Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5.0 stars
Main Takeaway: An interesting and enjoyable exposition of the realities of marriage and of being a woman in the 16th century. However, at times the novel brushed over events that could’ve been juicier.
**I received this novel from the publisher, Accent Press Books, in exchange for an honest review as a part of the one-year anniversary blog tour of The Woman in the Shadows. I received no compensation for this review, and the opinions expressed were not influenced by this transaction.**
When Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, Elizabeth is determined to join her father in and take over the cloth business run by her late husband. But Elizabeth faces many obstacles as a women in Henry VIII’s England, and her late husband’s secrets come back to bite her. Safety, wealth, and love arrive with Thomas Cromwell, a rising lawyer. However, could Thomas’s ambition, as it draws him and Elizabeth closer to the king, threaten the safety Elizabeth covets?
I had never read a novel set in Tudor England before The Woman in the Shadows. I’ve tried my fair share of period tv shows. Tudors, not for me. The Borgias? Don’t get me started. Reign, well, Reign was the only Tudor show I’ve ever actually enjoyed, but it’s barely set in any kind of historical truth, so I can only half count it. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous beginning The Woman in the Shadows, fearing my distaste for Tudor-shows would transfer into the novel-sphere, but it did not. I really enjoyed following Elizabeth and Thomas and learning about life in 16th century England.
What I loved about this novel is Elizabeth’s surefire feminist independence. Sure, it’s the 16th century and displays of feminism must be severely limited for any sort of realistic scenario, but I loved how Elizabeth asserted her independence, her entrepreneurial side, her role as head of the household, and her rights at a time when women were seen as property, not leaders of the home and owners of thriving businesses. The exploration of 16th-century marriage also fascinated me – from the lackluster business-arrangement-marriage to the slimy men who sought Elizabeth as their property and to a marriage, though rife with its own problems, founded and sustained on love.
However, I gave this novel three and a half stars because, while the novel was sprinkled with exciting events, these events were brushed over and then forgotten as if they never happened. These events had the potential to be exciting and suspenseful foundations for the plot, but this potential went unseen. What was left was a narrative of a life that’s seen much action, excitement, and love, but it is not a plot-driven narrative.
The wealth of this novel lies in the history, in Elizabeth, and in her love for Thomas. Perfect for fans of history, romance, and creative nonfiction.