Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Queen's Secret - Victoria Lamb

'I shall not be mastered by any man.'

A really entertaining historical novel with a gripping plot, 'The Queen's Secret' transports you back in time and puts you at the heart of the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Kenilworth Castle in 1575. There is much pomp and ceremony as the Queen and her entourage arrives, with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, having spared no expense to lay on a host of festivities for her majesty's visit to his home. Robert is a trusted ally of the Queen: 'With his innate intelligence and quick grasp of any political situation, Robert...was the man she turned to first in a crisis. Or when she needed a little wit and light relief...Robert had always made her laugh when no one else could.' Further, she loves him, would like to marry him, and yet she has refused his offers of marriage, as she fears how much power he would want, and take, if he were on the throne:

'Clever, clever. She could not help but admire his daring, the sheer audacity of a man who would take every opportunity to push himself forward, however many times he was rebuked and rejected...Yet how to restrain a man like Robert once he was on the throne? His charming audacity could only grow, given power and influence on that scale, until her own power became diminished.' 

Although Robert desires this position greatly, he nevertheless persists in his illicit adulterous assignations with Lettice, wife of the Earl of Essex, and also the Queen's cousin; passionate meetings which the Queen is all too aware of, and which will not remain a secret amongst the gossiping court for long. 

Lucy Morgan is merely a young black court entertainer when we first meet her, viewed with suspicion by some, but she is destined to become close to the Queen herself as she is singled out to sing for the Queen, and subsequently entrusted to spy for her, leaving Lucy in an awkward situation, having been asked by another in court to spy for them! Underlying all of this is the suspicion of a hidden potential assassin and a serious threat to the Queen's life, with Walsingham, the Queen's spymaster, trying to stay one step ahead of them all, ably assisted by the inimitable Master Goodluck, who is also Lucy's guardian.  

I loved this novel. I really enjoyed reading it, and I felt that the intrigue and pace of the story was sustained throughout the whole book. There are some very amiable and entertaining characters, none more so than Master Goodluck with his many disguises and his band of accomplices; also young Lucy Morgan and her beautiful voice. The Queen herself is a fascinating character with so many side to her, the public and private face, the longing for a lover and a child, the fear of relinquishing power and of being thought of as like her father. The storyline has many interesting and engaging strands, and secrets abound, including the secret that the Queen hides.

It is only recently that I have begun reading more historical fiction, and I felt like I was in the very safe hands of a gifted storyteller whilst reading this thoroughly researched, compelling, and convincing debut novel. 


Thank you very much to the publisher for sending me a proof copy of this novel to read and give an honest review.

Published by Bantam Press on 16th February 2012.


  1. I love a good piece of historical fiction, so will add this to my wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation :)

  2. I am enjoying it more and more, in fact I'm not sure what has held me back in the past. I have read three really good historical novels in the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy this one too.


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