printed copy

The Queen's Rivals: A Novel of the Grey Sisters

Brandy Purdy

ISBN 9780758265999
Publish Date 6/25/2013
Format Trade Paperback
Categories Historical, Kensington
List Price: $15.00

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As cousins of history's most tempestuous queens, Ladies Jane, Katherine, and Mary Grey were born in an age when all of London lived beneath the Tower's menacing shadow. Tyrannized by Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen, the sisters feared love was unthinkable--and the scaffold all but unavoidable. . .

Raised to fear her royal blood and what it might lead men to do in her name, Mary Grey dreads what will become of herself and her elder sisters under the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. On their honor, they have no designs on the crown, yet are condemned to solitude, forbidden to wed. Though Mary, accustomed to dwelling in the shadows, the subject of whispers, may never catch the eye of a gentleman, her beautiful and brilliant sisters long for freedoms that would surely cost their lives. And so, wizened for her years, Mary can only hope for divine providence amid a bleak present and a future at the whim of the throne--unless destiny gains the upper hand.

A gripping and bittersweet tale of broken families and broken hearts, courage and conviction, The Queen's Rivals recounts an astonishing chapter in the hard-won battle for the Tudor throne.

"Recommended for readers who can't get enough of the Tudors and have devoured all of Philippa Gregory's books." --Library Journal on The Boleyn Wife

"Purdy wonderfully reimagines the behind-the-scenes lives of the two sisters." --Historical Novel Reviews on The Tudor Throne


1. Discuss the personalities of the three sisters—Jane, Kate, and Mary. Which do you like best and why?

2. The Grey sisters have a little ritual in which they stand before the mirror and identify themselves as “the brilliant one,” “the beautiful one,” and “the beastly little one,” poking fun at the way other people see them. Discuss the outside world’s perceptions of the three sisters and how they see themselves. Discuss their relationship with each other. If they weren’t united by blood and family ties, would these three girls have been friends?

3. Because of Jane’s confession to Roger Ascham, history remembers her mother, Frances Grey, the Duchess of Suffolk, as a ruthless, ambitious, child-beating monster. The modern concept of child abuse was nonexistent in Tudor times, and what we would today consider harsh punishments were not uncommon. What do you think about this? Was Frances Grey typical and merely a product of the time she lived in or did she cross the line?

4. Discuss the girls’ father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. In this book, he’s depicted as a weak-willed man of many vices and addictions—gambling, sweets, and Guildford Dudley. Compared to his wife, is he the good, fun parent? Discuss his influence on his daughters. Is it good or bad? Would their lives, or the course of the story, have been different if he had been a stronger or wiser man? Discuss his relationship with Guildford Dudley. Do you believe the two were lovers in the full physical sense or was it just an innocent infatuation that was really all talk and no substance?

5. In this novel, Lady Jane Grey deplores anything that even hints of sex and romance, urging those who are weak, or might be tempted, to fight against lust and “despise the flesh.” Why is she so vehemently opposed to what others consider a natural part of life? Does she really, as some suspect, secretly desire her handsome young husband but fight against a desire she loathes discovering inside herself, or does she really hate him? And is Guildford really as stupid and conceited as people think? v6. Do you agree with Mary Grey that her eldest sister, Jane, chose and embraced the role of martyr and victim? If so, why do you think Jane did this? If you disagree, why do you think Mary thought this? And how do you see Jane?

7. Mary says that “all for love” should have been Kate’s motto. Is this true? If so, is it a good or a bad thing? Love definitely played a starring role in Katherine Grey’s life and death. Do you agree or disagree with the choices she made? Discuss her relationships with the various men in her life—her father, her two husbands, her father-in-law, and the minor dalliances and flirtations. How did they affect, mold, and shape her? Why does she risk her life to save her father’s head from London Bridge? Did she really love her first husband, or was she, as Mary thought, simply in love with love? Should she have married Ned Seymour? Is his love for her sincere or does her royal blood play a role in his decision to secretly marry her? Does it stand the test of time even when they are separated?

8. Discuss Frances Grey’s marriage to Adrian Stokes. Why does she really marry him? Throughout history, and even in the modern day, men routinely date and marry women considerably younger than themselves, but an older woman with a much younger man still invites comment, sometimes even jokes and laughter. What do you think of this? In this novel, her surviving daughters are clearly appalled by her actions, and Frances herself realizes that she is likely to become a laughingstock at court. Do you think this is justified?

9. After she becomes friends with Lady Jane Seymour, Kate begins to neglect and ignore Mary. They no longer share a room and drift apart until they are more like casual acquaintances than sisters. Why do you think this happened? How would you have reacted if you were in Mary’s shoes? Kate seems to dance in and out of Mary’s life at her own convenience, as it suits her, when she wants new clothes, and, after Lady Jane dies, when she has no one else to turn to. Even when Kate is in prison and makes Mary her confidante, it is still all about Kate, and she never asks about Mary. Do you think Kate uses or takes advantage of Mary? How does this make you feel about Kate?

10. Why does Kate give up? Why does she stop fighting? Why does she burn Mr. Roke-Green’s letter to Queen Elizabeth before he has a chance to send it? She died at only twentyeight after losing a long battle with depression. Could this have been avoided? Could she have won this battle? What, if anything, could Kate have done to ensure a happier or longer life for herself?

11. Why does Mary, the practical and pragmatic one who should have known better, follow in Kate’s footsteps when she knows the danger that comes with marrying secretly, without the Queen’s consent? Discuss her relationship with Thomas Keyes. Why do they fall in love? And is it really love? During her sister’s imprisonment, Mary was constantly pushing Kate to fight and not give in to her depression, to find a way to go on with her life, yet, as Mary freely admits, when she is in the same position, she does not practice what she preached and actually goes mad for a time. How does this make you feel about Mary? Does it make her more human, or a more or less sympathetic character? What do you think of our little narrator? Discuss what life must have been like for someone who was physically different or challenged in Tudor England. Did the difficulties and disappointments she faced make Mary a stronger or wiser person?

12. Discuss Mary’s life after she is released from prison. Even though she still mourns her husband and has already made the decision to shut love out of her life, she spontaneously begins a secret affair with her stepfather, Adrian Stokes. Why does she do this? Is it a good or bad decision? And, why, when she is received back at court, does she insist on calling herself “Mrs. Thomas Keyes”? Is this an act of pride, insolence, and defiance, or her way of honoring the memory of the man she truly loved?

About Brandy Purdy:

Brandy Purdy is the author of several historical novels. When she's not writing, she's either reading or watching classic movies. She currently lives in Beaumont, TX. Visit her website at for more information about her books. You can also follow her via her blog at where she posts updates about her work and reviews of what she has been reading.

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