It’s a dual story of two Janes. Jane Lindsay’s husband unexpectedly walks out on her, and she is stunned. They had been married twenty-two years, and she thought everything was fine. Giving him the space he says he wants, she occupies herself with her antique business, confiding in her friend, who urges her to see a counselor, yet trying to keep the situation from her meddlesome mother. She finds an unusual, very old ring in the binding of an old book, a ring that happens to have her name engraved inside it, along with a phrase in Latin. Intrigued, Jane tries to learn who her namesake might be.
Lucy Day becomes the new dressmaker to a very young Lady Jane Grey and assists her for the next several years, becoming as close a friend and confidant as their two different stations will allow. Lady Jane’s entire life seems to be under the control of others, and as events unfold and political forces begin to swirl, Lucy fears not only for her lady’s happiness, but for her life.
Both Janes seem to be victims of their circumstances and the choices of others, but both find, as the back of the book says, they each have “far more influence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.”
Lady Jane Grey is one whose circumstances I could never remember, though I thought she came to an untimely end. But I am sure that from now on I’ll remember her story. Though Lucy and the ring and Jane’s possible love interest are all fictional, Susan Meissner paints a realistic portrait of the kind of person Jane might have been.
I could empathize with Jane Lindsay’s situation as well and wanted to defend her against everyone else and cheered her on in her journey. Though I appreciated the way the author ended with a glimmer of the future rather than neatly tying the story up, I didn’t want my time with Jane to end: I wanted to see what happened down the road!
Susan Meissner did an excellent job weaving the two stories together and bringing out the theme. Different points or subtexts keep coming to mind from the story even after finishing it. This is the first of Meissner’s books that I’ve read, but it definitely will not be the last.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)