THE OTHER QUEEN
The best historical fiction is built around real personages and events that are reimagined, humanized and made accessible to readers. Gregory is a grand mistress of the craft, following in the footsteps of Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton and James Michener. She utilizes her passion for history and modern research to delve into the lives of people who were little known yet pivotal to history.
While Elizabeth I seems secure in her reign, she fears her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, will attempt to take over the throne. When Mary flees rebels in Scotland, Elizabeth offers her a safe haven -- in reality a "kind" imprisonment in England under the guardianship of the George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick.
The newlyweds believe that by harboring Mary they will ingratiate themselves with Elizabeth; however, as the years pass and their guest nearly bankrupts the couple, they become entangled in political intrigues that put their loyalty to Elizabeth and each other to the test. Mary uses her beauty to lure George into an affair, while master spy William Cecil attempts to tie them to a group attempting to free Mary -- and, in the end, to the hangman. (Simon and Schuster, Sep., 442 pp., $25.95)