Words are all well and good, but of no value without deeds to back them up.
The Virgin's War is the final novel in Laura Andersen’s
Legacy Trilogy about the Tudors. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Elizabeth I and her daughter, Anabel, including her relationship with Anabel’s father, King Philip of Spain. While the Queen gathers resources to defend England against the Spanish invasion, Anabel, Princess of Wales, ponders which of her parents deserve her allegiance. She may be betrothed to James of Scotland, but he is not the man she truly loves and hopes to marry.
Andersen’s other books have also been historical fiction;
the Boleyn King Trilogy, in which she imagines that Anne Boleyn gives birth to a son fathered by Henry VIII
(which saves her life) is recommended for fans of Phillipa Gregory and anyone who enjoys alternate versions of British social history.
This new novel from a writer who is so well-versed in British history does an excellent job of creating a world where events are altered yet keeps the numerous characters believable with a narrative able to encompass their personal and political objectives.
The Virgin's War, a book about events that might have happened, is part fantastic and part memorial, a labyrinth of a read with its many characters, its familial intrigue, and its religious sensibilities. Andersen’s knowledge of British
history is considerable, and the book seems close to love letter to Elizabeth I, for her courage, intellect, and devotion to her people.
Anabel’s father, the Catholic King Phillip of Spain, is well on his way to becoming her enemy as the Spaniards approach Ireland. But Anabel is up to the challenge; she can be hardheaded and romantic, switching from charming to haughty in the blink of an eye. When James criticizes England’s
queen for not sending more aid to defend Ireland, she points out that Scotland is also a Protestant nation capable of sending money or men for the fight against Spain. Anabel’s best friend, Pippa Courtenay, finds Anabel’s romantic predicament amusing.
The Virgin's War reads like something written in a diary--so much so that when Elizabeth meets with her daughter at Kenilworth Castle, the tension is palpable. This is part of its intention, to show intensely personal relationships between people whose loyalties are constantly called into question. “When has love ever marched with wisdom?” Matthew says to the Queen when she chastises Pippa for marrying in secret, as Andersen carefully crafts the scene between mother and daughter.
In The Virgin's War, Andersen exposes the cost of personal choice with a considerable understanding of the religious and political imperatives of a nation whose freedom was at stake. “When we are young, we often cannot see the full cost of what we choose,” Minuette Courtenay tells her daughter. She knows from personal experience that her life decisions resulted in some complicated events. When Minuette chose to marry Dominic instead of William, she made a decision that would influence the future of the country. The book offers an alternative view of history by delving into the “what ifs” of an era often called the golden age in English history. The people we choose to let into our lives can change the future and determine the course of history.