The story begins with a prologue. We are in 1540 and Lady Elizabeth is in the tower. Then we flashback to 1536 and the reader is able to see the closeness Eleanor has with her mother and the fun the Hungerford’s had as a family. Lord Walter returns early from a trip to London without his usual exuberance and Lady Elizabeth is taken to the tower by guards for being under suspicion of witchcraft and infidelity. Chapter Two finds us in the present (Spring 1540) and the story continues to show us Eleanor’s life as it was in Tudor times – the constraints on females, her attempts to rescue her mother from the tower, and also castle life.
This period in history fascinates me. The idealism is so romantic! Knights, The Code of Chivalry, the pageantry of jousting/tournaments and the castles. Of course there is the other side – peasant life and lack of freedom … although I think the fashion romantic too, I wouldn’t want the constraints of dressing fashionably! As we journey with Eleanor, Tudor life comes colourfully alive. The reader doesn’t get to just experience Farleigh Castle but also London.
Eleanor is such a feisty heroine. She was only eleven when her mother was imprisoned and with her father away in London for most of the time, had the run of the castle. Dressing in servants clothes she is able to ride astride her horse and sneak around. She is taught to joust alongside her younger brother and cousin … a lot of freedom! That is until Lord Walter returns from London with his prospective wife (yes, his third wife is still alive in the tower) and news of an arranged marriage for Eleanor. Her exchanges with her betrothed, Philip Ashington (Viscount Stanton), I found quite amusing and I think show her character really well. Eleanor is always on her guard and this leads her to misunderstanding motives.
There is an interesting cast of characters at Farleigh Castle for the tournament. Alongside Lord Walter is his close friend Oliver Cromwell (both advisers to Henry VIII who is also there). Lots of intrigue and treason!
I have a couple of favourite scenes – one at the lists for the finals in the jousting and also a romantic scene in the park in London (although the beheadings were quite interesting too …)
I love it that The Lady in the Tower is based on historical fact. The author was inspired by the tale itself and the mystery surrounding Lady Elizabeth’s escape from Farleigh Castle. She has woven the tale into something believable and very enjoyable.
Although The Lady in the Tower is aimed at a Young Adult audience, if you have a love a history and Tudor times, then this fictional book will interest you.