It is said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. While I'm sure there is some truth to the statement, I have to wonder how much of history we are doomed to repeat simply because of our humanity? While our fashions, governments and customs change through the years, the basics of humanity remain very much the same.
Susan Meissner's books, including Lady in Waiting: A Novel link the past and the present through some artifact. In this case, the artifact is a ring found in an old book. It has the name "Jane" engraved inside it, and "Jane" is the lady who found it. The modern-day Jane lives in Manhattan. Her son just left for college and her husband just left her, saying they needed a break from each other to decide what they wanted in the future. She is a woman who has always been a pleaser, making the choices she made because others wanted her to make them. The historical Jane is Lady Jane Grey who ruled as Queen of England for 9 days. Her story is told by her seamstress, Lucy. Jane's path it seems is directed by others, primarily her parents, and her life is ended by an executioner--but at the end she has a choice to make, and revels in being able to make it.
I'm sometimes leery about reading books classified as Christian fiction if they are set during the Reformation. All too often the Catholic Church ends up being the villain, the awful group trying to keep the truth from the masses. Since I had read and enjoyed Meissner's books in the past, I decided to give this one a try, and I'm glad I did.
For those not familiar with Tudor England, Henry VIII (the guy with all the wives) broke from Rome and established the Church of England. He left three children when he died: Edward, who was raised Protestant; Mary who was raised Catholic and Elizabeth who was raised Protestant. When he died, Edward became king, but was still a boy. Edward died before he married. The powers behind the throne did not want a Catholic ruler, so they got Edward to write a will passing the throne to his cousin, Jane, a Protestant. Mary's supporters rallied and she was able to take power. She had Jane and her supporters convicted of treason and executed. Wikipedia calls Jane a Protestant martyr and the book states that Mary sent her confessor to try to obtain Jane's conversion (though whether it would have made any difference in her lifespan will never be known).
While Lady in Waiting: A Novel talks about Jane writing to the Reformers on the Continent, the content of those letters is not discussed; religious references in the book are few and if the publisher wasn't a publisher of Christian fiction, I'd classify the book as historical fiction, not Christian fiction. Though it mentions Jane being a Protestant and refusing to convert to Catholicism when Mary tried to get her to do so, I'd never know what either faith was about by reading this book. In a lot of ways, this book confirms my personal opinion that the Reformation, for most people, particularly in England, was a lot more about politics than about religion.
In short though, this is a wonderful novel that tells the story of two women who lived hundreds of years apart; two women whose lives seemed to be directed by other others; two women who realize that they can make choices. It is well-written and is a title I'd recommend to those who say they don't like Christian fiction.