Penguin, $15,00, 406 pages
The Fitzgeralds were considered Irish royalty when the English Tudors deposed them in 1533. Harper journals the young Elizabeth Fitzgerald from the imprisonment of her father in the Tower of London and the siege of her family’s castle to the execution of her half brother and five uncles in London.
Gera, as she was called, was determined to exact revenge on the Tudors—especially Henry VIII, and eventually positioned herself in the epicenter of the English Royal court and became a lady-in-waiting for Catherine Howard. After Howard was charged with treason and beheaded, Gera maintained ties with Henry VIII’s two daughters–Mary and Elizabeth, and became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. The story is a fascinating glimpse of the machinations of royal social climbing as Gera seeks to restore her family’s position in Ireland.
She also makes the acquaintance of the handsome Englishman, Edward Clinton, and is instantly attracted to the married captain. Gera and Edward maintain a long-standing mutual admiration that almost erupts into romance, though at the age of 16, Gera marries the much older Sir Anthony Browne. After Browne’s death, she is fortunate enough to become the Countess of Lincoln and commandeers a pirate ship, and claims her victory in the name of the queen, hoping to gain Elizabeth’s trust. The author deftly works this fascinating and tragic time in history into Gera’s personal memoir, accurately capturing the period’s social practices.
Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth