• The Royal Secret

  • James Marwood & Cat Lovett, Book 5
  • By: Andrew Taylor
  • Narrated by: Leighton Pugh
  • Length: 13 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (31 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the number one best-selling author of The Last Protector and The Ashes of London comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood and Cat Lovett during the time of King Charles II. 

Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards, a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate - but the task brings unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the king loves most in all the world.

Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe....

©2021 Andrew Taylor (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"A pleasure from start to finish." (The Spectator)

What listeners say about The Royal Secret

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  • Liz
  • 04-30-21

Really enjoyable

I devoured this in one day - everything about it is excellent.

The narration is superb. It's a series with complex and interesting characters. The period details seem excellent (though Kat is a potentially a little unlikely in the exact form of her very modern feminism, I'm sure many railed against the times). And the writing is excellent.

If you've followed the series before, you'll enjoy many familiar characters returning - and i think overall this book was better than the previous in the series. It's a while since i read that, but this has left a much better after taste. Strongly recommend the whole series if you're new to it

4 people found this helpful

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  • Ragne
  • 07-02-21

Brilliantly performed

The story is so-so, but the narration makes it well worth it. The Irish accent could be better, though I'm far from an expert.
Unfortunately, the author is, as most male authors, not very good at writing female characters. She's overly jealous, and she loves shoes? How original...
The story is a bit slow, but perhaps that makes it more plausible.
Some good side characters.

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  • Carolyn
  • 06-09-21

This series gets better and better

Great story made even greater by superb narration. So many voices bring the London of King Charles II to life.

3 people found this helpful

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  • TheBar
  • 07-16-21

Another Taylor Triumph

Eagerly anticipated; not disappointed; real restoration history entwined in the continuing Marwood and Lovett saga.

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  • Jenny Ahlin
  • 06-23-21

Thrilling

Another great story, beautifully read. This story had me binge-listening, on the edge from start to finish, laughing and crying, not wanting it to end while dying to know what will happen next. Loved it!

2 people found this helpful

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  • CM
  • 07-13-21

Love this series !

I have enjoyed all the books in this series and this book was no exception. Beautifully written and narrated , with characters you really care about. The historical detail is wonderful and fascinating, a true glimpse into the way both the rich and poor lived during the 17 Century. Of course the most important thing is that they are cracking stories !

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  • Sharon Smith
  • 06-05-21

History brought to life …

.. trusting that the research has brought together facts and flowing fiction. The characterisations are everything: you are in these varied households scheming with them. History is human, after all

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  • Rachel Redford
  • 05-20-21

Another winner for Marwood and Cat!


This is the 5th in Andrew Taylor’s excellent historical mystery fiction novels involving investigator James Marwood and the feisty Cat Hakesby which began with the brilliant The Ashes of London in 2016. I loved it.

With The Royal Secret we’re now in the reign of Charles ll at the time of the Secret Treaty of Dover in 1670, the extremely murky proposed treaty between England and France involving the Charles’ conversion to Catholicism and his support for the French King Louis XIV in the war against the Dutch Republic. If listeners know nothing of this historical background, it is explained briefly after the end of the book, but the whole story can be enjoyed without knowing the details – the dangerous intrigues involved in the author’s intertwining plots are sufficient!

And what a great cauldron of interlinked duplicity, passions, suspicions, lies and murder this is! One of Andrew Taylor’s strongest skills is his creation of the contemporary everyday life with its filth, stench, blood, sickness, poisonings, kitchen work; markets, food, travel, money, animals, household drudgery; taverns, sleeping arrangements, the structure of houses and hovels, the ‘necessary house’ as a place of intrigue and refuge … It makes an intensely real background for all that is going on.

And there’s a great deal going on. There’s the witchcraft plotted between dangerous young girls which results in deaths by arsenic; the apparent ‘accidental’ death of a good strong lad; the home of the influential Fanshawe which houses a stinking, sick old lion as well as secrets; the ramshackle house of immigrants who are allowing the mysterious and dangerous Dutchman Van Riebeeck to lodge clandestinely. There’s also romance: Cat (widowed and now running her dead husband’s architect business – I’m not sure how likely that would be!) is attracted to the suave, lying Riebeeck who pursues her with oily declarations of love; Marwood steadfastly loves Cat (and has done since Book 1!) – perhaps Cat will recognise her feelings for Marwood in a future book. The scene moves to France with wonderful descriptions of the hideous sea crossings as Cat takes her architectural designs as requested to Charles ll’s sister who is married to Louis XIV’s brother. There is so much packed in that a second listening would probably yield details missed first time around.

And then there’s the narration by Leighton Pugh who can be relied on for a faultless and brilliant performance of every aspect which greatly enhances the book.




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  • Megan E Hardy
  • 02-08-22

about time

glad they finally got jiggy with it. looking forward to the next book. x

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  • Miss
  • 01-18-22

Another success in this series.

Intriguing tale mixing historical fact and the lives of our two wonderful fictional protagonists, Catherine Hakesby and James Marwood. I think the digs at Dover were a little over done, the town has a long and rich history remember. 🙂

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  • elizabeth b.
  • 06-11-21

A royal secret ???

I don’t care if it is a royal secret I didn’t like it. I didn’t get through it all because it was too confusing. I’m not sure anyone got through it as there are no reviews.