RIVAL TO THE QUEEN, by Carolly Erickson

Well-known historical author Erickson is more known for non-fiction, but this book - told in first person, as a memoir - concentrates on the life of Lettice "Letty" Knollys,  acknowledged as the most beautiful woman at Elizabeth I's court (therefore banished most of the time by her imperious Queen, as Elizabeth was inordinately jealous of any woman who one-upped her).  Lettie is married off to the dull and brutish young Lord Essex, by whom she has a handsome, winning (but, as history teaches us, ultimately deluded) son.
She goes on to charm the Queen's own "first male", the vibrant, charming and sexy Lord Leicester, ultimately marrying him in spite of the wrath Elizabeth will undoubtedly display. For a different take on the Tudors, a look at a woman many have heard of but few know much about, this book is a good read of an eventful life of a woman whose actions - whether purposeful or accidental - greatly affected Elizabeth I's life. This is an 4: well-written, historically accurate, colorful, intimate, and engrossing.