May 22nd, 2010

Review: All the Queen's Players by Jane Feather

All the Queen’s Players

by Jane Feather


Sir Francis Walsingham is the power behind the English throne, and his spy network permeates all levels of society.  When he discovers that his young cousin Rosamund has a talent for sketching, he offers her the chance to become a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.  In return for this elevation, she is to draw everything she sees for Walsingham.  Rosamund’s love for the dramatic – she’s obsessed with London’s theater – helps her adapt to the role-playing expected of her at court.  However, it does not prepare her for the flirting and dalliances with which Elizabeth’s courtiers amuse themselves.  Luckily, Rosamund’s a quick learner…perhaps a little too fast, since a liaison with handsome Will Creighton leads to Rosamund’s exile from court.  But Walsingham offers her a chance to redeem herself by infiltrating the household of Mary, Queen of Scots, and catching the exiled queen in a conspiracy to harm Queen Elizabeth.  

The story is told from multiple viewpoints, which is often fine and dandy, but Jane Feather jumps in and out of her characters heads so quickly that you might get two or three peoples’ thoughts on a single page.  Since there’s no page breaks or signifiers to notify the reader we’ve switched perspectives, it can be quite confusing at times.  I’m actually quite surprised that an editor didn’t swoop in and say, “Look, can we tell the story through the eyes of just two or three people?”  Oh well. 

The pacing is also quite uneven. The first half of the book unfolds very smoothly, if predictably.  The second half, by contrast, seems very rushed.  The characters aren’t as fleshed out – maybe because we just don’t spend as much time with them – and the wrap-up is almost sloppy in its haste to cross all the t’s, dot all the i’s, and make sure everything has a tidy resolution.

Oh yeah, also: total bodice ripper.  I mean, I thought this would be one of those historical fiction pieces that has romance in it, but doesn't use it as the main focus of the story.  Think The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory or Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.  But no.  All the Queen's Players is definitely a good ol' fashioned romance novel.  The only thing it's missing is Fabio on the cover with his shirt undone.

I feel like I should mention there’s a fair amount of homosexual action in the book, which is unusual.  Kudos?  Maybe?  Don’t know.  I mean, on the one hand, it's pretty rare to see homosexuality in a romance novel targeted towards heterosexual women.  So one could see this as progressive or something?  But the fact that Rosamund is so open and affirming about her brother's relationship with Kit Marlowe is completely anachronistic and makes the story seem even more forced.  *shrug* 

 Anyway, I don't recommend the book.  The story's poorly constructed and the characters aren't particularly interesting.


To read more about All the Queen’s Players, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.