The Tudor Secret
by C. W. Gortner
Book One in ‘The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles’ series
Brendan Prescott, a foundling raised in the Duke of Northumberland’s household, has just been sent to London to join the service of Robert Dudley. Bullied by the Dudley sons as a child, Brendan doesn’t relish the appointment, but he cannot turn his back on the family that raised him. Almost immediately upon his arrival, Brendan is swept up in intrigue when Robert Dudley sends him to carry a ring to the Lady Elizabeth Tudor. He catches the eye of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s trusted protector, and he approaches Brendan with a tantalizing offer. If he will spy for Cecil, Cecil will use his intelligence network to unravel the mystery of Brendan’s parentage. As if the flirtation between Elizabeth and Robert isn’t risky enough, the situation at court has become increasingly tumultuous. The King of England is deathly ill, and his succession is uncertain. As Edward VI lies dying – only fifteen years old – three women are raised as potential heirs: Mary, Henry VIII’s eldest daughter; Elizabeth, who follows her father’s Protestant faith, and Jane Grey, a Tudor cousin with the backing of several powerful families. Brendan is constantly thrust into life-or-death situations as the battle for the crown threatens to tear the country apart.
Most of the novels I’ve read set in this time period have been written from a woman’s perspective. This is understandable. Three strong claims for the throne – and all women! It’s certainly an unusual situation in English history. But I’m glad C. W. Gortner went with a male lead, since guys could find many opportunities for trouble unavailable to women.
Brendan is a likeable hero, so reading about him was delightful. He’s intelligent and observant, but naïve and pretty inept at navigating the etiquette and machinations of court. He’s constantly being bailed out of trouble by a plucky stable boy named Peregrin, who latches onto Brendan early on. Brendan is also mad about one of Elizabeth’s ladies, a fellow spy called Kate. Their romance seems sudden and out of place – they go from despising each other to passionate love in a few pages – but I suppose that’s how love goes, sometimes.
Exciting and action-packed, The Tudor Secret is a spy novel rich in detail. There are tons of twists and turns in the plot (many of which are predictable if you’re familiar with history of the time period) that kept me turning the pages, eager to see what happened next. It’s a great, entertaining book for fans of historical fiction.
4.5 out of 5 stars