Sunday, November 29, 2009

Being Elizabeth by Barbara Taylor Bradford

This novel by bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford (A Woman of Substance) takes the always enthralling Tudor saga and transplants Elizabeth I to the 20th century as young, brilliant, auburn-haired, marriage-phobic Elizabeth Turner, heiress to Deravenels, an old and esteemed multi-million dollar corporate trading company. Her sister, the late but not lamented Mary Turner-Alvarez, (Mary Tudor) almost ran the company into the ground with a $75 million gift to her husband, Spanish tycoon Philip Alvarez, to use on his overly ambitious building projects. Now that Mary is dead, it is up to Elizabeth, aided by her loyal secretary Cecil Williams (Sir William Cecil), and her childhood friend and lover, Robert Dunley (Robert Dudley), to restore Deravenels to its former glory. Along the way she faces a life threatening illness, competition from rival claimant to the Deravenel-Turner fortune, Marie Stewart (Mary, Queen of Scots), a deluded none too bright Scottish-French mantrap, and rumors about the mysterious death of Robert's estranged wife, Amy Robson (Amy Robsart). But don't worry, there's a happy ending tacked on at the end.

While the premise sounds intriguing, it was enough to make me buy the book without a second thought, somehow, uprooted from 16th century Tudor England, it doesn't really work, the story loses some of its luster and magic. Another problem I had with this book was that every crisis that looms up, making the reader think "now we're getting somewhere" is settled easily, with little muss or fuss, usually within a few pages of first rearing its ugly head, so throughout the book one is left with the feeling of waiting for something to happen.

I find most novels with contemporary settings to be swift reads for me, but this one just seemed to drag. I kept looking at the page count and marveling at my lack of progress; at less than 350 pages I should have been able to fly through this book in a couple of days but instead found myself plodding through it for over a week wishing that either something really engaging would happen or that it would just end.

I really wanted to like this book, I applaud any new spin on the oft-told tale of the Tudors, but despite its clever concept this one was rather a dull and dreary read. I'm sorry to say that I honestly can't even recommend it as mind-cotton-candy happily-ever-after beach-read fluff.

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