US Release Date: February 10, 2015
In Weir's second biographical novel about Elizabeth I, it opens with Elizabeth attaining the crown and settling into her role as Queen Regnant. I admit I didn't read her first novel on Elizabeth's earlier life, but I am already familiar with Elizabeth's background and didn't feel like I needed to in order to read this sequel. I also admit this is my first novel by Weir, surprisingly. I don't know why it's taken me so long to give her fiction a go since I've read and enjoyed several of her non-fiction works.
It started of well, with Elizabeth exhilarated by the sudden freedom and security of being queen. But at times I felt like there was a lot more telling then showing. Weir's status as a biographer showed when sometimes the narrative slipped almost into a factual recital.
The story itself was also lacking. I realize the title makes it clear that it's primarily about all the prospective marriages Elizabeth considered or seemed to consider - and I realize that at the time, it was a very big issue. But that is literally what the novel is solely about. Will she marry Robert? Will she marry this foreign prince or that one? When we already know the answer, it's gets old fast. It could have easily been more multidimensional by adding other sub-plots, politics, and character development into the story but even when the issue wasn't of Elizabeth's marriage, it was about her cousin Mary's marriage! The constant cycling of Elizabeth's relationship with Robert, two characters who aren't even likable, got so repetitive that I was sick of it before I got even half way through.
There is so little going on in this book that it's a wonder it could fill a full length novel. And unless you love your main characters to be selfish, vain, spiteful, and resentful with little to no depth, I don't see how this novel can be enjoyable. I won't deny that the historical Elizabeth had many personality flaws, she also had many strengths that weren't used in the novel, making her character flat and unlikable. And if you're going to take a wholly negative approach on the main character, you need to compliment it with another, more likable character. Cecil could have filled this role but we don't get to see enough of him to save the story. While it is written in third person from multiple points of view, it still manages to be very one dimensional and entirely focused on Elizabeth and Robert.
About the last quarter of the novel finally eases up on the obsession of Elizabeth's marriage and her relationship with Robert but it's too little too late. What a shame that my first Weir novel had to be so disappointing. It seems like her novels, not unlike her biographies, can be a little hit and miss so I haven't ruled out trying some of her other novels.