by Suzannah Dunn
From the back cover:
Plain and dutiful and a passionate Catholic, Mary Tudor is overjoyed when she becomes Queen of England. After the misery of her childhood, when her father, Henry VIII, rejected her and her mother, Mary feels at last that she is achieving her destiny. And when she marries Philip of Spain, her happiness is complete.
But Mary's delight quickly turns sour as she realizes that her husband does not love her—indeed, that he finds her devotion irritating. Desperate for a baby, she begins to believe that God is punishing her. Her people are horrified at the severity of the measures she takes and begin to to turn against their queen, who is lonely, frightened, and desperate for love.
Rafael, a member of Philip of Spain's entourage, reluctantly witnesses the tragedy that unfolds as the once-feted queen tightens her cruel hold on the nation. As Rafael becomes closer to Mary, his life—and newfound love—are caught up in the terrible chaos.
From the description above, wouldn't you think that this was a story about Mary Tudor, Queen of England? I know that's what I expected when I read the back cover of The Queen's Sorrow and saw Mary's portrait on the front cover. But she's not the main character. She's hardly even secondary. Queen Mary shows up in five brief scenes, and in each one she does so little as to have almost no effect on the plot.
Instead, the story focuses on the Spaniard Rafael. Again, the blurb from the back cover makes it sound like he knows Mary intimately...and might even be her lover. WRONG. Rafael is in England because he was commissioned to build a sundial for the newly married monarchs. He spends the vast majority of his time away from court, frittering time away as he waits for the money to finance his project. The Queen's Sorrow is completely misrepresented to the reading public in its marketing.
I've clearly established that this book isn't what it claims to be. But, if we take The Queen's Sorrow for what it is, the story of a lonely foreigner during a tumultuous period of English history, and not what its marketing department wanted you to think it was, how is the story? Well, to be honest, it isn't all that interesting. As I said, Rafael doesn't do much except sit around waiting for someone to either pay him to begin work on the sundial or send him home to Spain. Sure, he flirts with the housekeeper of his lodgings and plays with her son, but their romance moves at such an excruciatingly slow pace that it's hard to keep an interest in it. He recalls his wife and son back home in Spain, but that loveless marriage doesn't sparkle on the page. He bickers with his business partner, but that man is never given enough of a personality to matter. It's nice to see what Tudor life was like for a member of the middle class. So much historical fiction focuses solely on the aristocracy. But the story here is infected with such ennui that I could never recommend it.
1 out of 5 stars
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