Rival to the Queen ~ Carolly Erickson

This is the story of Letitia Knollys, grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn (Anne’s sister) and cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. Lettie (as she is affectionately known) is sent to her cousin’s court at the age of 16 to serve as a maid-in-waiting to Elizabeth where she quickly catches the eye of Robert Dudley. This story is about a complex love triangle between Elizabeth, Lettie and Robert – as told from Lettie’s perspective. Two cousins bound by blood, yet destined to fight over one of Tudor England’s most charismatic men.


Ok, so I have some major qualms about this novel. I am normally a fan of Erickson’s novels but this one was horrendous. I actually had to force myself to finish it. The characters are lame and the relationships fall flat – for a story that is based on a love triangle, there was no real drama! A lot of the events in the story are implausible, such as Elizabeth leaving her diary out and open for anyone to read or Robert Dudley declaring to a room of courtiers that he had shared Elizabeth’s bed.

The unsympathetic portrayal of Elizabeth was definitely different from anything else I have read about her or based on her. Erickson created Elizabeth as a manipulative, abusive and bitter woman who cared about no one but herself. While I have read a lot about Elizabeth that does not paint her in the best of lights, I have never seen her portrayed such as this. I have often seen her being described as stubborn, clever, calculating and indecisive but never have I seen her described as being a total “witch”.

There were also parts of the story that were totally and utterly pointless and I was seriously questioning why they were included in the first place, for example the return of Lettie’s brother’s long lost love. Really, what was the point of that whole chapter? Was there a minimum amount of pages that were required for publication? There could have been so much more added to the story of the rivalry between Lettie and Elizabeth instead of this fluffy and pointless filler. I honestly felt like the “rivalry” (without drama ... kind of a lame rivalry) was over half way through the book. The last half dragged on and on ... I felt like the book would never end. In the later half Lettie loses a lot of people in her life, but there are no emotions and nothing is explained, it is just mentioned in passing and the reader is left wondering what became of these characters.
This book could have been a lot better if Erickson had simply focused on the rivalry between the cousins and the love triangle instead of adding in all of the extra unimportant filler. I have to say how thankful I am that I found this at my local library and did not waste my money purchasing a copy. Definitely not worth the read and definitely not Erickson's best work. 

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