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on December 9, 2008
To be honest, I was truly disappointed in this novel. I am a very big fan of Philippa Gregory's as well as historical fiction. I forced myself to finish reading it as I had waited months for this book! I would suggest that those readers interested in Mary, Queen of Scots, to read Margaret George's Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles. It provides much more information on Mary, not just her last days as a prisoner of Queen Elizabeth.
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on November 30, 2008
Did anyone else feel like they were stuck on repeat while reading this book? While jumping back and forth between the 3 characters who are telling the story, it seems the author forgot she needed to move the plot along as well. Yes, we understand Bess made herself from nothing, worked hard to get where she did, blah, blah, blah. And Mary was a queen under the divine eye of god, her body was sacred, blah, blah, blah. Readers are not stupid, we do not need these facts beat into us in every chapter. The repetition made this book tedious and boring. As an avid reader of any tudor-era novel, I would say this is one of the worst. Which is sad, since some of this author's previous work is fantastic, and definately worth checking out. Try "The Virgin's Lover" or "the Other Boleyn Girl", which have great character development and an interesting story line.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 10, 2009
There are many excellent books that have been written about Mary, Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. Although I have enjoyed many of the author's books over the years, this one was almost painful to read, with its laughable dialogue and one dimensional, vapid characters. Even though the book appears to have been well-researched, the author manages to turn one of the most intriguing and tragic figures in history into someone about whom the reader could not care less.

The story focuses on the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, by order of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. The Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess, are to be her jailers. When their "guest", Mary, chafes under the restrictions imposed upon her, plots abound to set her free, much to the consternation of the Earl and his wife. The story is told via formulaic, first person narratives by Mary, the Earl, and Bess, all of which plod along, boring the reader to tears with its repetitive and lamentable prose.

It took me weeks to finish this book, and I looked upon it as a chore that I needed to complete. When the last page was finally turned, I breathed a sigh of relief, having been freed at last from reading anymore of this book, which I did not at all enjoy and would not recommend to my worst enemy.
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on October 29, 2008
The bottom line is - this book is just not as good as her others. It's not a complete waste of time - but I had a hard time finishing it, as I lost interest half way through.
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on November 10, 2008
I was so looking forward to this books release, but after reading it, I am very disappointed. The book is written in the style of the Boleyn Inheritance, from the perspective of 3 people: Bess of Hardwick, George Talbot, and Mary, Queen of Scots. I feel this wasn't the way to go with Mary's story. Having a little background on Mary's life, the book would have been better told about her life before being held captive by Queen Elizabeth. I know the author was trying to show the hardships of the Talbots, having to house the Queen, and the troubles she brought them. While also trying to show Mary's struggles at re-claiming her throne, but Mary is such a fascinating woman in her own right, and I believe she deserved a better story focusing on only her. I felt the focus was more on Queen Elizabeth's struggles with her kingdom, then on Mary's struggles with her kingdom in Scotland.

I expected much more from this book. I believe that Mrs. Gregory missed a golden chance to tell the story of this most fascinating Queen.
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on February 5, 2009
I am very disapointed in this book, even more than I was at the terrible screen adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl! It is the first and only book by Ms Gregory that I have put down more than once and started another book. It seems to flit from one person to another more like an attempt at a screenplay than a novel. It is so hard to get involved or like the story which anyone with an interest in history or major films will have already heard before but on a much more interesting scale. I never thought that I would have a bad word to say about my one time fav author but the love affair is now over and Ms Gregory needs to get back to her roots and stop chasing the movie rights!
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on February 12, 2009
I'm in the process of reading this book and find it's not like the other Philippa Gregory books that I've read. I find this book hard to get in to, whereas It would normally only take me a couple of days to finish.The plot seems to drag on and each character seems to repeat themselves, never getting you any farther. I bought this book because I am interested in Mary, Queen of Scots and I feel as though I haven't learned anything about her. This book has not discouraged me from reading other books by her because I know what a great author Philippa Gegory can be, although if this had been the first novel I read by her I probably would have missed out on her other great books!
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Ms. Gregory is well liked and known for her interpretation on historical events and providing her readers with hours of enjoyment. I admit being a huge fan of hers and I normally cannot put any of her novels down.

This is the story of Mary Queen of Scots time spent while under the guardianship of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick. The story starts well by setting up the ambitions of the three main characters. They narrate their inner thoughts and views in alternating chapters and we see how they interact with each other and what ultimately motivates them.

From this point on, the attention grabbing moments are few and far apart. The repetitive abortive plots to put Mary on the throne of England in my opinion lack the spicy details required to attract the average fictional history reader. Reading chapter after chapter about three self-absorbed characters slowly became a turn off to the point where my mind started to wander and think about better things to do. Perhaps I was just not in the mood for this novel or maybe Ms. Gregory was rushed to produce another manuscript. It is not the MS. Gregory I have enjoyed in the past.
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on July 24, 2010
(I should review before reading the other reviews. They've influenced what I intended to type.) Thinking upon it overnight, I didn't find this book too bad. It's not Gregory's worst. IMO that goes to "The Virgin's Lover" for being all whining, childlike "when is my husband coming home?" Amy Robsart Dudley and nothing about the affair between Robert and Queen Bess. It's not her best. That's "The Other Boleyn Girl".

The three protagonists: Mary, Queen of Scots, and George and Bess, the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury are like the people the history books portray.

Mary is the spoiled little queen: clever at stealing men's hearts, very self-absorbed, believes everyone is obliged to rescue her - even the cousin she calls a bastard and not rightful queen of England. Did Mary really think that Elizabeth would welcome her with open arms? Did she really think that Elizabeth would help her get back on the throne of Scotland? Her rival - the Catholic threat? Apparently she did. A destabilized Scotland was just what Elizabeth and Cecil wanted, because it could do England no harm. Queen Mary, married to anyone, was a threat to the unmarried Protestant queen facing a Catholic Europe.

The real Bess of Hardwick was besotted with gaining lands, wealth and prestige and marrying off her children and step-children to advantage. She was apparently a merciless matriarch. We don't know much about the real George, Earl of Shrewsbury, but that he was accused of being too lenient toward - perhaps infatuated by - Mary of Scotland. He was caught between queens. He was loyal to Queen Elizabeth, obligated as a host and perhaps out of chivalric love to care for Queen Mary, and bound by marriage vows to honour Bess, the ruler of his household.

Philippa Gregory shows the tensions among the three quite well. The deluding and self-delusion going on among them too. Mary is so very smug at seducing George from his wife, and Norfolk from his loyalty to his own queen. She threw over her current spouse, Lord Bothwell, when Norfolk proposed marriage; but it's Bothwell she cries out for. George can't admit to himself that he is in love with Mary. Bess refuses to admit that she wants George as a husband, not as the guardian of her possessions.

Considering Mary of Scotland's event packed life, I thought Ms. Gregory was smart to focus her story on one portion and thus hold the magnifying glass on three characters instead of painting a wall mural with fifty.

But I had book hurling moments. One can take the almost constant refrains "I am a sacred Queen", "No one can question my loyalty to the Crown" and "I am the sum of my possessions" so many times.

Also, no self respecting Tudor aristocrat signs a formal letter "Dudley" if he is the Earl of Leicester or "Bess" if she is the Countess of Shrewsbury. It's "Leicester" or "Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury" or "Elizabeth Shrewsbury"

And why do George and Bess call the Roman Catholic religion "the true church" in one breath and "Papist idolatry" in the next? Was the inconsistency intentional - to show that they were Catholics at heart, or that they worshiped the religion in fashion at the moment - or was it carelessness? Ms. Gregory wrote in her answers to readers that she was influenced to write about Mary after reading John Guy's "My Heart is My Own" My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots Mr Guy's books slant toward Roman Catholic interpretations of the Tudors - not that he's right or wrong to slant so - but his book may have caused Gregory to show her characters as less than dogmatic in dogma.
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on August 23, 2009
The Other Queen focuses on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I's rival. You read the story through the eyes of Queen Mary, and her two hosts/jailors: George and Bess Talbot (who are also newlyweds). As the plot progress, you notice George falling in love with the Queen, and Bess becoming the green eyed monster. In the meantime Queen Mary is busy plotting to get her seated on a throne to rule France, England, and Scotland.

The plot starts very slow at first. It didn't really capture my attention as Gregory's other books. I did not really warm up to any of these characters. When you're reading from Mary's point of view she's always referring to her past, and other characters (Bothwell, for example). It's a little hard to follow as I'm not very well versed in this era of history. Here I am sitting wondering who are these people Mary keeps on talking about. You get the hang of it after a while but it's a little frustrating and you feel a little lost. Also, you get the feeling you're on a yo-yo as you read this book. First the rebels are coming. Nope they're not. Oh Mary's going to this house. Nope she's going to this one. Oh yes Mary will have her throne. Nope she's just going to this other house for now. It was sort of tiring reading like this throughout the book.

Once you get the know the three characters and as the plot slowly progresses, this is where it gets messy. I started to like Mary a lot first, and I started sympathizing with her. Considering I didn't like Elizabeth to start with (when reading The Virgin's Lover), Mary was a very romantic version of a Queen and reminded me of a little bit of Catalina (from The Constant Princess). I was neutral towards Bess, and George, he's a sweetheart! you can't help it but wonder if he's THE perfect guy for those times. Towards the middle of the book, when Mary starts plotting more, and George falls in love with her, my opinion changes. Bess just can't shut up about money, and gets mildly irritating. On top of that she's a jealous harpy but you can't really blame her. She's up against a Queen. George still reminds loveable, but a little on the dumb side. Queen Mary, she started becoming a lying twit. Towards the end, everything shifts again. I didn't like Mary anymore. The spoiled brat. I admired Bess for her strength but just wished she would shut up about her lands and money. George, well, I'd have to say he brought it all on himself even though he's still a sweetheart. The plot works well with these characters, as all three of them develop and you see them change drastically.

Aside from the slow plot, I think it's the characters that managed to saved this book from being set aside. They grabbed my attention, albeit not as quick as I hoped. Perhaps I had too many expectations. However it could be because I don't know much about this era of history and perhaps a bit of background research would have helped me. Overall, not one of Gregory's best work but it's an all right read.
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