For historical fiction fans, it’s very refreshing to read Tudor fiction that is not fully about Elizabeth, Mary, or Anne Boleyn. Sisters of Treason focuses on characters who were significant parts of the Tudor court, but not main players. After Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant cousin who was elevated to the throne, was executed after reigning only nine days, her powerful family is left reeling. Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are now left at court to bow and scrape, ever mindful that their heads could be next.
Lady Catherine is flirtatious, and thought to be a true Protestant heir to the crown after her sister Jane is executed. This flighty creature is in love with the idea of love, and it becomes her waking obsession. Meanwhile, her sister Mary, fears that she will never be loved. Born crippled, with a hunchback and small stature, she becomes Queen Mary’s “pet,” and finds that there is little in the way of freedom when it comes to her life at court. Intertwined with the stories of these “sisters of treason” (fantastic title, by the way) is that of Levina Treelinc, a rare female court painter navigating the currents of Tudor politics. At the same time, Levina has promised the Grey sisters’ mother that she will take them under her wing, and protect them as best as she can.
This becomes increasingly difficult, as their story takes many a tense turn. The writing is vivid, and it is clear that Fremantle has done her research. As the type of reader who expects historical fiction to be based in true fact, not speculation, this title doesn’t disappoint. As allegiances switch and the specter of death and treason hangs over Catherine and Mary Grey’s heads, Fremantle breathes life into the characters and turns them from cameo characters to heroines in their own right.
Fans of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, and HBO's The Tudors will find this to be a compelling must-read.