In July of 1573, Ursula Blanchard is living a quiet existence on her estate in the Surrey countryside. Recently widowed, she and her infant son are trying to put the past behind them, but her peace is shattered when her neighbour is found dead in a flowerbed. Ursula’s manservant, Brockley, is arrested for this heinous crime, and seeking to prove his innocence, Ursula enlists the help of her mentor and friend, Lord Burghley. What then follows is a convoluted murder mystery which takes in the complexity of the Elizabethan court and which leads this intrepid investigator into the very centre of this historical mystery.
Having not read any of the previous eleven Ursula Blanchard novels, I started this story at something of a disadvantage and found the complexity of all the different relationships quite difficult to understand and place into context. Overall, the historical mystery is reasonably achieved and yet, I think full enjoyment of the story can only come if the reader is aware of the background to the series. By the end of the novel, I found that I didn’t really have much empathy with Ursula’s character and even though wanted to ‘like’ her more, sadly, this didn’t happen for me.
If you like a murder mystery with a historical background then perhaps it’s a good idea to invest time in this series from the beginning rather than attempting to make sense of a series twelve books into its run.
My thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for my review e-copy of this book.