Suddenly Ursula finds herself at the center of the scandal, trying to protect Elizabeth while not losing her heart to a Frenchman who may be flirting with sedition against her Queen. As she sets out to find the truth, alone in a glittering court that conceals a wellspring of blood and lies, she can trust neither her lover nor her monarch.
©1997 Fiona Buckley; (P)1998 Blackstone Audio Inc
"Narrator Nadia May is excellent as she takes on the royal entourage, but she is extra charming portraying Ursula as a clever, witty, sharp-tongued woman who has an eye for the gentlemen! The characters sparkle as May imbues them with the language and speaking manner of a significant and distinctive historical period." (AudioFile)
Nadia May is the best. Her narration is superb. It adds so much to the text. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, I did as you can see by my rating. I am rating it for what it is, a light historical mystery with a romantic subplot. But I wonder if I would have been as taken if I had read it. Ursula Blanchard is an interesting character, as are those around her. I especially like her servants. But she is naive to say the least. Her support of Elizabeth and the protestants isn't based on any strong religious conviction but rather on a description she had heard of a burning under the reign of Queen Mary. While things weren't lovely under Mary, Mary certainly didn't start the torturing and killing based on religion. Henry the VIII's reign was rampant with burnings, beheading, and hangings. The dissolution of the monasteries was violent. Ursula's lack of serious contemplation about this issue made her a weak character for me. The description of the recorded plotting and intrigue at Elizabeth's court is superficial.
That said, the book was enjoyable and I will listen to at least one more. I admit the lack of brutal killings and graphic violence was a relief after other books set in the same or close time periods. I love Sansom's Matthew Shardlake books but the killings and murders can be gruesome.
Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
The author does a great job of creating a totally fictional character among actual historic figures. Since Isabella is supposed to be working undercover for Elizabeth I, who knows if she really existed or not? Buckley remains true to the events of the time while weaving a tale of mystery and intrigue. Nadia May, one of my top narrators, does her usual masterful job here. Very enjoyable.
This is the first in a series featuring Ursula Blanchard in the service of "Good Queen Bess". The story has good characters, likable bad guys and a smart heroine. The plot might seem a little thin to start but then it takes a new twist and you get a nice surprise. Nadia May is perfect as usual. I'm planning to get the next two audio books with my next credits:)
What a facinating story. I love the time period and the history. The narrator's voice made it even more compelling. Can't wait for more from Fiona Bucklley.
This is the first of several books featuring Elizabethean sleuth Ursula Blanchard. The whole series is delightful. Nadia May is a fantastic narrator, and brings the characters alive. What's great about this series is that the author picks a historically accurate event to focus on (in this book, it is the mysterious death of Sir Robin Dudley's wife), but about which modern historians do not have "all the answers." She then weaves a complex story line presenting what possibly could have happened. Heroine Ursula is a thoroughly likeable and amusing character, and if she seems too "modern" sometimes, who cares? This is wonderful "cloaks and daggers" stuff, complete with secret documents, court intrigue, and complicated clues to "who did it." If you like historical fiction, and want a really fun and entertaining way to spend a rainy evening, you can't go wrong with this series.
Though some of the problems Mistress Ursula Blanchard encounters seem to easily resolved, her personality is of such a sort that I found I didn't much mind. She's a very likeable character.
Also, the narrator was quite good, though I admit it took me a little while to get used to the sound of her voice. She has a good rhythm and cadence, but her voice is pitched higher than I expected. She's quite good at accents, though.
A thoroughly enjoyable listen. But be warned: you'll be sadly disappointed if you expect to listen to the whole series. Audible has only this one (the first book), and the third and fourth books. There are, in fact, eight books in all.
I listened to about an hour of this book and gave up. The protagonist (it's written in the 1st person) goes on and on (and on...) about her childhood and her family and those who hated her, blah, blah, blah. I read the comments here on Audible and also on Amazon. I kept waiting for something to happen, and, according to the comments of other readers, it DOES get better. But I just couldn't stick with it. Maybe someday when I'm really bored, I'll go back and try it again.
I might try another book by this author to give it another chance.
As a fan of other historical fiction and especially the Cadfael mysteries, I had high hopes for this series. But there were so many historical and cultural improbabilities (the way the main character interacted with her servants, for example) and painfully written "love" scenes that I just couldn't get through it. It is too bad, because the overall mystery story seemed OK, and some historical details seemed well researched. Maybe by the second book in the series some of the issues are worked out, maybe not; I am a little wary of wasting my time listening to another one to find out.
The narrator sometimes tried to do accents and sometimes not-- more consistency would have been less jarring.
I would have cut all the detailed sex/romantic scenes, which do not fit well in this genre. I would have cut much of the expository dialog between the main character and several (much) higher ranking statesmen and court members-- these conversations seemed very unlikely and the exposition could have been achieved a different way.
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