A very brief cameo of Ellie and Will(the MC's from book 1), and we now get to meet Milly and see more of James's story.
I liked James well enough as a character, but he didn't measure up to Will. I found that on occasion things had too much of a "repeat" theme.
Ie. James misjudges Jane, holds a grudge, is nasty to her, then when Jane is attacked, her happens by to rescue her, and they make peace, things are cleared up, and all of this is at court.
That pattern is identical to what happened with Will and Ellie, though in that case Ellie thought poorly of Will as well.
Despite that, the pattern worked and it didn't drag out long and it made sense for the story. We already know that James had preconceived notions, so there was going to be that hurdle.
Overall, I enjoyed the plot, the characters(Jane especially was a compassionate, strong, individual who was so vibrant), and the setting was well-done.
I could've done without the Frog Duke. And I enjoyed a few err, remarks about codpieces that were just "dirty" enough to make me laugh without crossing a line.
I liked Jane and really felt badly for her. I liked her devotion to her late husband and the fact that she would always strive to remain proper and appropriate to her position and social status. She always did the right thing, and I liked that.
I liked Edwards' development of the other characters, especially Milly and Diego. I think I liked their love story just as much as Lady Jane and James.
But I couldn't help feeling like something was missing. The story felt a little dull, the conflict resolution a little predictable, and I was left wanting something more. I liked the ending and thought it was satisfying, but I couldn't help wishing the book had had more depth.
Overall, I would read Eve Edwards again---The Queen's Lady was enjoyable but not one of my all-time favorites.
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