In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents’ country estate, where she has learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. She is happy to stay at home when King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism sees witchcraft in many of the old customs—punishable by death.
But when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to the royal palace, she is a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King’s precocious young daughter, and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But is he all that he seems?
Acclaimed as a brilliant historian, Tracy Borman proves with this thrilling debut novel that she is also a born storyteller.
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.