Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the king’s theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her father’s wealth. Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart. Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting. And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.
This is an interesting account of the 1600’s in England. It’s a work of fiction, but the author clearly did her research and utilized actual, historical characters well. Also, the time period feels authentic, especially for the court that existed during the reign of Charles II. England had just spent years under Cromwell, who imposed radical puritanism on its people. Then the court, post-Cromwell, swung wildly the other way.
There is a lot of innuendo, adultery, and references to sexual practices. For that reason, this isn’t really a book for younger teens. But I think older teens, say 16 and up, will find this interesting. The feel of the time period seems authentic, as well as the situations of many of the characters. For the most part, I enjoyed this story. The parts I didn’t enjoy are just personal taste.
For example, I’m not big into scandal. But Charles II’s court was rife with it, many of which were cause by him. He was notorious for having mistresses and acknowledged nearly a dozen illegitimate children. If that doesn’t set a precedent, I don’t know what does. Hence, there is a lot of drama and scandal between several characters. That said, there are no gratuitous mean girls, and the drama that unfolds still feels authentic to the time period.
Even with the promise of scandal and drama, this is a pretty quiet book. It’s character driven, so there’s not adventure on every page. Yet it was still interesting enough to keep me reading. The romance is on the lighter side, too, which was fine with me. I think some readers might take issue with the ending, but I enjoyed it. It felt like Shakespeare, in a way, and I thought it fit the story well.
If you’re looking for an historical novel that feels authentic to the time period, you might enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a romance that happens to be set in an historical time period, this probably isn’t the book for you.