It is 1568 and Ursula Stannard (nee Blanchard) has been away from the court of Queen Elizabeth I for nearly 3 years, living a quiet country life with her third husband Hugh. She has also gained a ward, Penelope Mason, whose family we met in earlier books. Ursula's quiet country life is interrupted when she is summoned to court to reprimand Penelope as it appears that she has developed an unfortunate attachment to an unsuitable man (not for the first time).
In order to both remove Penelope from a potentially embarrassing situation, and to provide her with a better dowry in order to help her make a good match, a parcel of land in Yorkshire is given to Penelope, and it is suggested to Ursula that it would be a good idea for her take the new property owner to her property to inspect it. It is of course not coincidental that Bolton Castle is within a day's ride, and that Elizabeth has a private message that she wishes to have delivered to Mary, Queen of Scots who is "a guest" there under the watchful eye of Sir Francis Knollys. William Cecil also wishes for Ursula to see whether she can find out anything more about the death of Henry Darnley, Mary's husband who died in rather suspicious circumstances.
So, Ursula heads for the wild north of England, with a party that includes several of William Cecil's men, for protection, her loyal servants Brockley and Dale, her daughter Meg, and the far from happy Pen. Before too long, there has been a kidnap attempt on Meg, one of the soldiers is dead, and then when they finally arrive at Tyesdale to find the property has not been well maintained and there is some suspicion that the steward has been stealing.
As usual, wherever Ursula goes there are plots to be discovered and investigated, and this book is no different. It appears that there is a plot to help Mary escape from her captivity, and Ursula is drawn into it further than she would like.
This is the seventh book in the Ursula Blanchard mysteries, and I would have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable. With Pen, we meet a young girl who falls in love very easily which causes numerous problems throughout the book, and yet this is nicely balanced against the mysteries of who could have been responsible for kidnapping Meg, and killing the soldier, as well as who is implicated in the plot to aid Mary's escape.
There is only one more book in this series to go before I have caught up with the author, and will have to start waiting for new books to come out. I hope there is a new one soon! You can read previous posts about this series here.