The Queen's Fool is one of those books that sat on my bookshelf for awhile, getting passed over time and again for something else. I don't know if it was the cover (it does look a little romance-y) or the blurb on the back, but it never really jumped out and demanded to be read. Then one day, I found myself reaching for it, and I couldn't put it down.
Set during the tumultuous years after King Edward's death in the sixteenth century, the novel tells the story of Hannah Green, a young Jewish girl who escaped Spain and the Inquisition with her father, but not her mother, who was executed before they left. Hannah is hired as a fool for the young and inexperienced Queen Mary, and is immediately swept in to the intrigue that surrounds the palace and the royal court. Half in love with Robert Dudley, one of the palace consorts, unsure of her place - and safety - in the court, forced to keep her father's profession as a printer secret, forced to keep her identity as a Jew secret, and tempted to defect to Elizabeth's court, Hannah's loyalty to Mary is tested at every turn.
I'm not a sixteen-century English historian - my knowledge of that era is limited to what I can vaguely remember from junior year literature, a handful of movies, and some trashy romance novels - but Gregory paints Tudor London with such a vivid brush that I found myself wanting to learn more about these characters, these kings and queens and consorts and fools and spies who really existed. And that, I think, is the mark of a great story.