Already a great historian, Tracy Borman proves with this thrilling debut novel that she is also a born storyteller.
As she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth, Frances Gorges longs for the fields and ancient woods of her parents' Hampshire estate, where she has learned to use the flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer.
Frances is happy to stay in her beloved countryside when the new King arrives from Scotland, bringing change, fear and suspicion. His court may be shockingly decadent, but James's religion is Puritan, intolerant of all the old ways; he has already put to death many men for treason and women for witchcraft.
So when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to court, she is trapped in a claustrophobic world of intrigue and betrayal - and a ready target for the twisted scheming of Lord Cecil, the King's first minister.
Surrounded by mortal dangers, Frances finds happiness only with the precocious young Princess Elizabeth, and Tom Wintour, the one courtier she can trust.
Or can she?
'Watch out Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, I can see a new contender for the Queen of Historical Fiction!' Netgalley reviewer
'A fascinating read, felt very true to time period but with that personal touch . . . Five stars' Jeannie Zelos book reviews
'Tracy Borman's debut historical novel has it all: conspiracy, betrayal, dark intrigues, bloody deeds, a poignant love story - and the most famous plot in English history.' Alison Weir
Borman (The Private Lives of the Tudors) lures readers into this first in a series of historical novels set during the reign of the Stuarts. In 1603 England, healer Lady Frances Gorges returns to her family home of Longford after nursing Queen Elizabeth I through her dying days. Frances is forced to leave the idyll of Longford at the demand of her uncle, Lord of Northampton, who has secured her a position in the household of young Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James, Elizabeth's successor. Though Frances warms to the effervescent princess and young lawyer Tom Wintour, she despises the court's debauchery and is fearful of using her healing skills after witnessing the execution of a supposed witch. Yet Frances's refusal to ignore pleas to help an ill child ends in disaster when the child dies, and she is arrested and tortured to determine if she is a witch. When the charges are dropped and she is released to tend to the ill Elizabeth, Frances's blossoming romance with Thomas becomes complicated when he reveals a secret, and Frances must decide if she will remain loyal to Thomas. Borman is an astute chronicler of 17th-century English life, keenly depicting the excesses of the court and the dangers of religious persecution. The vivid detail and effortless storytelling will appeal to many readers, particularly fans of historicals in the vein of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory.
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Toil and Trouble
I enjoyed this lightweight historical novel; it’s really a romance set in time of political and religious turmoil. It is leavens with enough historical detail and contemporary imagination to make it an agreeable read free from the pretentious boredom of the Wolf Hall serious of novels. I’ll probably not read any more from the series but that’s me not the writer.