The author untangles the threads of history to pursue a rumor that swirled around the early years of Elizabeth Tudor, before she is crowned Queen of England. After the death of Henry VIII, the dowager queen, Katherine Parr, marries Thomas Seymour, an ambitious man and notorious roué. During the months that Elizabeth lives with her stepmother, Parr, Seymour attempts to seduce the naïve young royal. Whether he is successful in that seduction is the crux of this novel, which is based on the possibility that indeed Elizabeth did bear an illegitimate child that would now pose a significant threat to Elizabeth's throne.
When country-bred Elinor de Lacey travels with her parents to London so that her scientifically-curious father might consult with a learned friend, five-year-old Nell catches a glimpse of Elizabeth in the Tower, where she has been held for a time during the rule of Mary Tudor. After an opportunity to speak with Elizabeth for a few brief moments, Nell's imagination is captured by the beautiful princess and she initiates a secret longing to come to Elizabeth's court when she is older.
Years later, after her beloved father's death, Nell receives an invitation to serve in Queen Elizabeth's court, much to the dismay of her mother, Lady Calverley. Nell has always viewed her mother as distant and unaffectionate, so she is thrilled to be called by Elizabeth, ignoring the dire warnings she receives. Elinor is not prepared for the treachery she encounters, the natural intrigues and suspicions that fuel gossip and dangerous rumors. At first the queen is charming, impressing on Nell the importance of guarding her honor against scheming courtiers like Sir Gabriel Wyatt, who makes no secret of his desire to marry for fortune.
All too soon, the queen is casting a wary eye on her new charge; and Wyatt has increased his attentions, which Nell does her best to discourage. When her old nurse appears suddenly and whispers a terrible secret, Nell is caught in a trap of her own making, the center of everyone's curiosity, watched closely by Elizabeth and her man, Sir Francis Walsingham. By this stage in her reign, Elizabeth has acquiesced to the necessity of ruthlessness to protect her throne; the once innocent royal has sharpened her teeth on treachery and the betrayal of others. Consequently, Elizabeth is quick to question Nell's desire to come to court and the nature of the girl's relationship with the wily Sir Gabriel Wyatt.
Although the author makes certain leaps of faith to support her story, there is significant material to feed the rumors that accompany the Virgin Queen and the possible errors of her youth. The lovely, flame-haired Nell looks much like her queen, planting a seed of doubt that sends Elinor from the imaginings of her youth into a far more dangerous world where even life may be forfeit for ambition. Longing, after all, only to return to her mother and a simple life, Nell must face the frightening consequences of an uncertain fate, struggling against those who would protect the queen at all costs. It is a painful, expensive lesson, the price of the future: "It is wicked to dredge up the past. Let it stay buried." Luan Gaines/2008.
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About the reviewer
Luan Gaines (luan_gaines)
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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