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Three Maids For a Crown: A Novel of the Grey Sisters    by Ella March Chase Amazon.com order for
Three Maids For a Crown
by Ella March Chase
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Broadway, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

Three Maids For a Crown begins during the reign of the boy king, Edward VI. As Edward grows more ill by the day, the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk concoct a plan that will place the Grey family on the throne of England. In order to succeed, Frances Grey and her husband propose marriages between their daughters and the sons of the most powerful noblemen in England The Duke of Northumberland and the Earl of Pembroke.

Jane is to marry Guilford Dudley and Katherine Henry Herbert. Katherine becomes instantly enamored of Henry, but Jane must be beaten into submission to force her to marry Guilford. The account is narrated by Jane, Katherine and Mary, as the Grey sisters take turns telling the tragic story of a family of royal blood who made the dangerous mistake of attempting to steal a crown from its rightful monarch.

Jane, Katherine, and Mary were the daughters of Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk. Frances Grey was considered more of a Tudor than Henry VIII's daughters, since both marriages to their mothers were annulled. Frances was the daughter of Henry VIII's sister Princess Margaret and the monarch's best friend, Charles Brandon. Since Margaret was also once married to the King of France, this made Frances the daughter of a princess of England and the daughter of a Queen of France. But Frances' royal blood would lead to a plot against the crown that would ultimately destroy her family.

Lady Jane Grey was always a disappointment to her arrogant mother. Fond of books and sermons, Jane paled in comparison to her lovely and charming sister, Katherine. Mary Grey was born a dwarf with a twisted spine. She would become known to history as Crouchback Mary. Mary's deformity would save her from being a pawn in her parents' dangerous plot to gain the throne. Although Mary loved her sisters dearly, her heart also ached for her cousin who always saw past Mary's deformity. When Mary chooses to help her royal cousin, she has no idea of the tragedy that she will bring upon her family.

Before Mary can ascend the throne, Jane is crowned queen. Her new role as monarch allows Jane the freedom to move beyond the shadow of her lovely sister and the cruelty of her mother. But Jane's days are numbered. The daughter of the mighty King Henry VIII will allow no one to steal the crown that is rightfully hers. After Mary dies, Queen Elizabeth I proves an even more dangerous enemy to the house of Suffolk. Although some of the Grey family survive Mary's reign, Elizabeth I will spare no one who threatens her future as Queen of England.

I loved how Ella March Chase depicted Mary I in the most sympathetic light possible. Known to history as Bloody Mary, she is often considered one of the cruelest monarchs in British history. But Chase accurately portrays Mary's reluctance to execute Jane. Instead, the author depicts Elizabeth I as vicious, vengeful, and heartless. I have read many books on Elizabeth and have never seen her depicted so negatively.

However, the author accurately reminds readers that Elizabeth was a frightened and suspicious monarch. The daughter of the much-hated Anne Boleyn had every reason to fear for her life and future as queen. Three Maids For a Crown is one of the best books I have read on the Grey family and Ella March Chase is a rising star in the genre of historical fiction!

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