Fiona Buckley's third historical mystery featuring Ursula Blanchard, lady-in-waiting (and sometime spy) to Queen Elizabeth I, "Queen's Ransom," takes place in the 1560s, mostly in France where war is brewing between Catholics and Heugenots. Accompanying her dead husband's father to fetch his niece from the troubled land, Ursula is asked by Elizabeth to carry an offer of mediation to Catherine, Queen Mother and Regent of France. Though she dislikes her father-in-law, Luke Blanchard, who was against his son's marriage and has spurned his young granddaughter, Ursula agrees to go partly in hopes of seeing her second husband, a leader of the Catholic faction in France. Joined by love, separated by politics, their relationship has several times landed them on opposite sides of armed and clandestine engagements (in previous books). The tradition continues as Ursula soon realizes she is immersed in treachery, murder at her heels. Lively period intrigue supplies subplots as well as the main story; Ursula is quick and brave but also a woman of her times, and the setting is vivid, brutal and atmospheric even to the contrasting feel of the countryside between France and England.
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Lynn Harnett (Lynn_Harnett)
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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A woman with a '90s attitude living in the 1560s--that's Ursula Blanchard, the heroine of Buckley's jaunty historical mystery series, of which this is the third entry (after To Shield the Queen and The Doublet Affair). This time out, the 27-year-old lady-in-waiting is sent on a dangerous mission to France on the brink of civil war. In an effort to mitigate the threats from Spain and France, 28-year-old Queen Elizabeth I wishes to negotiate accords among the warring French Catholics and Protestants, and to secure her support among the latter. Since Ursula had planned to accompany the father of her deceased husband (Luke Blanchard) on a trip to retrieve his young ward from the Loire valley, Elizabeth entrusts her with a letter to be personally delivered to Catherine, Queen of France. Never mind that Ursula is a young woman vulnerable to harm or that she's taken on a task that many find unsuitable for a lady. On her guard, she sets out for Paris to complete her mission. She soon realizes that the "protection" she's traveling with may not be on her side: the senior Blanchard's shifty behavior and suspicious guardians leave her feeling unsure whom she can trust. Adventure (and coincidence) abound, as she encounters her estranged second husband, Matthew de la Roche, who's at the forefront of the raging religious battle. Buckley's amusingly modern characters mesh successfully with the well-researched, though at times contrived, plot, and readers will be wrapped up in the 16th- ...