The Other Queen is Phillippa Gregory's (author of The Other Bolyen Girl) latest novel. The "other queen" of the title is Queen Mary of Scotland. This book takes a novel approach to describing Mary's captivity through three views: that of Mary herself, of Elizbeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (or Bess of Hardwicke), and George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.
George and Bess are older newlyweds and amongst the most priviloged Protestants in the realm when Queen Elizabeth picks them to be Queen Mary of Scotland's captors. At first the couple is overjoyed to be selected, but as the years go, the role of keeping Queen Mary destroys their marriage, happiness, and wealth (Queen Elizabeth never pays them for keeping Mary and all of her entourage). Also troubling is the fact that Mary is always trying to escape, which put's the Talbot's lives on the line. The novel covers the first few years of Mary's capativity and then flash forwards at the very end to her excecution. We see Mary grow from a vivacious, beautiful young woman, to an older than she should be middle aged and broken woman.
I found several points of the novel very interesting. One point was the description of how Bess acquired her wealth and status through the marriage of four husbands. Her second husband helped in the desolution of the Catholic church and kept much of the church's wealth for himself. It had interesting commentary of how the Catholic church was the social system in that time that helped those in need such as the poor and eldery. When the church was torn down, it often was to take the wealth of the church and no one stepped in to take over the care of those in need. It was interesting to think about . . . this vacuum in society made it ripe for Queen Mary to step in as a Catholic and overthrow Elizabeth. If she would have had a bit more luck and competant assistants on her side, history would have turned out a lot differently.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent novel. The only negative to the book for me was the rather abrupt ending. I didn't like how it ended and then fast forwarded to Mary's execution. At least it gave it closer, but it felt like there should either have been another novel, or this novel should have been longer to encompase those years.