Although my interest paled after reading some more of the books, at this point, I loved Ursula Blanchard. She tends to be very unhappy about having to act as a spy for the queen, but she believes very strongly in the importance of supporting her queen. However reluctant Ursula might be at times, she is always determined to accomplish her mission. Not because she has some saviour complex that makes her think she’s the only one who can do it, but because she was the one who was asked to, and she has a duty to do what she has said she will do. I hate saviour complexes. I love characters with a sense of responsibility.
The fact that she is a mother is diligently held up in her personality and some of her actions, even though her daughter as a character is largely rendered inconsequential by dint of rarely appearing. Sadly, this does seem to get worse in later books, where if this were a television show, I would joke that the camera is allergic to Meg. Still, she is an important factor in Ursula’s life and the actions she takes. Ursula is very much a family woman, and continues to love her husband, despite how the first book ended.
The romance is still painful and credible. Matthew is not a bad person, even though he just keeps on with his traitorous politics. Whenever he can be compared to others with the same basic goal that he has, to bring Catholicism back to England, he stands out as nonviolent and even rather unselfish. I still like his character, and I can sympathise with Ursula’s agony over their separation.
I wasn’t surprised to see that that mystery in this book had a setup that was distinctly more vague than in the first. Ursula is told to stay with the Masons (whom she met in the course of the first book), report anything amiss, and sneak into Mr Mason’s study to obtain what information may be had there. This is fine, but discovering “what is even going on” is rather a different sort of mystery than to try to prevent a death and then to pinpoint the murderer. It’s just too indirect, in my opinion.
Of course, treason appears in each case. At the time, I wondered if the scale will change later, either towards smaller struggles or beyond England. They did end up going to France in the next book. I think it’s safe to say that treason is not necessarily in every book.
This is definitely one of the more forgettable books in the series, which is too bad. Since Ursula has no clear direction beyond, “Get into the study” and “don’t get caught,” things plod blindly along for far too long. Once she does manage to uncover the plot, things pick up, but it takes a while.
I did like this book just as much as the first. Historical fiction is a genre I have developed a taste for, and Fiona Buckley’s contributions to that genre are top shelf. …to make an unintentional book pun. The story is intriguing, the characters genuine, and the writing seamless.