The Lady of the Tower
by Elizabeth St. John
Publication Date: January 30, 2016
eBook & Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Orphaned Lucy St.John, described as “the most beautiful of all,” defies English society by carving her own path through the decadent Stuart court. In 1609, the early days of the rule of James I are a time of glittering pageantry and cutthroat ambition, when the most dangerous thing one can do is fall in love . . . or make an enemy of Frances Howard, the reigning court beauty. Lucy catches the eye of the Earl of Suffolk, but her envious sister Barbara is determined to ruin her happiness. Exiling herself from the court, Lucy has to find her own path through life, becoming mistress of the Tower of London. Riding the coattails of the king’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, the fortunes of the St.Johns rise to dizzying heights. But with great wealth comes betrayal, leaving Lucy to fight for her survival—and her honor—in a world of deceit and debauchery. Elizabeth St.John tells this dramatic story of love, betrayal, family bonds and loyalty through the eyes of her ancestor Lucy and her family’s surviving diaries, letters and court papers.
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Lucy St.John is an orphan in English at the pivotal time of the rise of James I. Throughout her youth, she has been raised by her Aunt Joan and with her sister Barbara. Joan and Barbara seem to have found a common alliance against Lucy and only care about their own rise within English Society. As the women grow, Barbara finds a way to friendship with the influential and corrupt Frances Howard and Lucy find a courtly romance with Frances' brother, Theo. However, Barbara ensures that Lucy will not find happiness there and poisons their relationship. Lucy moves on with her life, travels and takes in knowledge of medicinal plants and when all seems lost, she meets Sir Allen Apsley. They marry and Allen takes a position at the Tower of London, leaving Lucy as Mistress of the Tower.
As someone who loves reading about Tudor England, I was excited to read about the time period directly after but that took place within one of the most iconic settings of the Tudor reign, the Tower of London. Lucy was a character that I automatically connected with, she was incredibly strong in spirit, refusing to be beat down by her aunt and sister; I also loved that she found solace and purpose within plants and medicine. Barbara was one of the most entertaining characters, with her scheming and backstabbing, she reminded me of the ultimate Mean Girl. In addition, the settings were all tremendously described. From the court of James I, with it's corruption and festivities to the bustling Naval yards to the rooms and grounds of the Tower itself, I felt immersed in the time. As a bonus, the book is authored by Elizabeth St. John, a descendant of the St. John family, and has taken extra care to write stories of her family.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and lives in California. To inform her writing, she has tracked down family papers and sites from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and the British Library to Castle Fonmon and The Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them – in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story…
Elizabeth is currently writing a sequel to The Lady of the Tower, following the fortunes of the St.John family during the English Civil War. The working title is “By Love Divided”, and it is due to publish in early 2017.
For more information, please visit Elizabeth St. John’s website. You can connect with Elizabeth on Facebook and Goodreads.