Mary I of England - known as 'Bloody Mary' - has never evoked much sympathy, despite her fractured adolescence and horrible young adulthood, when she first suffered much of the deprivation and pain she later inflicted during her reign.
Nevertheless, her story is a fascinating one, and author Suzannah Dunn captures a fragment of it in her haunting novel, THE QUEEN'S SORROW. Focusing on the months after Mary's marriage to Philip II and her illusory pregnancy, Dunn has crafted an introspective account of longing and the price we can pay when we believe we know someone else's heart.
Dunn tells her beautifully etched story through the eyes of a Spaniard in Philip II's entourage, Rafael de Prado, who arrives in storm-drenched England bewildered and viewed with suspicion by the English, even as he is charged with the task of building a sundial for the queen. Only, no one really knows how Rafael will be paid or exactly where he is supposed to lodge; in the upheaval caused by the Spanish arrival, there is no room at court, and so Rafael and his apprentice are sent to a London manor. Here, Rafael - homesick, sensitive, and trapped in a shadowy world between two opposing faiths - meets Cecily, the manor's housekeeper, and her young son. A father himself, separated from his beloved boy, Rafael finds himself drawn to the enigmatic Englishwoman; as their attraction deepens, we learn more about Rafael and Cecily’s pasts, even as they each find themselves plunged into the tumult and terror of Bloody Mary’s persecution, their fates ultimately forever altered by the queen’s sorrow.