Scribner, Dec 2003, 24.00, 288 pp.
It's been three years since Ursula Blanchard married Hugh Stannard, but in spite of his being twenty years her senior, it has been a peaceful time for the baseborn sister of Queen Elizabeth I. When Hugh and Ursula are summoned to court to collect her wayward wad, the queen and sir Cecil have a job for the former spy to perform.
Mary, Queen of Scotts, has escaped her Scottish prison and sought refuge in England. She is now half guest and half prisoner and the Scottish regent is seeking an inquiry into whether Mary is guilty of murdering her husband. The queen and her accuser want Ursula to find out the truth of the matter and offer Ursula's ward a dowry with an estate that is next door to where Mary is being held. After much trouble, they finally arrive at the Yorkshire estate of Tyesdale where Ursula becomes embroiled in a plot to free Mary when her supporters kidnap her ward.
Although Ursula has been content in the three years away from court and playing spy for her half-sister, she feels her blood stir as she once again becomes involved in politics and intrigue. She is an independent clever woman in an age when females were supposed to be weak and submissive. Readers will admire her strengths and her love for her child but they will care for the woman who lives life on her own terms.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner