by Karen Harper
Page Count: 416
How Got Book: Physical copy given by friend
Why Read: liked author's previous work and time period interesting
From GoodReads: In a gripping historical novel of suspense and romance from the national bestselling author of The Queen's Governess, two women fight to defeat the enemies of the precarious Tudor monarchy by uncovering the secrets of the dead...
London, 1501. In a time of political unrest, Varina Westcott, a young widow and candle maker for court and church, agrees to perform a clandestine service for Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII--carve wax figures of four dead children, two of her offspring lost in infancy and her two brothers, the Princes of the Tower, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved. Having lost a child herself, Varina feels a sympathetic bond with the queen. And as she works under the watchful eye of handsome Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious assistant to the royals, she develops feelings of quite a different nature...
Then news comes from Wales of the unexpected death of newly married Prince Arthur, the queen’s eldest child and heir to the throne. Deeply grieving, Elizabeth suspects that Arthur did not die of a sudden illness, as reported, but was actually murdered by her husband’s enemies. This time her task for Varina and Nicholas is of vital importance--travel into the Welsh wilderness to investigate the prince’s death. But as the couple unearths one unsettling clue after another, they begin to fear that the conspiracy they’re confronting is far more ambitious and treacherous than even the queen imagined. And it aims to utterly destroy the Tudor dynasty.
Star Rating - 4 Stars
An engrossing read, this book contains a bit of everything. There’s a romance, mystery, historical tidbits, and suspense. The rousing tale of two women caught up in the strictures of grief overcoming it to solve the mystery of who’s gunning for the Tudor dynasty kept me on the edge of my seat. I liked that the author was able to balance the different elements into one streaming and smooth story.
I especially liked Varina. She’s got guts, courage, and a caring heart. Though a bit blind at times to the emotions of those surrounding her, she’s an intelligent woman who dedicates herself to serving her Queen and protecting her family and loved ones. I also liked that she was practical in her perceived expectations for her future, yet there was still a bit of the romantic in her to not immediately jump on the first marriage proposal to come her way.
There were a ton of neat historical tidbits throughout the story: details of the burial practices of early Tudor England, some of the magic still present in the rural folklore, the role of women in the time period, and the mechanics of running a business in bustling London. Those historical tidbits made for a fun read for any history lover.
Yet, there wasn’t much meaty stuff here. The details were fun, yet a lot of stuff seemed a bit far-fetched to me to have actually happened. Elizabeth’s wax effigies in hiding, the lightning fast speed of Nick’s and Varina’s romance, and the varying roles that Varina played all seem a bit out there to me. The hypothesis the author puts forward for why Arthur died and responsible party behind the Princes in the Tower were intriguing, though.
A fun read, this book will definitely kill a weekend for you. It’s got some neat historical tidbits, a great lead, and a thrilling plot. And while it may not have a lot of meat on its bones when it comes to historical weight and story, I think this novel would still be very enjoyable for any historical fiction lover.