Audiobook Review: SISTERS OF TREASON by Elizabeth Fremantle

Format: Audio; 15 hrs, 29 mins
Narrators: Teresa Gallagher, Georgina Sutton, Rachel Bavidge
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Released: July 8, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½

From the author of Queen’s Gambit, a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness – and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

It’s good to be queen, but what happens when you’re in the precarious position of being next in line, and a threat to her crown? SISTERS OF TREASON tells the fateful story of the Grey sisters, Catherine and Mary, younger cousins of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. After the execution of their older sister, Lady Jane Grey, and their father, the two girls were eyed suspiciously, having come from a family of traitors. With their cursed Tudor blood, life at court was fraught with peril, especially under Elizabeth’s rule.

The story is told from the point of view of Lady Catherine, Lady Mary, and Levina Teerlinc, the royal portrait painter. Levina was a loyal friend of the girls’ mother, and she promised to watch over them while at court. Catherine was a sweet and frivolous girl whose love-struck heart got her into deep trouble with Elizabeth. My favorite character was Mary, the youngest Grey sister. Mary was small with a crooked spine, but what she lacked in physical stature, she more than made up for in intelligence, cleverness, and kindness.

SISTERS OF TREASON on audio was a joy to listen to. It was narrated by Teresa Gallagher, Georgina Sutton, and Rachel Bavidge, and they all gave brilliant performances.

Elizabeth Fremantle is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I loved her debut novel, QUEEN’S GAMBIT, and SISTERS OF TREASON is just as wonderful. She has an enjoyable writing style, and her words are gorgeous and descriptive. One of the characters described words she was saying as being “like a fat toad plopping out on the planks.” I just loved that!

SISTERS OF TREASON is a compelling blend of fact and fiction about two of the lesser know Tudors who deserve to have their stories told. I also enjoyed learning about the Flemish artist, Levina Teerlinc, and what her life was like as a female painter supporting her family during the Renaissance.  This was a very enjoyable book, and I’m on pins and needles waiting on Ms. Fremantle’s third book in her Tudor trilogy.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Audiobook Review: QUEEN’S GAMBIT by Elizabeth Fremantle

Format: Audio; 14 hrs, 24 mins
Narrator: Georgina Sutton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Released: August 6, 2013
Source: Review copy from the Publisher

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.


QUEEN’S GAMBIT is an engrossing novel about Katherine Parr’s life as the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII. I enjoyed Elizabeth Fremantle’s portrayal of Katherine as a survivor, an intelligent Renaissance woman, and a woman who longed to find true love at last. Katherine was the only wife of Henry VIII’s  to make it out of marriage to him without being divorced, beheaded, or dying, which took true smarts and cleverness on her part. As a steadfast reformist and supporter of the “new religion,” she was disliked by many of Henry’s subjects, a few of whom stopped at nothing to see her arrested for treason and heresy. Katherine had a few scary close calls as Henry’s queen, ones she was sure would send her to the Tower.

Another character I loved just as much as Katherine was her servant, Dot. Though she was low-born, Katherine loved her like a daughter, and brought her to court when she became queen. I enjoyed seeing day to day life at court from Dot’s perspective, and also hearing her opinions about certain other characters, like young Lady Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour, Katherine’s true love. Dot was a strong, well-drawn character with her own intriguing story.

I listened to the audio format of this book, narrated by Georgina Sutton. Her performance was amazing! If you enjoy audiobooks and historical fiction, you must listen to QUEEN’S GAMBIT. Ms. Sutton’s charismatic voice brought the intrigue of the Tudor court to life.

Strong female protagonists, beautiful prose, and a perfect blending of historical fact and fiction made QUEEN’S GAMBIT one of my favorite listens this year. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.