“Wealth means nothing at all if you do not know, to the last penny, what your fortune is. You might as well be poor if you do not know what you have.”
If you haven’t ever read any of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels, you really should. They’re a lot of fun: she does a good job of taking actual historical events and mixing in some extra scandal and intrigue to make them more interesting (although with the Tudor court, a lot of what *actually* happened is pretty damn crazy). Gregory makes no effort to hide the fact that she occasionally makes shit up, but overall her books are well researched and as a history nerd, I really enjoy them. If you do choose read the series, do so in chronological order–makes it easier to keep track of who’s who (start with The Constant Princess–Katharine of Aragon).
Other Queen focuses on the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots in the household of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess. Each chapter is written from the perspective of one of these three characters. The chapters are overall very short, so you switch perspectives a lot and really get inside these characters’ heads (unlike in Game of Thrones, for instance, where you may go 200 pages without returning to the same character twice).
Queen Mary has been sent to stay with the Shrewsburys while Queen Elizabeth decides whether or not to return her to England. Initially, the Shrewsburys are thrilled at the honor of hosting a queen; eventually, the cost (both financial and emotional) of doing so while Mary carries out constant attempts to make war and/or escape begins to wear on them both. Lots of secret letters and clandestine meetings take place, and everyone is ripe for betrayal.
What I really loved about this book was the character of Shrewsbury’s wife, Bess of Hardwick. Had she been born later, or as a man, she would have made one hell of a CEO. Bess is tough and levelheaded and focused on one thing: her family’s future. Married to an earl who falls head over heels for the imprisoned queen, Bess is the only one capable of staying the course. She was really an interesting, fleshed out character.