The Tudor Legacy Novels

The Virgin’s Daughter is the first volume in Laura Andersen’s Tudor Legacy Trilogy, opening about twenty years after the conclusion of The Boleyn Reckoning, the last of the Boleyn King trilogy. Elizabeth is Queen of England, and her daughter, Princess Anne Isabella of Wales, is eighteen years old. Elizabeth wants nothing more than to dissolve her twenty-year marriage to King Phillip of Spain. Phillip’s only other legitimate child, the unstable Don Carlos, has died, leaving Anne as the heir to both the Protestant English and the Catholic Spanish thrones. He needs another heir. Meanwhile, yet another plot to free Mary Queen of Scots from her imprisonment in England is brewing.

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The central figure in The Virgin’s Daughter is not Anne (known to her close friends as Anabel), but her friend Lucette Courtenay, sent by spy master Francis Walsingham to visit family friends in France. Lucette knew the LeClerc brothers, Nicolas and Julien, when they visited her family in England some twelve years past, when Lucette was only ten and the boys teenagers. Now they are all adults, and both Nicolas and Julien are hiding terrible secrets. But are either—or both—of them plotting against Elizabeth?

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Most of the characters in this book are familiar from the earlier trilogy, and I recommend reading the series in order. I deliberately left a long gap between reading the first and second trilogies, because I knew I’d get sucked into Andersen’s almost-like-the-history-books-but-not-quite world, and indeed I did. I’ve already opened the next book, The Virgin’s Spy. But what better time than “Stay Home, Stay Safe” to dive into Andersen’s richly imagined and intricately plotted Tudor time line?

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The Virgin’s Spy centers on Stephen Courtenay, Lucette’s brother, who is sent to Ireland to infiltrate the Kavanaugh Clan, one of the many groups rebelling against English rule. The leader of the clan has recently died, leaving his niece, Ailis, in charge. And Ailis has her own reasons for hating the English in general and seeking revenge against one Englishman in particular. Stephen’s experiences in Ireland will change him forever.

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Meanwhile plans for Anabel’s eventual political marriage are swirling. Will she marry King James of Scotland, several years her junior, or the pock-marked but charming Duc d’Anjou, heir to the French throne? She knows she will have to make a political marriage, but her heart lies elsewhere. And for the first time we get a glimpse of the continent, as the Courtenays visit Spain, delivering gifts for King Philip’s new heirs—and picking up intelligence along the way.

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In The Virgin’s War, the long-simmering tensions between England and Spain boil over into the naval invasion we remember as the Spanish Armada, changed in Andersen’s history by the presence of Princess Anne in the English north country, where she courts the Catholic nobles for support. Has she broken with her mother over religion and her possible allegiance to her Spanish father, or is something else going on?

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All the characters we have come to know are back, Tudor and Courtenay alike, Princess Anne and Pippa Courtenay taking center stage. Amid the political maneuvering, romances are kindled and resolved, battles are fought, hearts are broken and sometimes mended. Loose ends are tied off, some more neatly than others.

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The action moves all over England and even into Scotland, where we meet King James, who has become a surprisingly canny king at the age of twenty. Throughout we see Queen Elizabeth fighting to preserve a country threatening to split over religious lines and to unite her people in opposition to foreign interference.

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I’ve loved the whole six-book series. Andersen’s research and imagination are equally impressive. One can’t help but wonder what changes in the world might have resulted if the Tudor line had continued. Maybe Laura Andersen will take another guess at it someday.

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