There are many good things about this book. For one, it is beautifully written–often I stopped and re-read several passages just to savor the language. For another, it is well-researched and accurate in its depiction of the events and people of Elizabeth’s reign, no small accomplishment given the length of time the book covers.
Where the book falters is in the characterization of Elizabeth. Ms. Miles takes facts about the historical Elizabeth–her vanity, her passionate nature–and blows them out of proportion. Elizabeth’s love life is placed center stage in this book, have no doubt about that. While Elizabeth’s relationships with the men in her life were indeed very important to her, it does her a disservice to portray her as constantly mooning over them, as she does in this book. For every hour spent with Robert Dudley, the real Elizabeth probably spent several hours attending to the affairs of state. The over-emphasis on her love life makes Elizabeth seem trite, and that was the last thing she was.
The book is also too long, and would have benefited from some tighter editing–about 50 pages could have been cut without making a dent in the tome. That being said, this is enjoyable historical fiction a cut above the Philippa Gregory’s of the world. It’s certainly not the definitive version of Elizabeth’s life (that honor goes to Susan Kay’s Legacy) but it’s a solid effort.