"Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics" by Sarah Gristwood. A wonderfully written dual biography on the friendship, romance and partnership of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Since Leicester tends to get pigeon-holed as only an extension of Elizabeth, I am happy to report that this book does an excellent job showing his unique accomplishments for the arts and the Protestant cause, and revealing the character that made Elizabeth love him in the first place.
The Wives of Henry VIII - Antonia Fraser. A brilliantly researched and thoughtful look at the women who were Queen to Henry VIII. Far from the silly film and romance novels characters they have been oft portrayed as these were each fascinating women in their own right. Fraser is a fine writer, with many fiction and non-fiction books to her credit. Highly recommend.
Mary Tudor (1516-1558) was shamelessly used as a pawn in European politics by her father, betrothed alternately to the French then Spanish throne and fixed as Henry's heir then disinherited with his marriage to Anne Boleyn. She refused to repudiate her mother, Katherine of Aragon, and her Catholic religion, and she was put under house arrest. After her rocky accession to the throne in 1553, Catholic rituals were restored, Protestants and other rebels were imprisoned or burned at the stake.
Best book I've read in a long time! A feast for history lovers--the whole colorful parade of English history brilliantly captured in a single volume. From ancient times to the present day, the story of England has been laced with drama, intrigue, courage, and passion. In this book Robert Lacey recounts the remarkable episodes that shaped a nation as only a great storyteller can: by combining impeccable accuracy with the timeless drama that has made these tales live for centuries.--goodreads