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The Virgin's Lover

The Virgin's Lover

3.9 278
by Philippa Gregory

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) comes a riveting and scandalous love triangle between a young woman on the brink of greatness, a young man whose ambition far exceeds his means, and the wife who cannot forgive them.

In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous


From #1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) comes a riveting and scandalous love triangle between a young woman on the brink of greatness, a young man whose ambition far exceeds his means, and the wife who cannot forgive them.

In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous news that Elizabeth I is the new queen, yet one woman hears the tidings with utter dread. She is Amy Dudley, wife of Sir Robert, and she knows that Elizabeth’s ambitious leap to the throne will draw her husband back to the center of the glamorous Tudor court, where he was born to be.

Elizabeth’s excited triumph is short-lived. She has inherited a bankrupt country where treason is rampant and foreign war a certainty. Her faithful advisors warns her that she will survive only if she marries a strong prince to govern the rebellious country, but the one man Elizabeth desires is her childhood friend, the ambitious Robert Dudley. As the young couple falls back in love, a question hangs in the air: can he really set aside his wife and marry the queen? When Amy is found dead, Elizabeth and Dudley are suddenly plunged into a struggle for survival.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jolly good fun."
Entertainment Weekly

"...expertly crafted...readers addicted to Gregory's intelligent, well-researched tales...will be enthralled..."
Publishers Weekly

"No lover of Elizabethan history should be without this novel, nor will any fan be disappointed with the meticulous research and marvelous portraits of Elizabeth, Dudley, and the court."
Romantic Times

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Gregory captivates again with this expertly crafted historical about the beautiful young Virgin Queen, portrayed as a narcissistic, neurotic home-wrecker. As in her previous novels about Tudor England (The Queen's Fool, etc.), Gregory amasses a wealth of colorful period detail to depict the shaky first days of Elizabeth I's reign. The year is 1558, an especially dangerous time for the nation: no bishop will coronate Henry VIII's Protestant daughter, the treasury is bankrupt, the army is unpaid and demoralized. Meanwhile, the French are occupying Scotland and threatening to install "that woman"-Mary, Queen of Scots-on the throne. Ignoring the matrimonial advice of pragmatic Secretary of State William Cecil, the 25-year-old Elizabeth persists in stringing along Europe's most eligible bachelors, including King Philip of Spain and the Hapsburg archduke Ferdinand. It's no secret why: she's fallen for her "dark, saturnine" master of horse, Sir Robert Dudley, whose traitorous family history and marriage to the privately Catholic Amy make him an unsuitable consort. Gregory deftly depicts this love triangle as both larger than life and all too familiar; all three characters are sympathetic without being likable, particularly the arch-mistress Elizabeth, who pouts, throws tantrums, connives and betrays with queenly impunity. After a while the plot stagnates, as the lovers flaunt their emotions in the face of repetitious arguments from Amy, Cecil and various other scandalized members of the court. But readers addicted to Gregory's intelligent, well-researched tales of intrigue and romance will be enthralled, right down to the teasingly tragic ending. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Nov.) Forecast: The first hardcover in her series about Tudor England, this should prove Gregory's enduring appeal with a run on the lists. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Following the success of her best seller, The Queen's Fool, Gregory brings us another emotionally charged fictional account of the lives of the Tudors. This time we are drawn into the love triangle among the newly crowned Elizabeth I; her lover, Robert Dudley; and his wife, Amy Robsart Dudley. The charismatic Dudley pursues Elizabeth and her crown, and it is all too easy for lonely Elizabeth to fall madly in love with him. Meanwhile, Amy is shuttled from one house to the next and waits for the day that Robert will allow her to have a home and family of her own. As the affair between Elizabeth and Dudley becomes more obvious and scandalous at court, Amy suffers from the gossip that her husband has abandoned her. The insight into Amy Dudley's life brings a new perspective to this already captivating story. Gregory weaves an engrossing tale of passion, love, and betrayal, where the very fate of Elizabeth's reign and the Kingdom of England hangs in the balance. Recommended as a first choice. Anna M. Nelson, Seabrook Lib., NH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Publication date:
Plantagenet and Tudor Novels Series , #5
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Autumn 1558

All the bells in Norfolk were ringing for Elizabeth, pounding the peal into Amy's head, first the treble bell screaming out like a mad woman, and then the whole agonizing, jangling sob till the great bell boomed a warning that the whole discordant carillon was about to shriek out again. She pulled the pillow over her head to shut out the sound, and yet still it went on, until the rooks abandoned their nests and went streaming into the skies, tossing and turning in the wind like a banner of ill omen, and the bats left the belfry like a plume of black smoke as if to say that the world was upside down now, and day should be forever night.

Amy did not need to ask what the racket was for; she already knew. At last, poor sick Queen Mary had died, and Princess Elizabeth was the uncontested heir. Praise be. Everyone in England should rejoice. The Protestant princess had come to the throne and would be England's queen. All over the country people would be ringing bells for joy, striking kegs of ale, dancing in the streets, and throwing open prison doors. The English had their Elizabeth at last, and the fear-filled days of Mary Tudor could be forgotten. Everyone in England was celebrating.

Everyone but Amy.

The peals, pounding Amy into wakefulness, did not bring her to joy. Amy, alone in all of England, could not celebrate Elizabeth's upward leap to the throne. The chimes did not even sound on key, they sounded like the beat of jealousy, the scream of rage, the sobbing shout of a deserted woman.

"God strike her dead," she swore into her pillow as her head rang with the pound of Elizabeth's bells. "God strike her down in her youth and her pride and her beauty. God blast her looks, and thin her hair, and rot her teeth, and let her die lonely and alone. Deserted, like me."

Amy had no word from her absent husband: she did not expect one. Another day went by and then it was a week. Amy guessed that he would have ridden at breakneck pace to Hatfield Palace from London at the first news that Queen Mary was dead. He would have been the first, as he had planned, the very first to kneel before the princess and tell her she was queen.

Amy guessed that Elizabeth would already have a speech prepared, some practiced pose to strike, and for his part Robert would already have his reward in mind. Perhaps even now he was celebrating his own rise to greatness as the princess celebrated hers. Amy, walking down to the river to fetch in the cows for milking because the lad was sick and they were shorthanded at Stanfield Hall, her family's farm, stopped to stare at the brown leaves unraveling from an oak tree and whirling like a snowstorm, southwest to Hatfield where her husband had blown, like the wind itself, to Elizabeth.

She knew that she should be glad that a queen had come to the throne who would favor him. She knew she should be glad for her family, whose wealth and position would rise with Robert's. She knew that she should be glad to be Lady Dudley once more: restored to her lands, given a place at court, perhaps even made a countess.

But she was not. She would rather have had him at her side as an attainted traitor, with her in the drudgery of the day and in the warm silence of the night; anything rather than than ennobled as the handsome favorite at another woman's court. She knew from this that she was a jealous wife; and jealousy was a sin in the eyes of God.

She put her head down and trudged on to the meadows where the cows grazed on the thin grass, churning up sepia earth and flints beneath their clumsy hooves.

How could we end up like this? she whispered to the stormy sky piling up a brooding castle of clouds over Norfolk. Since I love him so much, and since he loves me? Since there is no one for us but each other? How could he leave me to struggle here, and dash off to her? How could it start so well, in such wealth and glory as it did, and end in hardship and loneliness like this?

Copyright © 2004 by Philippa Gregory Limited

Meet the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels are the basis for the critically acclaimed STARZ miniseries The White Queen. Her most recent novel is Three Sisters, Three Queens. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds two honorary degrees from Teesside University, and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

Brief Biography

Yorkshire, England
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1954
Place of Birth:
Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984

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The Virgin's Lover 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 274 reviews.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
First things first. I recommend you read The Queen's Fool before reading this one. It contains a bit background information and a bit of a foundation to carry you over to The Virgin's Lover. It's not necessary but it's nice to have that extra bit of info in the small moments where the book makes a reference to the past. Besides, The Queen's Fool was a good book so why would you not want to read it? :) There's plenty of intrigue and double crossing in here, so if you're really into that this is the book for you. I love that stuff. I love seeing characters you don't like get the axe because they were too careless and got double crossed. It's just so satisfying. Which brings me to this other point. I hate Robert Dudley. Everything about him made me want to grind my teeth, made me want to jump into the book and punch him in the gonads, or made me want to run a lance into him. I just can't stand the guy. He oozes sliminess and his ambition is just way over the top it made you want to roll your eyes and slap him across the head with a sledgehammer. His arrogance made me want to scream. He was all right at first but once you saw past his true colors you just wanted to curl your lip in disgust at the guy. Either I need serious help, or Ms. Gregory just did a wonderful job at character development and creation here. :P I have never hated a character so much until I came across Robert Dudley. Amy (Dudley's wife) made you want to cringe because she was everything you didn't want her to be. She was the epitome of submissive wife. There were moments where she finally grew a backbone (and you had to cheer for her during those times) but you just can't help but pity the poor woman. Of all the characters in the book I sympathized with Amy the most. It was just painful to see her pain and suffering and the way she fawned at Dudley made you want to pity her, but at the same time be quite disgusted with her. She admirable though. She put up with a lot of issues and crap for that time. It's hard to decide how I feel about Elizabeth. She's whiny. She's NEEDY. She's clingy. She nearly made me want to jab something in my eye. However there were moments where I thought "Heeeey..she's not so stupid after all!" so it's very hard to see Elizabeth in a different view than what you usually see (usually as a very strong character who defied the Spanish Armada). So I thought it was difficult to like her in this novel. I was on the fence with her. Overall, I thought it was a good read. There are romantic parts but not that explicit and quickly done and over with. So to me, they were tolerable. No battle scenes here which was unfortunate but wasn't really the main part of the subject anyway (this book rather focuses on Dudley and Elizabeth). The intrigue of court life was here as usual (all of Gregory's novels have it) so that was good to see. I just really enjoyed the character development and creation in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on real historical figures, it is an easy read. However, not as well-written as her Boleyn books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
read this book in one day! couldn't put it down. great for a rainy day or if you just want to escape for awhile. i love the tudor dynasty and just love philippa gregory's books and style of writing. its intriguing and sucked me in instantly!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As somebody who really looks up to Elizabeth, I was very disappointed in how she was portrayed in this book. She was one of the greatest monarchs in England and this made her look weak, like she would do anything for a man's love. Elizabeth was a strong woman who went against everyone's wishes and refused to marry. She didn't want anyone to come in and tell her how to run her country. She was badass. I loved all of her other books in her Tudor series but this one was very hard for me to get through.
SouthrnPrincess More than 1 year ago
Ok this is one of my favorite authors, and my favorite genre of reading. Yet this reduced Elizabeth I to a whiney, simpering mess. No one has ever done a worse or more annoying portrayal of her that I know of. I do not recommend unless you look forward to rolling your eyes at every turn of the page.
Nite-ReaderKH More than 1 year ago
Extremely informative about royalty and their interacction with "seers". Also,the long time persecution of the Jewish faith or anyone in conflict with the Church was eye-opening. Well written and well researched.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love historical fictions, yet found this book to be extremely disappointing. I have read other books by Phillipa Gregory which have proved to be quite good, yet The Virgin's Lover was sadly lacking. This book was far too long and drawn out. The story was that of an interesting one, yet due to the manner in which it was written became strangely boring and, frankly, annoying to read. Gregory spends far too much time emphasizing what each and every character thinks during moments of dialog, which results in the dialog becoming tedious to read and also makes the characters seem silly and immature. The story of Elizabeth and her lover should have been very interesting and passion filled, but even the slightest hint of these things was brought down by extreme boringness. I generally read books 'especially ones that I like' in 1-2 days. This book took me a whole week to get through. Unfortunately, the ending was just as boring and terrible as the rest of the book. Nothing really happened. The last page was almost completely pointless. If you are looking for a book with long and great detail, this book is worthy, however if you want great detail with an interesting story, it isn't.
VampyrDrusilla More than 1 year ago
This story is an interesting take on the alleged love affair between Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. I have read many books by Philippa Gregory and I always like her stories. She has a way of making stories about the Tudor period very interesting when if you listen to other historians it sounds dull. The story of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley is an emotional rollercoaster with many twists and turns. Philippa does a great job at painting a picture and in this story, Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley are ruthless, selfish and menacing people. I rarely liked either of them in this story, but a good villan makes for a riveting story. All in all, this story is classic Philippa. It's not as involved or passionate as The Other Boleyn Girl, but that one has no equal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley You will hate Dudley, as almost all reviewers repeated. I certainly do. This was a difficult book for me to read. Not Gregory's best in my opinion.
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kaat60 More than 1 year ago
Another awesome saga!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gregory covers the supposed romance between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley in the first years of the queen's reign. Interesting view of the constant intrigue in court and the effort to get Elizabeth to marry a foreign prince.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love her books they r so hard to put down
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NolaGirl83 More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful, engaging read and tale of Elizabeth, Queen of England. Oh how i turned the pages of this book. Its so good you can hardly put it down even if you are so tired you can hardly keep your eyes open, this page can make you turn, turn, turn, at every period at the end of a paragraph, left alone the end of a page or chapter. Im sure it helps when Elizabeth is such a young full of passion, and larger then Life Tudor and Heir to the throne of Henry VIII.
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