In the first two years of her reign, England’s Elizabeth I went to war against France, squashed assassination plots against herself, and embarked on a lusty affair with Sir Robert Dudley, a married man! Okay, so historians have never corroborated that last part, but such a scandalous possibility makes for a bodice-ripping read. Even juicier: The Elizabeth-Dudley rumors are linked to one of the 16th century’s greatest unsolved mysteries. (Hint: It involves a suspicious death.) None of the characters in The Virgin’s Lover are particularly fine-tuned (here the Virgin Queen is malleable! Here she’s resolute!), and Gregory’s style can be jarringly anachronistic — the phrase ”small fry” in 1558? We daresay not! — but as lightweight historical fiction goes, this is jolly good fun.