Religious differences have torn England in half, many side with the Protestant Queen Elizabeth while others rally support for the Catholic heir and cousin to Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth sits an uneasy throne when Mary crossed into England seeking refuge.
But asylum isn’t the only thing that Mary is hoping to gain…..she secretly hopes to recapture the English crown. Elizabeth suspects Mary has ulterior motives and a plan is hatched to protect her crown, she will plant a spy in Mary’s service to report on Mary’s activities….and what better companion and spy than Justine Thornleigh.
Justine has been taken in by the Thornleigh family as a ward. Lord Thornleigh rescued young Justine and has taken her in and offered his name to protect her from the ridicule she would face if anyone knew the truth about her identity—Justine is the daughter of a traitor.
Christopher Grenville has been deemed a traitor to the crown. He is presumed dead but the feud between the Grenville family and the Thornleigh family still runs deep.
The Grenville family is staunchly Catholic and supports Mary Queen of Scots as the rightful Queen of England, while the Thornleigh family is protestant and has gained great favor with Elizabeth I.
Justine has grown up loving the Thornleigh family and they all agreed to keep her secret in hopes of mending the long standing feud between the two families, never once thinking it would cause a problem until Justine meets Will Croft, Lord Thronleigh’s nephew— Will’s father was killed by Justine’s father.
Will and Justine fall in love, and when Will asks Justine to marry him she is thrilled. She rushes to tell Lord Thronleigh and his wife the good news, they are willing to give their blessing but only if she tells Will the truth about her birth.
Anxiety and shame put Justine in an awkward position, she does not want to lose Will but knows she should do the honorable thing and tell him….but fear wins out and she decides to keep her birth a secret from Will.
When the opportunity arises for Justine to be taken into Mary’s service as a spy for Elizabeth, she takes it—it’s her opportunity to show Will she is truly a Thornleigh and a true supporter of Elizabeth I. With this mission she hopes to bring honor to her adoptive family and prove to Will that she does not have traitors blood.
The Tudor court, on a good day, is full of deceit, betrayal, and lies. Justine must learn how to navigate not only in the court but also as a spy among the enemy. While attending Mary, a woman ends up dead….Justine decides to investigate the murder and soon wonders if she is just chasing a ghost. Will Justine prevail?
This book had it all, love, mystery, betrayal, and hidden revelations…..I thoroughly enjoyed it! I wasn’t aware that this book was part of a series when I decided to review it, but it was so well written that it almost didn’t matter.
Of course there were a few moments that I felt like I was missing something. I was frustrated that often characters eluded to a back story that I felt like I was missing out on that element. …but over all I didn’t think it distracted TOO much from the story. That said I would have liked to have read the other books first.
I could easily relate to Justine’s character. She was spunky, honorable, and tenacious…..all things that I love in a heroine! There were times when I felt like she was overly whiney about Will finding out about her true parentage but over all I liked her and wanted to know more about her.
The biggest issue I had with the book was that it was predictable to some degree. There was a layer of mystery but for me it was a little too transparent which left me feeling like the novel was more of a fun, ‘fluffy’ novel rather than a “meaty”, complex novel.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; I just expected a little more depth I guess. I felt like I knew what the characters were going to do when placed in certain situations but it still made for an enjoyable read.
I love the Tudor period as a setting for historical fiction novels for a number of reasons—it’s an exciting period full of drama and there is an abundance of history and material for authors to draw on for their novels.
That said….there is almost too much out there in the historic fiction genre that is set in Tudor England. There are a lot of great novels of this era and there are a lot that are mediocre, so what sets this novel aside from the others?
Well that’s easy, attention to detail. It’s very clear that the author really wants to engage the reader and she put a lot of thought and effort into her characters, plot, and research of the era. I felt like she knew the period well and the characters were woven nicely into the tapestry of the novel–they were memorable and not out of place. I loved the detailed descriptions throughout the novel…she does a GREAT job painting a clear picture for the reader.
All of these things made me enjoy the novel, I do recommend reading the series in sequence but if you are picking this up as a standalone you won’t be disappointed. It’s a fast paced novel and a pleasant read!
This book counts toward: 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
- Hosted by: Historical Tapestry
- Books for Challenge Completed: 8/15
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (a unique Tudor era novel full of history, mystery, with a splash of romance)
Genre: Historic fiction, Tudor lit, British lit
Memorable lines/quotes: NA
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