This debut is set in 1558 and features Princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I, of England. Her sister, Mary, sits on the throne and, fearing an uprising in Elizabeth's favor, has exiled Elizabeth from her court. Elizabeth lives in the countryside under the watchful eyes of Sir Thomas Pope. Elizabeth receives a missive from her Aunt Mary Boleyn begging her to visit. Elizabeth knows that Sir Thomas will refuse the visit so she sneaks out and makes her way to her Aunt Mary. What she discovers at Aunt Mary's is more than just an aunt she had been told had died years earlier. She discovers a plot to eliminate the remaining Boleyns and their supporters. She must discover who is behind the plot and why before she becomes a victim.
As in any fictional story, the reader is asked to suspend belief for a brief period in order to enjoy the story. However, Ms. Harper not only asks her readers to suspend belief, but to disregard any knowledge of Tudor history as well. While it may have been feasible for Elizabeth to escape the ever-vigilant Sir Thomas once for a few hours, the reader is asked to believe that Elizabeth made three or four escapes - two of which lasted not for a few hours, but for a few days.
Assuming the reader can get beyond Elizabeth being absent from Sir Thomas' care for a couple of days while she dashes across the countryside dressed as a boy, the story is a good read. Ms. Harper is particularly successful at showing Elizabeth's dilemma of naturally wanting to act as a future queen while at the same time aware that her every action is reported to Queen Mary and too queenly action on Elizabeth's part will not be greeted as good news by Queen Mary.
For those readers who pay attention to such things, Ms. Harper is particularly enamored of having Elizabeth's stomach doing somersaults on every other page. It got tiresome after the third or fourth time of Elizabeth, when confronted by even the merest danger, has her stomach clench, somersault, etc. It will be a wonder if she doesn't develop ulcers in the next entry in this series.
Ms. Harper has chosen a particularly difficult character, Elizabeth, as her protagonist. All her life Elizabeth was under close scrutiny, first as Princess and then as Queen. It will be interesting to see how Ms. Harper expects to write a series with Queen Elizabeth as sleuth.