Rumor has linked Queen Elizabeth I to her master of horse, Robin Dudley. As gossip would have it, only his ailing wife, Amy, prevents marriage between Dudley and the Queen. To quell the idle tongues at court, the Queen dispatches Ursula Blanchard to tend to the sick woman's needs. But not even Ursula can prevent the "accident" that takes Amy's life. Did she fall or was she pushed? Was Ursula a pawn of Dudley and the Queen? Suddenly Ursula finds herself at the center of the scandal, trying to protect Elizabeth as she loses her heart to a Frenchman who may be flirting with sedition against her Queen.
As a fan of Arianna Franklin, I was excited to find this book at our local used bookstore. Same type of story idea, different author. After reading Fiona Buckley’s narrative style, I felt it worked! What I love about this book is the complete immersion into the time period. The way the characters talked, references made, setting details, it all fit with the times. The main character, Ursula, is a strong independent woman but not unrealistically so for the time period. There was no dressing as a man, overtly breaking social boundaries (Ursula rides her horse sidesaddle as was common for that era), or defending herself with weapons. Buckley provided strength of character despite social constraints.
I truly delighted in the casual observation of Ursula’s dislike of the “new fashion” of using Mrs. instead of Mistress or Mr. instead of Master. Who knew our modern abbreviations were once a new fashion of Elizabethan decorum! I love those details of daily life that Buckley expertly wove into the story.
I also very much enjoyed that the focus was not on late-night escapades. I am always a bit shy of reading novels set within this time period as I've encountered too many details about physical pleasuring. I don’t like to read that. Buckley is never graphic about personal affairs. Character emotions were emphasized in their subtlety (in a look or a gesture) rather than physical acts in bed.
One thing that was absent for me was the lack of physical evidence. Ursula presented many theories, but she had no physical evidence to substantiate her claims in the end. Maybe this was commonplace in the 1500s? My knowledgebase on the time is limited. However, I was hoping she would have some document to help prove her story. As such, I felt Ursula made connections to the perpetrators without firm foundations (i.e., her uncle’s mysterious donation noted in his accounting book).
While I didn't find the mystery in this novel to be an edge-of-your-seat page turner, it was the characters and settings that made me want to continue reading. This was an intriguing jaunt into a stressful time in English history where religious turmoil and politics threatened to destroy a nation. I will definitely go back to my local bookstore to get the other novels of this series! I felt the character voice was compelling and the plot well narrated.
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse