Philippa Gregory does it again with her latest historical novel – another compelling story of a Tudor queen. This time, however, the queen is Mary, Queen of Scots whose very existence threatens Elizabeth’s tenuous hold on the throne.

The Other Queen is told in three voices – Mary, George Talbot and his wife Bess. The Talbots have been commanded by Elizabeth to host Mary but in fact, they are her jailers. Mary had fled to England on the promise that she would be given sanctuary, but instead she becomes a prisoner.

At first honored by Elizabeth’s request, George and Bess soon discover that Mary’s demands and large household (she continues to live in luxury fit for a queen) will bankrupt them and that their home has become the center of the intrigues and rebellions of Mary and her followers, bringing the very loyalty of the Talbots into question.

George falls in love with the Scots queen, Bess, an astute businesswoman, struggles to keep her lands and her marriage and Mary longs for – and plots for – freedom. These three viewpoints bring this distant historical period vividly and fully to life.

Uncommon ReaderA very quick read (120 pages) about the Queen of England who discovers a love of reading when she wanders into a bookmobile. She reads widely and indiscriminately with the help of a young palace employee. She finds that she is changed by what she reads, as well as by the process of reading.

The Queen as a character is immensely likeable and honest, yet the author gives insight into the very real class and status differences she has always had to live with. One (as the Queen refers to herself) gives an insider view of what life as a monarch may be like.

The act of reading as subversive and suspect is also explored – very interesting for those who love reading, books and libraries. Though the style is light and funny, there are many poignant moments, and a surprise ending as well. Highly recommended.