The first book in a new to me mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Queen Elizabeth I!
The letter came in secret, with a pearl eardrop from an aunt long thought dead, resurrecting the forbidden past. Banished by her spiteful half sister, Queen Mary, to Hatfield House in the English countryside, twenty-five-year-old Princess Elizabeth cannot refuse the summons. The Boleyns are in grave danger. And Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, is marked for death by a master poisoner whose reign of terror may have royal sanction.
With her few loyal retainers, Elizabeth escapes to Kent. Here, in her ancestral Hever Castle, now held by the Queen's loyalists, Elizabeth seeks to unravel the plot against her. And here, in the embrace of intrigue and betrayal, the princess must find a brilliant, powerfully connected killer--before the killer finds her....
I have to admit that at first the thought of a mystery series where Queen Elizabeth I is the sleuth kind of threw me for a while...I mean didn't she have a country to run, potential husbands to meet and all that kind of thing?? Apparently not! She still had time to try to figure out the plot against her (admittedly that might have given some form of motivation!).
Actually, in this first book of the series, Elizabeth is not yet queen. Rather she is the very protected guest of her royal half sister, Queen Mary I and is being held in relative seclusion at Hatfield, presumably to stop both plots for and against her.
Despite being held virtual prisoner, the Elizabeth that we meet is feisty and resourceful and is off gallivanting around the countryside during the course of the investigation, both in the early stages where she goes to visit her Aunt Mary (as in The Other Boleyn Girl Mary!) who she had previously thought dead for the last twenty years and later as she investigates the mysterious "She" who is plotting to poison her, and finally rid the world of the villainous Boleyns.
With an attractive and versatile group of people around her, you know that this will be a fun series to watch develop, and to see how Elizabeth balances her detective role against her queenly role! Harper has chosen her support characters well - an actor, a herbalist and her horseman, and having such versatility within these characters should mean that there is plenty of scope for fun and entertainment without getting repetitive or tedious in the future. There was also a sufficient amount of groundwork laid to know that there are going to be at least one recurring villain role to keep things interesting.
The inevitable comparison of the Fiona Buckley series that is also set in the courts of Queen Elizabeth I, but this time with her lady in waiting as the sleuth needs to be made. I found that the Buckley series started somewhat slowly but eventually built up to a very satisfying series to read. This book has more spark and is probably more light hearted, but nonetheless is a satisfying read. It will be interesting to watch the series develop.
Very entertaining, and a series I will read more of!