What if Elizabeth I, the virgin queen, had a child? That's the premise for the start of an alt-history trilogy about the Tudors.
It's 1580 & Anne Isabelle, the queen's sole heir, is turning 18. As usual she's surrounded by best friends Lucette (Lucy), Stephen, Kit & Pippa Coutenay. Their mother has always been close to the Tudors & the children have grown up together.
The title is a bit misleading. While Anne plays an important role, this story belongs to Lucy. At 22, she's the eldest of the gang & we know from the start there is some question as to her biological father. The reader learns the secret early on & it helps us understand her character.
She's never been a big fan of life at court but can't refuse a summons from royal spymaster Francis Walsingham at the queen's request.
He's uncovered a conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth & all clues point to the french estate of Reynaud LeClerc & his sons Nicolas & Julien. Lucy knew the family as a child & has remained close to Reynaud's daughter. Now she is asked to visit France & be Walsingham's eyes & ears. For who would suspect a woman?
This is the main story line but related subplots include the queen's impending divorce from King Philip of Spain (Anne's father) & the machinations of Mary, Queen of Scots who has been Elizabeth's "guest" for 12 years now & is itching to escape to somewhere a little more Catholic-friendly.
The author has taken some liberties, notably with the creation of Anne & the fate of Queen Mary. But every day details are very well portrayed showing she has done her homework. The intense enmity between Protestants & Catholics put kingdoms at risk & that tension is woven through every layer of the story. The cast is largely composed of real life characters. They are well developed & their personalities jump off the page. Oddly enough it was the fictional ones I found a bit less believable.
It's difficult to explain without dropping spoilers. There are several games of intrigue playing out at the same time with a lot of twists that keep you guessing & I don't want to give anything away.
Although this is a historical drama, it can also be considered a romance as we travel with Lucy on a mission that will change the course of her life. Her story line is resolved but there are plenty of others left open for the reader to follow into book #2.
Whether or not this is for you may depend on how you like your medieval/royal history. Fans of Cornwell, Iggulden, Sansom or Mantel may find this a bit light for their taste. But there is a lot to recommend here. It's a fast paced & intricate tale of spy vs spy with a heaping side of romance that will keep you reading to find out who survives for the next instalment.