To Shield the Queen is the first book in the Ursula Blanchard mystery series by Fiona Buckley. Ursula Blanchard had a difficult childhood. She was born out of wedlock and forced into virtual servitude, along with her mother, in her aunt's and uncle's home. Ursula cannot believe her good fortune when her cousin's handsome, wealthy suitor falls in love with her and elopes with her.
Unfortunately, Ursula's happiness is all too short lived as her husband dies from illness soon after the birth of their daughter. Ursula cannot bear the thought of returning to her aunt & uncle's house, so she jumps at the chance to serve in court under Queen Elizabeth. However, she soon finds that all of the court gilt and glitter is merely a thin veneer covering the deadly secrets and scandals underneath. All of the court is atwitter over the attraction between the young, unmarried Queen Elizabeth and her master of the horse, Sir Robin Dudley, who is married. Sir Dudley's wife, Amy, is gravely ill and rumors circulate that Sir Dudley and perhaps the Queen herself are trying to kill her. The Queen is aware of the rumors, of course, and sends Ursula to Amy's country residence to watch over her and ensure that she lives as long as her breast cancer will allow.
Amy's is a strange household and Ursula suspects that there is some mischief afoot there. Thus, it is no great to surprise to Ursula to return from the county fair to find Amy dead at the foot of the stairs. Ursula dispatches her man, John Ward, to carry an urgent message to the Queen, but he is murdered on the road. Ursula believes that these seemingly unrelated acts are somehow tied together and courageously sets off to track the owner of a piebald horse throughout the English countryside. There, she uncovers another plot to overthrow the Queen, and the man she loves, Matthew de la Roche, is somehow involved...
I enjoyed the book for the most part, but found that it was a little slow at times. I actually picked the book up and put it down several times so it took me a couple of months to read it instead of the usual couple of days. I found Ursula to be a strong, yet feminine heroine who was faced with terrible decisions in the book, but made her decisions in a logical way. I especially enjoyed seeing Ursula's thought processes as she linked information together and came to conclusions. Quite fascinating era in history, also so there was plenty of action going on and mysteries such as this one may have actually occurred, who knows? Anyway, if you enjoy historical mysteries or are looking for something a bit different to read in between modern mysteries, pick this one up, I think you will enjoy it.
This report prepared by Debbie