Saturday, June 1, 2013
Book Review: His Last Letter by Jeane Westin
I was excited to read "His Last Letter" -- I've loved the Elizabeth and Dudley forbidden love since Philippa Gregory's "The Virgin's Lover", and this book was dedicated entirely to them. I truly wanted to love it, but HLL fell a bit flat for me in some areas.
Firstly, while this was understandably historical romance, it was romanticized to the point of being a little cliche... okay,a LOT cliche. I don't doubt Robert Dudley was in love with Elizabeth, but I feel like Westin should have addressed the fact that there was some ambition, on his part, in the mix. Next, and this is something unforgivable to me in all novels, it would have to be the awkward placement of their sex scenes. SPOILER AHEAD -- I feel as if there was no build-up to their sex scene in 1576, and that more sexual tension could have been weaved, at least in their earlier years. Which leads to my final complaint -- the story is set between 1585-1588, the last years Elizabeth and Dudley spend together before his death. This was arguably 'sweeter' as they are together still in their old age, thick and thin, but her 'flashback' chapters, which were almost half the book, could have focused more on when they were young, passionate and in love -- most of the book shows them as fond but mellow with age, and I find that a bit unfair. They were once so recklessly in love and that would have been entertaining to read about.
Despite the notes in the previous paragraph, I enjoyed many parts of "HLL" as well. I may not have enjoyed how she built up their love, but the way she concluded it was poignant and beautiful, and her version of his real last letter brought me to tears. I don't want to spoil it, but their last ride together in 1588 was a beautiful addition. My favorite part of the book was her in depth chapter guide/timeline so that you don't get confused with the constantly changing dates, and the phenomenal author's note and reader's guide! The reader's guide was like a guide to all of Tudor England and it was deliciously informative. So thankful to her for that interview.
All in all, "His Last Letter" is recommended, although not particularly strongly. It's romantic, inclusive, heart-warming and an excellent read for someone who can't get enough of Tudor England and Elizabeth I's iron will and sass.