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review 2016-12-24 19:27
The Robsart Mystery
To Shield the Queen - Fiona Buckley

England, 1560

 

(To Shield the Queen is apparently the title of this novel in the US. It was originally published in the UK as The Robsart Mystery.)

 

The Queen, Elizabeth I, is in love. And the man she is in love with is the unpopular – and already married! – Robert Dudley. If somehow he were to get an anullment and Elizabeth married him and he assumed the role of pseudo-king, there could be civil war. Especially as Mary Stuart, ex-Queen of France by marriage and Queen of Scotland by right, is considered by many people to be the rightful Queen of England. She is the legitimate granddaughter of Henry VII of England, whereas Elizabeth, in the eyes of many, is illegitimate, a bastard, the daughter of Ann Boleyn, whose marriage to Henry VIII was never legal as he had not been granted an anullment of his previous marriage by the Pope.

 

But of course, the real point was that Mary was a Catholic, whereas Elizabeth was a Protestant. The civil war would be a religious war.

 

And then, in September 1560, Robert Dudley's wife Amy Robsart is found lying with a broken neck at the foot of the staircase in their house. Was it murder – as many suspect? Murder instigated by Dudley – or even by the Queen herself?

 

 

Enter a young sleuth, Ursula Blanchard, brought up Cinderella-style by her sadistic aunt and uncle, then widowed young after a runaway marriage, and now trying to support her daughter and herself in a very harsh world. Her mother had been one of Ann Boleyn's ladies-in-waiting, and had got herself pregnant and borne the illegitimate Ursula, then died. But now Ursula is offered a post at the court of Elizabeth, who shows a not unnatural sympathy with any who knew and loved her mother, as Ursula's mother had. They are in fact almost exactly the same age.

 

I won't tell you the story, but of course it is Ursula who unravels the mystery, and at the same time uncovers a widespread Catholic plot against the Queen – in which it turns out her new, sexy, half-French lover, Matthew de la Roche, is involved. Now where do her loyalties lie?

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review 2015-12-24 05:40
Murder at Whitehall Review
Murder at Whitehall: An Elizabethan Mystery - Amanda Carmack

Copyright Night Owl Reviews

 

Murder at Whitehall is the first book I have read by Amanda Carmack. It is a mystery set in 1500's England around Christmastime. I am completely fascinated with the Tudor era and, whether historical or fictional, it is a subject I enjoy reading about. The author skillfully depicts the traditions and everyday life of those times, which is one of my favorite things about this story.

 

To see my full review, please follow the link below:

https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Reviews/Lovetoread-reviews-Murder-At-Whitehall-by-Amanda-Carmack

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review 2013-11-30 02:01
Murder at Hatfield House (An Elizabethan Mystery #1)
Murder at Hatfield House - Amanda Carmack

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.  

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review 2013-09-10 00:00
Murder at Hatfield House - Amanda Carmack Setting: England, Hatfield House

Time: 1558

Main characters: Princess Elizabeth, Kate Haywood - musician

First paragraph, Prologue: "It was a frozen, gray day. The sun hid behind roiling banks of clouds and sent not even a ray of reassuring light to the earth below, which was eerily silent. There were no shouts in the streets, no cries from merchants selling hot cider or roasted almonds, no quarrels or laughter. The river was empty of boats, and the crowds on London Bridge scurried on their business with their muffled heads down."

Favorite lines:



Description: 1558. Kate Haywood, a simple musician in the employ of a princess, will find herself involved in games of crowns as she sets out to solve the murder of the queen’s envoy. England is in tumult under the rule of Queen Mary and her Spanish husband. Confined to house arrest at Hatfield House, young Princess Elizabeth is the country’s greatest hope. Far from court intrigues, Elizabeth finds solace in simple things: the quiet countryside and peaceful recreation, including the melodies of her chief musician and his daughter, Kate Haywood. But Kate will prove herself most valuable when an envoy of the queen—sent to flush out heretics in the princess’s household—is found dead on the grounds of Hatfield. Acting as Elizabeth’s eyes and ears, Kate is sent out on the trail of a killer whose mission could destroy her family, friends—and the future of England.

About the author:

Series info:
#1 Murder at Hatfield House
#2 Murder at Westminster Abbey (April 2014)
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