Wednesday, August 14, 2013

To Shield the Queen by Fiona Buckley

An accomplished debut set in 1560 at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I. Impoverished young widow Ursula Blanchard, whose mother had served Queen Elizabeth's mother, has agreed to join Elizabeth's Ladies of the Presence Chamber. Estranged from her own and her late husband's families, she leaves behind her faithful groom John Wilton and puts small daughter Meg in the care of nursemaid Bridget. Once at Court, Ursula grows quickly aware of gossip about the young, unmarried Queen and her Master of the Horse, Robin Dudley. 

Dudley's wife Amy is said to be dying (amid rumors of poisoning) at Cumnor Place, some miles away. Her death, of course, would free Dudley to marry the Queen--an unpopular idea in many high places. Meanwhile, Ursula has acquired a suitor of her own--the wealthy Frenchman Matthew de la Roche--but when Dudley asks her to move to Cumnor Place, to comfort Amy (and perhaps to stop the rumors), she readily agrees. The handsome salary will help to pay Bridget, her own maid Fran Dale, and newly rehired John Wilton. Ursula finds Cumnor Place a strange household where steward Forster rules with tightfisted authority, and she comes to believe that there is a plot on Amy's life. Events prove her right, but other plots are also afoot, one of them setting Ursula on a slippery path of self-denial and discovery. 

The pseudonymous Buckley, a British author who's written other non mystery fiction, maintains high suspense throughout a lively debut that's filled with vivid characters, religious conflict, subplots, and power plays. Ursula is the essence of iron cloaked in velvet--a heroine to reckon with. -- .

I really do not like cozy mysteries, so when this book was recommended to me I thought it sounded like something I would be interested in. Then I received it in the mail, saw the size and really wasn't impressed. I like a book with a good story, some history, strong characters and a mystery that has me thinking right to the end, plus I like a nice chunky size too.

So when the library had the audio for this, I gave it a go. Gotta say I loved it. Whether because it was audio verses the book I am not sure. The reader did a wonderful job, I was hooked right in. 

There is so much mystery surrounding Queen Elizabeth and Robin Dudley and when you add the sudden dead of his wife Amy, well Fiona Buckley wove a wonderful tale of mystery/suspense with some romance (not too much, just the right amount).

 I love Ursula Blanchard and can't wait to continue with the series.

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