Series: Lucy Morgan #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Size: 368 pages
Availability: Hardback, Paperback, Ebook
Received free copy from Victoria. Thanks!
Elizabeth I, Queen of England, arrives at Kenilworth Castle amid pomp, fanfare and a wealth of lavish festivities, laid on by the Earl of Leicester. The hopeful Earl knows this is his very last chance to persuade the Queen to marry him.
But despite his attachment to the Queen and his driving ambition to be her King, Leicester is unable to resist the seductive wiles of Lettice, wife of the Earl of Essex. And soon whispers of their relationship start spreading through the court.
Enraged by the adulterous lovers growing intimacy, Elizabeth employs Lucy Morgan, a young black singer and court entertainer, to spy on the couple. But Lucy, who was raised by a spy in London, uncovers far more than she bargains for.
For someone at Kenilworth that summer is plotting to kill the queen. No longer able to tell friend from foe, it is soon not only the queen who is in mortal danger – but Lucy herself.
Victoria Lamb has tackled a period of history with very little factual detail, Queen Elizabeth I’s visit to Kenilworth Castle in the Summer of 1575, and produced The Queen’s Secret. A novel that seeks to join the few facts there are with speculation and her own creations and she has done a fantastic job with it.
The Queen’s Secret is a novel of forbidden romance, an assassination plot, and the innocent young girl at the heart of it all, Lucy Morgan. Lucy is a young black court entertainer who encounters much racism because of her skin colour, constantly pushed to the back and hidden so as not to ‘frighten her majesty’. This is in fact how she meets Tom, also black, one of Lord Leicester’s stable boys. They are fascinated by each other, and it is Tom she is with when Leicester asks her to sing for the Queen, to become a part of her inner circle.
I felt as though the novel had a slightly slow start but knowing me that could easily have been because I needed to get my head around the lack of werewolves and magic. It had been a long time since I had read a historical fiction novel and the last one I read was a Philippa Gregory which really lacked in flow. Well, once The Queen’s Secret got going, I couldn’t help but compare it. Victoria has none of those yawnworthy information dumps Philippa Gregory seems to love so much and has such a great flow to her prose that I barely noticed I was reading a novel with multiple perspectives. And her descriptions bring Kenilworth Castle to life and set the mood for the period perfectly.
One of these character perspectives we get access to, aside from Lucy’s of course, is Elizabeth’s. History has immortalised her as a great Queen, so it’s easy to forget that she was also human. Victoria reminds us that she was a woman with needs and wants, that she wasn’t heartless, she did love, but she was also jealous with a short temper just like her father even though she strived to be different from him. She has been painted here as a selfish, churlish character who was generally dislikeable and I really liked this way of looking at her.
Robert (Lord Leicester) and Lettice’s forbidden romance is very sweet, but I also found their sneaking around despite everybody else to be a bit selfish so it was a dilemma for me whether to side with Lettice or disregard her as a cheater. It took me a while to decide whether I thought Lettice was just a selfish piece of work or a woman in life looking for something good, but by the end I’d quite firmly landed on her side. Her husband mistreats her horribly and she’s desperately in love with Robert, while the Queen just comes across as insecure and spoiled. Maybe you’ll think differently when you read it. And then there’s Robert with his vastly extravagant and colourful royal welcome, inviting along top performers and putting on shows and fireworks displays in an attempt to woo the Queen once and for all to marry him, yet quite pompously, he continues sneaking around with Lettice Knollys and dragging poor Lucy in the middle. He’s quite the rogue.
Then of course we have the assassination plot afoot that Goodluck, Lucy’s delightful guardian and spy for the crown, is trying to help Elizabeth’s spymaster uncover and stop. This plays off the romance very nicely, giving the story more meat. Lucy finds herself involved in this too when she’s just trying to stay on everybody’s good side but becoming completely overwhelmed because there is so much more going on in the Tudor courts than she ever could have imagined, much of it quite dangerous when all she wanted to do was sing. She may be young, but she’s not stupid. While her decisions might not always be right, she believes in them. She’s a strong character that I’m eager to see more of.
If you enjoy a good historical novel, particularly you Tudor history lovers out there, I’m positive that The Queen’s Secret is one for you.
1. The Queen’s Secret
2. His Dark Lady
3. Her Last Assassin