Fri 30 Oct 2009
FIONA BUCKLEY – To Shield the Queen. Scribner, hardcover; first edition, November 1997. Paperback reprint: Pocket; 1st printing, October 1998. UK edition: Orion, hc, as The Robsart Mystery.
A solid introduction for the Ursula Blanchard series, set at the court of Elizabeth I. Blanchard, a young widow with a daughter she must provide for, has just been made a Lady in Waiting in the Court of Elizabeth I, thanks to her ties to Sir William Cecil , the Secretary of State. While her job is to serve the queen, her keen eyes and bright mind soon find her with more important duties.
The year is 1560, and Lord Robert Dudley, Master of Horse to the young Queen, is one of her favorites, and rumors are rife about his relationship with the queen.
When Dudley’s wife, Lady Ivy, falls ill Ursula is dispatched to help care for her — and keep an eye on a dangerous scandal that could develop if, as some suspect, Lady Ivy Dudley is being poisoned to take her out of the way for the furthering of the queen’s romance.
And when Ivy Dudley falls to her death in a suspicious manner, Ursula finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy against the throne involving a handsome Frenchman and traitors in the Court. Her heart and her courage are about to be severely tested as is her loyalty to the queen. And Ursula will go to extraordinary lengths to both guard her monarch and the Frenchman she loves and marries — not entirely voluntarily.
Buckley smoothly blends history and fiction with a heroine who navigates the treacheries of the Tudor court with intelligence courage and wisdom.
Whether her solution to the real murder (or not) of Lady Dudley bears any relation to reality, it is in the best tradition of historical mystery, and the depictions of both fictional and historical figures are well done, especially a human portrait of Elizabeth as both woman and monarch.
Ursula protects her monarch and the realm, saves her new husband, and secures a unique position with both the Queen and her court as well as winning the respect of the Spanish Ambassador who will play more important role in later books.
For fans of historical mysteries, this one is a pleasant discovery, and Ursula Blanchard a protagonist who is both pleasingly modern yet true to her time and place. An excellent debut for a well-written series.
The Ursula Blanchard Series –
1. The Robsart Mystery (1997), aka To Shield the Queen.
2. The Doublet Affair (1998)
3. Queen’s Ransom (1999)
4. To Ruin a Queen (2000)
5. Queen of Ambition (2001)
6. A Pawn for the Queen (2002)
7. The Fugitive Queen (2003)
8. The Siren Queen (2004)