Summary: As Queen Catherine's maid and daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, the future seems bright for Elizabeth Stafford. But when her father gives her hand to Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, the spirited young woman must sacrifice all for duty. Yet Elizabeth is surprised by her passion for her powerful new husband. And when he takes on a mistress, she is determined to fight for her love and her honor. . .
Naïve and vulnerable, Bess Holland is easily charmed by the Duke of Norfolk, doing his bidding in exchange for gifts and adoration. For years, she and Elizabeth compete for his affections. But they are mere spectators to an obsession neither can rival: Norfolk's quest to weave the Howard name into the royal bloodline. The women's loyalties are tested as his schemes unfoldamong them the litigious marriage of his niece, Anne Boleyn, to King Henry the VIII. But in an age of ruthless beheadings, no self-serving motive goes unpunishedand Elizabeth and Bess will have to fight a force more sinister than the executioner's axe...
Review: A truly broken man viewed through two women.
Thomas Howard is truly a broken man. He loves his first wife so completely and his children when they are born, but quickly learns heartbreak when all his children die and his wife eventually dies. Howard succumbs to his misery and while he was not the best person beforehand, he becomes downright horrid. He is incredibly ambitious and helps to place two of his family members on the throne. This book portrays him as having periods of remorse, but since it never hinders his ambition and the action he takes, I wonder how much remorse the real Thomas Howard actually felt.
The relationship between Elizabeth and Bess is striking and complex. Both are women mistreated and often scorned. Howard wants them to fulfil the roles he desires and while Bess complies, Elizabeth doesn't and pays the price. I liked that Elizabeth spoke her mind, but I couldn't help but think that there were plenty of times when she should have kept her mouth shut. Both women manage to fall in love with Thomas Howard, both try to make him happy, and both women fail. They wasted so much of their lives on a man who never really cared.