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The Virgin Queen's Daughter    by Ella March Chase order for
Virgin Queen's Daughter
by Ella March Chase
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Virgin Queen's Daughter, Ella March Chase postulates that Elizabeth I bore a bastard daughter, while she was under the care of her stepmother, Katherine Parr, after the death of her father Henry VIII. Supposed to be smothered at birth, the baby was secretly adopted by Thomasin de Lacey (a lady-in-waiting to Katherine Parr) who had just lost her own newborn, and became Elinor (Nell) de Lacey.

Growing up a brilliant linguist with an inquisitive mind, like her illustrious birth mother, redheaded Nell is closest to her bookish father, Lord Calverley, and to her beloved nurse Eppie. She rejects her mother Thomasin's attempts to teach her the womanly arts of the time. Then tragedy strikes her family. Nell had briefly met Princess Elizabeth as a five-year-old, when the latter was a prisoner of the Tower of London - Nell offered her princess a key that she had taken from the rooms of famed scientist and astrologer Dr. John Dee, and Elizabeth (unaware that this was her daughter) offered Nell a future position.

After her father's death, and against her mother's wishes, Nell secretly contacts the queen and wins a position as a maid of honor at Court. She finds herself in a maelstrom of ambition and intrigue, and the secret of her birth is finally revealed to Nell, but must be kept from Elizabeth at all costs, as she - and her advisors - would do whatever they felt necessary to hide such a scandal. One of the courtiers Nell dislikes most is Gypsy's Angel Sir Gabriel Wyatt (a close friend of the queen's favorite Sir Robert Dudley). They clash every time they meet. But Sir Gabriel turns out not to be as black a sheep as he is painted ('his father was a traitor and his mother a whore'), which is just as well since he winkles out Nell's secret.

As the queen's - and her spymaster's - suspicions of Nell increase and she falls into the shadow of the Tower - but also becomes closer to Thomasin than ever before - suspense builds and we wonder if she will be able 'to escape the Virgin Queen's snare.' Those who enjoy historicals - and especially those set in the times of the Tudors - will find The Virgin Queen's Daughter an absorbing and empathetic read.

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