So in an attempt to force myself into new genres and new books, I signed up for a program in which the publisher sends you a book for free on the condition that you write a review for it. In fact, I even have to post this disclaimer, ahem: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”
Lady in Waiting is a dual-story book, one centered on modern-day Jane Lindsay, the other on Lady Jane Grey as the girl who would become the ever brief Queen of England. The two Janes are connected by a ring, found by the former and belonging to the latter, and the relationship between their plights of love and choice.
I found the book to be a quick and moderately enjoyable read. The move back and forth between the two stories kept things engaging without either one dwindling in interest. Both were connected in the themes of love and perspective of choice, but took unique perspectives on each. Susan Meissner does a great job of shifting language between the time periods of her two stories, so that you can pick up the book after a break and instantly recall in which time frame you last left off. I felt personally more drawn to the historical story and the close relationship between the servant Lucy and Lady Jane Grey, but I can see how the personal doubts, struggles, and revelations of modern Jane would appeal to certain readers.
The cons of the book were few but poignant. There are some religious overtones in the modern day story that feel heavy handed and inelegant in execution. They took me out of the story, and as a result probably lessened the impact of any spiritual connection that they were trying to instill in the first place. In particular, some subtle digs at Catholicism were pretty awkward. These were less out-of-place in the historical story, which was placed at a time between Henry executing Catholics and Mary executing Reformers, so the tone from the perspective of Jane Grey on matters of faith felt more believable. When these showed up in the modern story, they disrupted my immersion in the fiction rather than enhanced it.
For example, here is an excerpt from modern Jane’s story:
“I wish I had the Onyx rosary too. I found myself whispering prayers to God to make Brad love me again. And to silence the questioning in my own heart. An easy fix. I could almost hear Stacy, who prayed without a rosary, telling me it doesn’t work like that.”
I found that this bit came off as particularly tasteless. It feels “out of the story,” and doesn’t make sense with, nor make me feel a closer understanding to, the modern Jane character.
In spite of the awkwardness of the religious overtones, I think the whole book does a great exploration on the choices we have in our lives, even in times when it seems we are given none. I can’t speak on the historical accuracy of the Lady Jane account outside the fictional relationship with Lucy, so Tudor lineage buffs might or might not find fault if they are very picky. As a non-historian, I found it enjoyable.
I give Lady in Waiting 3 of 5 stars. If you want to give it a go, the publisher has the first four chapters up for a preview.