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Queen of Ambition [Mass Market Paperback]

Fiona Buckley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Dec 2002
Fiona Buckley, acclaimed for the historical accuracy and riveting storytelling of her Ursula Blanchard mysteries at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, returns with a glorious new novel set in the summer of 1564. Ursula and her small daughter, Meg, are at their Sussex manor house, Withysham, when Ursula is summoned to court. The queen will soon set out on a Royal Progress to Cambridge, the university town known for its Protestant sympathies. Accompanied by a huge entourage and two hundred wagonloads of goods, Her Majesty will spend five nights at King's College, where she will be kept in comfort and entertained in style. Nothing must go wrong. But Sir William Cecil, the secretary of state, is worried. Some students plan to welcome the queen to Cambridge with a farcical playlet involving kidnapping and swords. Cecil would prohibit all violence and swords near the queen's person, but she insists on letting the students have their fun. Or is it the queen who is having fun playing with her courtiers' concerns? With the spirited, thirty-year-old queen, it's always hard to tell. Or, a more serious possibility, is the playlet being used to cloak a threat to Elizabeth's safety? Cecil can't stop the playlet but he can send Ursula as a harbinger to find out what's really happening. Her mission: dress as a cookmaid and obtain a job in Roland Jester's pie shop. The pie shop is a meeting place for students, and Roland and his brother, Cambridge tutor Giles Woodforde, may somehow be involved in the playlet. Working in a pie shop is a new experience for Ursula, but it's not the work that's disturbing. She hears students talking. She sees people whispering. Something sinister is indeedgoing on, and when a young student who is himself worried about the playlet dies in a suspicious fall just before he is to meet with Ursula, she knows that Cecil's fears are justified. The queen may well be the target of a plot, and Ursula may be the only one who can save her. Rich with historical detail, compelling characters, and an original cipher worthy of a spy agency, this fifth Ursula Blanchard novel transports us to a romantic, mysterious time in history when seemingly insignificant events changed great destinies.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (Dec 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743410300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743410304
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 9.9 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,148,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Kirkus Reviews" Ursula is the essence of iron cloaked in velvet -- a heroine to reckon with. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unrealistic plot though a good page turner 8 Sep 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As with the earlier novels, the characters are engaging and the story flows nicely. However, the plot here seriously threatened my credulity and I just did not find the playlet scenario convincing. A shock in the last few pages, though, in terms of Ursula's family development.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well worth reading in spite of flaws... 9 Feb 2002
By tregatt - Published on Amazon.com
There are quite a few strikes against "The Queen of Ambition" -- a tenuous intrigue plot (part of the problem here is that Buckley portrays the villains in an almost comic fashion, that it is difficult indeed to take them seriously, or the threat that they pose to the Queen); a far fetched solution to the plot (a more cumbersome cipher I have yet to come across, also there was a flaw in the whole cipher subplot, but if I pointed it out in my review, that would be giving away things); Ursula's guilt over almost having slept with her manservant Brockley (the third time she's goes into the 'thank-goodness-we-didn't-give-in' routine, and I was rooting for Fran to leave this sorry pair and find new and better employment!)... Add to this the fact that I'm not a fan of the Tudors, and found Buckley's/Ursula's whitewashing of Elizabeth quite nauseating, and you'd be right to ask why I would recommend this mystery novel as a good read?
Make no mistake about it however, "The Queen of Ambition" is a good read. As reviewer Charles Falk so accurately noted, Fiona Buckley does a wonderful job of interweaving the political and religious problems that Elizabeth I and her ministers faced, with the plot of this mystery novel. But what I also liked was the manner in which Buckley realistically interweaved the kind of life a servant at an Elizabethan pie-shop would lead -- the hard and relentless work, how much a servant's life was bound to the whims and caprices of the master, and the precious few hours off, with Ursula's covert search for proof of wrong-doing. Far too often, mystery writers never go into how an agent's cover can get in the way of his/her undercover work. This was, I thought, a splendid touch. I also liked the manner in which Ursula's confidence in her abilities as a secret agent are developing. Ursula Blanchard is not an easy female protagonist to like completely, but it is easy to respect her abilities and her competence. And I think that Buckley is beginning to make Ursula question many of her past assumptions about her past relationships (with her first husband, and her aunt in particular). More introspection would definitely add more 'spice' to the mix.
The novel unfolds interestingly enough. Buckley is very good at adding little bits of information and plot developments that adds to the tension level of this intrigue novel -- in spite of the ongoing critiquing that was going on in my mind, I was glued to the pages until I finished the novel! So all in all, I'd say that this is a book that is worth reading.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner 16 April 2002
By Jill Shure - Published on Amazon.com
Once again, Fiona Buckley delivers a page turner. This, along with her other Elizabethan mysteries, is a rare treat, filled with historical details that seduce the reader into exciting hours of good reading.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elizabethan intrigue 5 Jan 2002
By charles falk - Published on Amazon.com
In this instance I concur with the opinion of the ubiquitous and easily-pleased "#1". Fiona Buckley has written an exciting intelligent historical mystery set in 1564, early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is the time before Elizabeth has become "good Queen Bess"; a time filled with uncertainty and unrest over issues of religion and the royal succession. Mary, Queen of Scots and others vie for the right to succeed or replace her on the throne. Elizabeth's council led by Sir William Cecil are frantic for her to marry -- marry almost anyone -- except her favorite Robert Dudley (later to become the Earl of Leicester). Buckley's plot is skillfully intertwined with those issues.
Elizabeth and her court are about to set off on a royal summer progress to Cambridge. Cecil is worried about a proposed student "entertainment" involving a mock sword fight with Dudley and a faked abduction. He calls upon the services of his secret agents, including Ursula Blanchard, to investigate whether there is something sinister behind the student jape. I have some difficulty with Blanchard serving as a trusted operative for Sir William. Not only is she a woman (in a time when women occupied a circumscribed role in society), but she is married to a French Catholic nobleman. Cecil was adamantly anti-Catholic and anti-French. Once one accepts the unlikely existence of her lead character, Buckley provides a fast-paced, well-written yarn.
Ursula decides to go undercover by working in a pie shop frequented by the students planning the entertainment. The leader of the group dies in a riding accident shortly after she meets him. The Queen's arrival is imminent, pressuring Blanchard and her associates to come up with answers quickly.
Though the solution is intricate and a bit farfetched, Buckley gives the reader a throughly enjoyable trip through the society and intrigues of Elizabethan England. I particularly like the way Buckley shows Ursula and her colleagues as rounded human beings, affected and altered by the events of the story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graet historical mystey 18 Dec 2001
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
In 1564, Secretary of State Sir William Cecil worries about the safety of Queen Elizabeth when Her Majesty travels to Cambridge on a Royal Progress. William knows that the university town harbors religious fanatics who would love to assassinate the Queen and put her cousin on the throne. He is especially concerned with a student play that Elizabeth plans to attend.

William recalls lady-in-waiting and sometimes spy Ursula Blanchard, to return to work and do what she does so well going undercover. Ursula, who was rusticating with her preadolescent daughter, obtains a job in a very popular student hangout, Roland Jester's Pie Shop. There she hears plots and counterplots to include rumors on the accidental death of a student who worried about the Queen's safety while attending their performance.

QUEEN OF AMBITION cleverly blends genuine tidbits with fiction so that the reader obtains a strong historical mystery. The cogent story line engages the audience with a vividly described plot and a effective cast though some tertiary characters seem unnecessary to the well being of the tale. However, as with Fiona Buckley's four previous Blanchard novels this book belongs to the remarkable heroine who turns this story into a royal read for fans of Elizabethan novels and historical mysteries.

Harriet Klausner
4.0 out of 5 stars Undercover intrigue, pies, and codes in Cambridge 5 Oct 2013
By Michelle Boytim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
The fifth book in the Ursula Blanchard series follows closely after the 4th in time, with Ursula being sent to Cambridge, ahead of the queen's arrival there, to scope out the surroundings and make sure the preparations are in order. Because of a tip surrounding a mini-play that will be presented to the queen, Ursula goes deep undercover, working as a servant in a pie shop in order to find out more some characters suspected to be involved in a plot against England. The pie shop is owned by one of the brothers under suspicion, whom Sir William Cecil suspects of writing letters in a code that his spies have been unable to break. The other brother is at Cambridge and has put forth the idea of the mini-play. Ursula's servant Brockley, is also undercover as a servant to the other brother. When a member of the group of students holding the play tries to tell Ursula of something that is bothering him, but dies under suspicious circumstances, Ursula is convinced that there is something sinister going on. As she unravels the details, she also must deal with her feelings for Brockley and her guilt about their closeness which has become obvious to his wife, Fran. The clues lead to a dramatic close to the story, and some major changes in Ursula's life going forward.
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