This is romantic historical fiction at its finest, replete with an abundance of period detail. The focus of the book is the romantic triangle involving the newly crowned tempestuous Queen, Elizabeth I, her lover and Master of Horse, Sir Robert Dudley, and his long suffering wife, Amy, whose dreams of a simple life with her husband are shattered with Elizabeth's rise to the throne upon the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary.
There is also a cat and mouse game involving Elizabeth, her Secretary of State, the canny and shrewd William Cecil, and Robert Dudley, which develops as it becomes clear that Dudley has his heart on becoming King and ruling alongside Elizabeth as an equal, something that can only be accomplished through marriage to Elizabeth.
Unfortunately for Sir Robert Dudley, his wife, Amy, a secret Catholic, has no intention of divorcing him. Moreover, Elizabeth has no intention of letting Dudley rule as King rather than just being King consort, were they to someday wed. Yet, she is in a quandary, as she finds herself unable to resist Dudley's charms and can refuse him nothing. Elizabeth turns to William Cecil for help in saving her from herself. William Cecil knows all too well that marriage to a Dudley would be disastrous for England, as Dudley, being the Queen's favorite, is one of the most unpopular men at court with the other courtiers. Moreover, the Dudley family, though a powerful and ancient lineage, has a treasonous history.
What Cecil devises is diabolical but plausible. This twist in the tale is certainly an ingenious way of explaining a mysterious death, a death that has never been satisfactorily explained by historians. It is a death that certainly served to cast a pall upon Dudley's ambitions and ensured that he and Elizabeth would never wed. It also ensured that the canny William Cecil would be the most powerful person in England, excepting Elizabeth.
This is a wonderful tale of the Tudor Court and the beginning of the Elizabethan era. Those who enjoyed the author's book, "The Other Boleyn Girl", will surely enjoy this one. Set against a backdrop of political intrigues, it is a well-written, well-researched work of romantic historical fiction that will keep the reader turning the pages.