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The Queen's Handmaiden

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  706 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
A novel of the early years of Elizabeth Tudor-as told by the spirited niece of her real-life governess. Her name is Eloise Rousell . Daughter of a well-bred lady and a strolling player, she lived her early years in peaceful obscurity. But then her father died-and her new stepfather wanted none of her. So she was sent to her aunt, Kat Ashley-governess to the young Elizabeth ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Berkley Books
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2.5 stars

I am a huge fan of Jennifer Ashley's Regency series featuring Captain Gabriel Lacy written under the nom de plume of Ashley Gardner. I love the characters she created in that series as well as the setting and period and I'm eagerly awaiting the next book which has a tentative title of 'A Death in Norfolk' which is the seventh in the series, due out in the fall 2011.

This novel is set during the reign of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I and has a charming heroine at its center. Elo
I actually began reading this a long time ago when I was a senior in high school, but I left it on the bus one day and I could never find it. I guess someone had taken it. I bought another copy not too long after that, but I only restarted and finished the book a month ago. So it has been 4-5 years since I picked up this book and I finished it in a day.

This book was an easy read. Historical wise there was some inaccuracy. (If I am wrong at how much inaccuracy there was, I apologize I am not an e
Jan 22, 2008 Kendra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I enjoyed the first person narrative and how the author gave me insights to everyone surrounding the main character. Ms. Ashley restored my faith in fiction. I hadn't been able to read anything that hooked me for a couple of months. I was surprised and pleased when I couldn't put it down.
Jul 02, 2016 Krystyne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I really like about this book is that unlike many Tudor historical fiction books this is not over sexed and glamoured. This book paints a more realistic view of Queen Elizabeth I. This book shows both her charms and flaws magnificently. The narrator of this book comes from Eloise; her skilled seamstress, spy and confidant.
Aug 29, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2012: I thought when I moved that I'd give this book away to the library or something, but I dug it out of the box that thankfully never went anywhere when I finished watching The Tudors HBO series. I still like it, found it more pleasant than I remembered.
So I watched Elizabeth again after finishing it, and the movie, while still good, A) doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, and B) has Elizabeth relying on MEN to teach her how to be strong. What I like best about this book is that Elizabeth is INHERE
Ashley W
This book was okay. That's pretty much it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't spectacular.

The book follows the tumultuous ten years of Elizabeth I's life from her encounter with Thomas Seymour in 1548 to her ascendancy to the throne in 1558, and is narrated by a fictional neice of Elizabeth's governess, Kat Ashley, named Eloise Rousell. We don't learn anything new in this book and there are some points where Jennifer Ashley even gets information that everyone knows wrong, i.e saying Catherine of Arago
Beth Cato
Apr 10, 2012 Beth Cato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in, 2008, historical, fiction
This was a good, solidly enjoyable historical fiction read. Most books focusing on Queen Elizabeth focus on her actual reign and the time of Shakespeare; part of the charm of this novel is that we follow Elizabeth from childhood and through the turbulent time of her brother's death, Queen Mary's rule, and finally her own coronation. Very little of the book takes place in her reign. The first-person perspective is from Elizabeth's loyal seamstress, Eloise. As Eloise herself points out, many peopl ...more
This book is a light read not bogged down in historical facts. Events are rarely explained in detail, and sometimes they are glossed over altogether. Even so, I don’t believe I read anything blatantly misappropriated. The explanation of daily life, and especially fashion, sound accurate to me. In some ways, the lack of great detail is a plus because Eloise, a first-person narrator, was not omnipresent.

The events of Elizabeth’s first thirty years form a loose plot for The Queen’s Handmaiden, but
Jan 23, 2012 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent, entertaining story of Elizabeth's life centered mostly on the years of her brother's and sister's reign, as well as a little into her own.

I enjoyed the story, told from the perspective of Elizabeth's seamstress, who is also the niece of Kat Ashley. The intrigues everyone was jumping into were entertaining, though you could feel Elizabeth's frustration as she was wielded like a pawn for so long.

The story was a bit simplistic, playing on the interpretations that have come down through t
Nov 15, 2009 Wen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, tudor, historical
I thought this book was well done. It is a light historical read in that it does not bog down in excessive historical accounts. It Does hold lots of historical content. The view is told from Eloise who in this story is Elizabeths seamstress. I do not know if such a person ever existed but the accounts told through her eyes are pretty correct. There is room for discrepencies too since it is told from the one view point so it covers many of the things that may not have been completely accurate. Th ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Wagner
This historical novel chronicles the early days of Elizabeth I through the character of Eloise Rousell, a seamstress and confident of the young princess. Eloise must balance her duties to Elizabeth with the turbulent times she lives in and the man she comes to love. While this novel is an okay read and certainly would be enjoyed by fans of Tudor England, I felt it could have been much better and especially the ending could have been better done. The last few chapters felt like an epilogue, with ...more
Aug 04, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 24, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summerreads
I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up at a book store at an outlet mall because my mom needed one more book to satisfy the sale (4 for $10 or something) and was worried it would be a romance.

It wasn't. Pretty straight historical fiction: Queen Elizabeth's rise to power as seen by her dressmaker.

Lots of historical details and enough characterization to make Elizabeth believable. Also, a smart protagonist who you grow to care about.

A fun book about a woman who has always fascinated me.
Jun 20, 2009 Hilary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sort of a beach read for those interested in history and political intrigue. It's beachy in the sense that I read it in a couple of days and found it entertaining enough that I didn't want to put it down. It's also beachy in that it's sort of history-lite; if you're looking for detailed historical drama, this isn't it. Does Phillipa Gregory do that sort of thing? I really liked the narrator, Elizabeth's seamstress. She was spunky (actually rather modern in her sensibilities) and sensible.
Helen Azar
There is nothing remarkable about this book, but it was a fairly good read, albeit with some creative licensing involved. Not bad compared to the rest in the recent wave of all the Tudor fiction novels... Told from the first person perspective of the fictional niece of Kate Ashley (Elizabeth I's long time governess)... Recommended for Tudor era fiction fans but don't expect that much, and try not to get too upset about the liberties it takes...
This book is about Eloise Rousell who is sent to live with Kat Ashley, Elizabeth's governess, who happens to be her aunt. She is a talented seamstress who makes Elizabeth's dresses and gets involved in various plots to help Elizabeth behind the scenes. Her love interest in the story, James Colby is an interesting character in the novel. I liked the descriptions of clothing and the relationships between Elizabeth, Eloise and Kat, and Eloise and James. This is a light read but likeable.
I'm getting to the point where some historical novels no longer hold the same charm they once did for me. There's a limit, I suppose, to the number of times one can read the same story from different viewpoints. Elizabeth still remains a fascinating figure, but I'm tired of exploring her and her times from 46-million different angles. And how come there's always someone with psychic abilities in the story?

Did find the tidbits about costumes and gowns and materials of interest.
Aug 09, 2010 gia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sort of a popcorn read, The Queen's Handmaiden isn't a frivolous bodice-ripper in historical fiction guise, nor is it particularly deep in either character or complexity. Fun, but a bit predictable. The depiction of Queen Elizabeth, prior to her queenhood, is flat enough that it might annoy anyone particularly invested in her as a historical figure, but if you just want to kill some time, here you go.
Jan 24, 2013 Scoyphenson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I felt like I was reading a pencil sketch of a story. After experiencing the work of authors like Hilary Mantel, Diana Gabaldon, and Karleen Koen, who work their stories in under your skin, vague proclamations like "I lived an unusual but not unhappy childhood" fail to resonate. 2% in and I am done with this book. On to more appealing fare.
Jan 26, 2008 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid narrative of the years leading up to Elizabeth I's coronation, but very much in the vein of The Other Boleyn Girl and the rash of Tudor novels that have been published lately. The narrator is, unfortunately, a bit bland, but the relationship between Eloise and her husband made the book more likeable.
Mar 11, 2012 Tammy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was a decent read, it was not as good as Phillppa Gregory’s novels…but it was still good. I liked the basic story and it was decently written. I don’t think I would go out of my wayto read this author again, but if I happened to see another of her books, I would probably read it…does that make sense?
Apr 16, 2008 Jeneale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book told the story of the fictional (I assume) seamstress for Queen Elizabeth I. It was light and quick, and it wasn't challenging as far as vocabulary, but it was very fun. Ashley did a good job of making the characters believable, but it helped that I had read The Other Boleyn Girl so I had a little background on Elizabeth and the other Tudors. I would recommend it.
Feb 12, 2016 HeatherInAZ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the seamstress in me loved this book. I loved the detail about the clothes and fabrics. The story behind all the clothing was equally fascinating. I don’t know a whole lot about the British Monarchy so I don’t know how accurate the story was, but it was interesting with a twist at the end.
I was impressed with the way that this book wasn't trashy, even though it was written by a historical romance author. Then I got to the part where the main character has sex and there was about a page of unnecessary details. Still, good queen Elizabeth fiction.
Jaque Mcmorrow
It was hard for me to get into this book. Because I would fall asleep everything she would describe her dresses that she was making or going to make. But if you can get past that then it has a good story behind all of that.
Rebecca Huston
Yet another novel about Elizabeth I of England. This time, the narrator of the tale is Eloise, a young woman of not too good birth, and the depiction of Elizabeth I is better than most authors. Recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
Jan 25, 2008 Jillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still reading it, but it confirms much of what happened in "The Last Wife of Henry VIII".
Decent enough historical fiction about Queen Elizabeth through the eyes of her dressmaker. An easy, interesting enough read (although it may not be fully accurate historically) but I found the ending a bit flat.
Apr 10, 2010 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
An enjoyable tale of the politics during the childhood and leading up to the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry 8 and his second wife, Anne Boylen. Rich in visual details, interesting characters and intrigue.
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 12, 2015 12:39PM  
  • No Will But His: A Novel of Kathryn Howard
  • Dear Heart, How Like You This?
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  • His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester
  • Plain Jane
  • Duchess of Aquitaine: A Novel of Eleanor
  • By Royal Decree (Secrets of the Tudor Court, #3)
  • Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor
  • Young Bess (Elizabeth Trilogy, #1)
  • King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets
  • The Irish Princess
  • The Secret Wife of King George IV
  • All the Queen's Players
  • In the Shadow of Lady Jane
  • 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII
  • The Sixth Wife
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court (Tudor Court #1)
  • The Rose Without a Thorn (Queens of England, #11)
NY Times Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley writes historical and paranormal romance and historical mysteries, as Jennifer Ashley, Allyson James, and Ashley Gardner.

Jennifer's novels have won RWA's RITA and RT Reviewer's Choice awards. More about her books at,, and
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