I'm not what anyone would call a "fan" of historical, or period, novels, but I've recently become quite hooked on several "cozy historicals", written by Rhys Bowen, Carol K. Carr, Carola Dunn, etc. I doubt they are what any historian would call accurate, but they are wonderful reading and are accurate enough to give the reader a feel for another time.
When I saw an announcement for the upcoming publication of Murder at Hatfield House, I put it on the "to-buy" list thinking it would be similar to the works I've read so far. Nope, I was wrong. This is what I'd call a true Historical Mystery and I'd be hesitant to lump it in with cozies at all.
That's not at all a criticism. I like to expand my reading horizons and I don't due it nearly often enough. I mention it only because I started reading this book thinking "cozy" and it took more than a few chapters to adjust my thinking more towards "historical". I don't know if that's the reason I'm having such a hard time reviewing it or not, but I am finding it difficult to put a coherent review together, so apologies in advance for the clunkiness.
The book was historically accurate enough, however, that I had a hard time really caring, or becoming invested in, most of the characters, because they showed very little life, or spark. The timing for the book is in the months preceding Elizabeth's rise to the throne. It's very much a Catholic vs. Protestant time and there are many mentions of the burnings. Everyone lives in fear that "heretical" texts or evidence of heresy will be found in their homes and they'll be sentenced to death.
The story centres on Kate, a court musician confined with Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield House during Elizabeth's house arrest by the order of Queen Mary. Kate is demure, a little bit naive, but not in any way stupid. She's likeable enough. Because she's merely a servant, it's easy for her to go around unnoticed, so she is tasked with solving the murders, or at least gathering enough information for Princess Elizabeth to solve them.
The murder plot was well enough done, although I guessed the murderer pretty early on. If an author goes to the trouble of setting a character's personality for the reader, then any changes to that personality potentially stick out like a red flag. I can't imagine it's an easy thing for authors to do, and I do think a lot of people might not necessarily pick up on what I did.
Overall, it was a worthy read. There was enough historical information included to get me interested in looking up the British monarchy on google. I'll keep an eye out for the second one, but I'm not sure if I'll rush out to buy it or not.