Long live the Queen! A magnificent Queen Elizabeth I reigned in the movie Shakespeare in Love, but it is the younger queen of the film Elizabeth whom we meet in Fiona Buckley's acclaimed Ursula Blanchard mystery series.
It's 1562 and Catholic Spain threatens the stability of Protestant England. In France, the Protestant Huguenots also face threats from the powerful Catholics. Fearing that such pro-Catholic movements might spread to England, Elizabeth hopes to mediate a peace between the two French factions.
Enter Ursula Blanchard, twenty-seven-year-old Lady of the Presence Chamber, who has a special mandate from Sir William Cecil, Secretary of State, to spy on behalf of the queen. Nearly the same age as Elizabeth, Ursula has already proved herself worthy of the queen's gratitude in difficult and dangerous situations.
The queen wants Ursula to go to France, where civil war may break out at any moment, to hand-carry a letter from Elizabeth to France's queen mother and regent, Catherine de Médicis. To keep her mission secret, Ursula will ostensibly accompany her former father-in-law, Luke Blanchard, a man she neither likes nor trusts, when he travels to France to fetch his young ward, Helene, to the safety of England.
Ursula has the queen's protection and she has with her her faithful servants Brockley and Dale. But she soon realizes that sinister forces threaten her. Is someone trying to prevent her from delivering the letter? Whom can she trust? Luke Blanchard? Helene? Her servants? Anthony Jenkinson, the blithe merchant adventurer whose path crosses hers and who has enemies of his own? Can she be sure even of the queen? What will happen to Meg, her little daughter left behind in England, if she fails to return?
Perhaps the most poignant of all, Ursula's second husband, Matthew, a Frenchman and an enemy of Elizabeth, is somewhere in France, but can she see him without bringing disaster on both of them? There is powerful chemistry between them but what is their destiny?
Ursula soon learns that she faces an enemy who will stop at nothing -- not murder, not torture, not charges of heresy that may lead to burning at the stake -- to destroy her. To prevail, she must undertake a desperate new mission of her own, with an innocent life at risk.
Murder, treason, treasure, passion -- they all combine to make a compelling historical mystery from an author whose vast knowledge of the period adds depth and color to this riveting new series.