The regency period is over and William Tudor, now King Henry IX, sits alone on the throne. But England must still contend with those who doubt his legitimacy, both in faraway lands and within his own family. To diffuse tensions and appease the Catholics, William is betrothed to a young princess from France, but still he has eyes for only his childhood friend Minuette, and court tongues are wagging.
Even more scandalous – and dangerous, if discovered – is that Minuette’s heart and soul belong to Dominic, William’s best friend and trusted advisor. Minuette must walk a delicate balance between her two suitors, unable to confide in anyone, not even her friend Elizabeth, William’s sister, who must contend with her own cleaved heart. In this irresistible tale, the secrets that everyone keeps are enough to change the course of an empire.
This is a novel set in an imagined England where Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a legitimate son and heir, William, (born before our Elizabeth I). In this world William is on the throne following the premature deaths of both Henry VIII and Anne. As I enjoy reading historical fiction I thought it would be fun to read an invented history of Britain. It is worth pointing out here though that this is actually the second book in the series (a fact I neglected to realise!) and even though the novel did stand on its own to a large degree it doesn’t explain who people are and does finish with loose ends still waiting to be tied up so it would be better to read it after The Boleyn King!
We are pitched right into the action (and presumably where the last book finished). There are many figures familiar from history, and as you would expect from the Court of this time there is an abundance of ambition, power struggles, plotting and pride, as well as, lots of luxury and richness.
William is trying to consolidate his power and is expected to marry the French princess for that reason. But William is in love with Minuette, a commoner whom nobody would approve of him marrying. To further complicate matters Minuette, although flattered by the king’s attentions, is in love with someone else – the King’s best friend Dominic. There is plenty of drama and secrecy as Will tries to keep the French on side whilst planning how to make other alliances so he can marry Minuette.
Minuette has her own troubles besides trying not to upset the king or her beloved Dominic. She has to cope with the petty jealousies of those in the Court who don’t approve of her. Minuette is also on the hunt for a killer as she suspects one of her friends has died in suspicious circumstances, but her search for information is putting her into danger. Minuette was a strong character. I liked the way she was determined to find out what had happened, her intelligence in coping with the love triangle she is part of, and her loyalty to the royal family, in particular Princess Elizabeth. I loved the strength of the female characters in a male dominated world.
Meanwhile Elizabeth has her relationship with Robert Dudley and the Dudley family are at the centre of plotting for power. The multiple story threads run well alongside each other, and intertwine cleverly. There is a lot to keep you turning the pages.
Will is a strong character too, being a strong king who struggles a bit with diplomacy, a young man having to wrestle with big decisions and not always wanting the advice of others! He was charming and irritating, selfish and generous, a boy in love, and a little in love with himself too. Dominic, the strong silent type with a very strong sense of patriotism and justice was a good foil to Will. They made the story very believable. It was easy to get taken involved with the characters and the plots.
Verdict: I will be looking out for the rest of the books in this series.
Reviewed by Helen