April was a fantasy fiction filled month for me. To change things up a little at the beginning of May I picked up historical fiction The Lady of Misrule by Suzannah Dunn.
The Lady of Misrule takes us back to 1553 as Elizabeth Tilney arrives at The Tower of London to chaperone Lady Jane Grey. Jane reigned as Queen of England for only 9 days before she was overthrown by the supporters of her Catholic cousin Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Now Jane and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, are to be imprisoned in the Tower as traitors. Elizabeth while only there to attend goes on to form an unlikely friendship with Jane and Guildford in the last few months of their young lives. The quiet and isolation is to also give Elizabeth time to reflect on her own life and beliefs.
With all of the action being confined to the Tower, The Lady of Misrule really is a character driven story. Elizabeth is rebellious, naïve and Catholic, though truly she has no real belief system and only follows what is expected of her. In stark contrast we have Jane who is well-educated and has a strong Protestant faith, which she is willing to die for. I found the forced closeness of these polar opposite young girls and the ensuing fragile friendship interesting, however I’m not sure I liked either Elizabeth or Jane. In fact I think I preferred Guildford. He begins off pompous and all for show, but underneath it I think he is perhaps the most honest and down-to-earth.
The Lady of Misrule is the 2nd novel I have read by Suzannah Dunn. Last year I read The May Bride, which went on to be one of my favourite reads of 2014. I was eager to read more by Dunn. I didn’t quite enjoy this as much. I think this was mainly due to Elizabeth and Jane who I just wasn’t as fond of as young Jane Seymour from The May Bride. However I again found Dunn’s writing style comforting and familiar. Dunn’s beautiful description swept me off and immersed me into the confined, daily life in the Tower. The repetitive routine of rising, dressing, eating, reading, praying, watching from the window, and then retiring to bed was all brought vividly back to life. To achieve this Dunn has obviously filled in some historical gaps and added some fictionalised characters; I thought it was all well done though. Then the brutal ending, even though I knew it was coming, really wrenched at my heart and felt so real.
The Lady of Misrule is a well written, interesting and intimate glimpse into the final months of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey. I highly recommend to those interested in historical fiction and English history. I would still like to read more of Suzannah Dunn. Good read.
Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read Suzannah Dunn? Any recommendations?