Friday, 18 May 2012

The Lady In The Tower - Marie-Louise Jensen

This was one of those books I just chose because, well, I chose it. And it looked alright. And I liked the cover. Mostly, it was the cover. Oh, and it was on offer.
So this wasn't a book I had been pining for a long time, it was just one of those moments I decided to buy it.
This is a historical fiction novel and after reading it last year, I soon discovered that buying instinct was a good idea. I decided to re-read it now as I was a blogging and reading slump while my exams are on.
It was as good as the first time round...

Synopsis: The isolated part of the castle is the place where Eleanor's mother has been imprisoned for four years after being accused as a witch - this is the Lady Tower, as called by the servants at Fairleigh Castle. While her father goes away frequently on business with Thomas Cromwell or the king, Henry VIII, Eleanor roams around the castle like a servant, riding on her favourite horse, Arianna or practising jousting with her little brother meanwhile, secretly writing notes to her mother.
However, when court come to Fairleigh, by chance, Eleanor hears of a plot to murder her mother and it becomes Eleanor's mission to free her before it is too late. Everyone it seems she can trust, may betray her, so she must be careful. However, she soon realises that she is not only saving her mother, but also herself from marriage to one of her father's men.

If you are looking for a historical fiction book with lots of gore and fighting, I would click away right now, but WAIT, click here instead because this would be much better suited for your tastes.
This book is historical fiction with a lovely bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

When I first picked up this book, I had my doubts. I love historical fiction but mostly when they have some gentlemanly romance. From reading the blurb on the book, there is no hint of this romance and I think that's what raised my sceptical. I mean, the whole book being about Eleanor running away with her mother, it didn't sound that inviting for me.
However, I was wrong. The book is centred around a couple of months in fifteen-year-old Eleanor's life. After her father arrives back to Fairleigh Castle with the king and her entourage, Eleanor frequently meets this gentleman who goes against the 'codes' for gentlemen and when Eleanor is disguised as a servant, he tries to kiss her. This man, she soon finds out, is her soon-to-be husband, Lord Stanton. And she hates him immensely. And he is not too fond of her either. Great start!
The romance is pretty gradual, more gradual for Eleanor as around the halfway mark, there is a sense that Stanton does not hate Eleanor as he IS kinder. Although, it is slightly infuriating, this suits Eleanor's character and I liked this 'will they? won't they?' feel.

The characters themselves are interesting. The only one I had a real problem with on both readings was Eleanor's mother, Lady Hungerford. I found her very petty and I understood Eleanor's annoyance with her.
Eleanor herself was a delight to have as a narrator especially with her boldness to defy some of the Tudor conventions for women such as jousting and riding astride (with one leg on either side of horse). I like this rebellous side to her as well caring side we see latterly. She was a perfect heroine for me.
Although you are persuaded to hate Stanton, I found myself enjoying his jokes (some of which I had to giggle at) and his encounters with Eleanor do largely make the book for me. The similarities from Eleanor's father to the conventional views of Henry VIII were what caught me for his character - he is a character that you love to hate - or just hate really.

Another aspect of my enjoyment for this book was the time period it is set in. As some may know, I am studying this time period for my exams so reading this book put this all into perspective for me. It is 1540 - the year where Cromwell was given a Lordship - but executed by the end of the year for treason and heresy. Cromwell was in charge of turning England from Catholic to Protestant as he was evangelical himself. However, after the marriage to Jane Seymour, around this time, Henry wanted a more Catholic approach to the Church, although he was still the Head. However, Cromwell didn't want this and tried to defy the Act of the Six Articles which enforced this approach Henry wanted. Officially, Cromwell was charged for treason and heresy as in Calais (which was part of English rule then) was completely Protestant and this was all down to Cromwell not enforcing the Act of Six Articles.

However, it's mostly thought that Cromwell was charged as he wreaked the marriage of Henry to Anne of Cleves. It's funny to think that someone like Eleanor might actually have really caused this and the treason charge was a part of plotting against him.
This period of history is interesting and it is quite nice to see a historical novel based around this time - it helped put my history course into perspective with what happened that year. It is good to see not another book set in the Elizabethan times.

I really enjoyed this book despite my reservations and I could read this again and again. This is one for historical fiction fans but I would recommend this to most people, especially those perhaps studying this period in time. Or just like Henry VIII.
This was also based on A REAL STORY and a REAL PLACE, which you can visit now.

I give it 4.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 317
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC


  1. please email me your address - you won the May British Books Challenge Prize back for this review

    kirstylouiseconnor (at)


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