It’s 1553 and Queen Mary is sitting on the throne of England but religious strife unsettles her realm. With her enemies thrown into the tower or in hiding, Mary can concentrate on bring England back into the embrace of Rome.
For Princess Elizabeth a comfortable exile from court is rudely interrupted by a summons from her sister Mary. As heir to the throne and for many protestants, Elizabeth is seen as England’s only hope from foreign domination and Mary has decided to keep her close to her and under a watchful eye.
Brenden Cole has also enjoyed his time away from court. The domestic bliss he has enjoyed with the love of his life is cut short when the spy master Cecil sends him to court to protect Elizabeth not only from Mary but also from the factions who want to use her to undermine Mary.
Mistrust and intrigue infest Mary’s court and Brenden finds must play both sides as he desperately tries to discover the whereabouts of a cache of Elizabeth’s letter that could send her to the executioners block.
Brenden must use all of his skills to protect Elizabeth and the last hope of England’s protestants. If he fails he knows England will fail under the control of a foreign power and the influence of the Papal curia in Rome.
I am a huge fan of Christopher Gortner’s and his book The Queen’s Vow (written under CW Cortner) was one of my books of 2013 and he doesn’t disappoint with The Tudor Conspiracy.
In a genre already groaning under the weight of books on the Tudors, this book stands out for having one of the lesser known Tudors as its main focus. Instead of the ubiquitous Henry the VIII or Queen Elizabeth this book concentrates on the relationship between Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth.
Christopher Gortner is first and foremost a storyteller and this book beautiful weaves together a plot that is rich in historical detail, intrigue and the sights and sounds of 16th Century England.
He manages to capture the religious conflict prevalent at that time as Mary looks to reassert Papal control over her subjects and stout Englishmen try to stop Foreign dominance over their affairs.
Fear is a re-occurring theme throughout this book, both sides are so scared of what will happen if the other side wins. You can almost smell the pitch and burnt flesh lingering in the background as both sides look to get the upper hand.
The writing is fluid and the history is worn very lightly, I don’t mean this in a bad way but that the story doesn’t become bogged down in tedious descriptions of 16th Century life. We have all read books where the author showing off his research forgets that he is writing a book of fiction and not a reference book!
The characterization is fabulous as well and the contrast between the two sister is a major reason this book is so good. Known forever to history as “Bloody” Mary, we just start to see the transformation from the a Queen of popular exclaim to a paranoid and fearful monarch as advisor’s drip poison into her ear.
And it captures her struggle with what to do with her sister. Elizabeth is demure, obedient, in fact a paragon of sisterly love in front of her sister all the while plotting with Mary’s enemies to secure her place and save her life.
In the middle of all this is our hero, Brenden. I really like Brenden as a character, he is intelligent, kind, hard working and when he needs to be just little violent. He also has a dark secret that just gives him an edge and makes him, in my opinion very likeable.
I’m a big fan of Christopher Gortner and he hasn’t disappointed with The Tudor Conspiracy. If you like great Historical Fiction (and your reading my blog so I’m guessing you do) then I highly recommend you read, not just this book but all of his books.
The Tudor Conspiracy is out now
As a bonus please read the interview I did with the author here.