Thursday, June 17, 2010
by Julianne Lee
Age Group: Adult
Published: October 7th, 2008 by Berkley Trade
Format: Paperback, 320 pgs
A rich, compelling novel that asks the question: Was Mary Stuart guilty of murder?
It is three days after the execution of Mary Stuart and the streets of London are buzzing with the news. But not everyone is convinced that the scandalized Queen of Scots was guilty of plotting against her cousin, Elizabeth I—or that she was involved in the murder of her husband, Henry Darnley.
Scottish-born Lady Janet de Ros, wife of a wealthy English merchant, thinks the ravishingly beautiful Mary was merely an innocent bystander, betrayed by the machinations of a disloyal court. Determined to uncover the truth, Janet travels from Fotheringhay Castle to Edinburgh, to pursue an investigation that, she will come to realize, could endanger her life—and bring disgrace to her very own family.
It took me about 20 pages to really get into this one, because I didn't particularly care for Janet at first. She was annoying and nosy, but that's how the story gets told: by Janet sticking her nose where it doesn't belong. After I got used to her character, I really started to like the book. It's historical; it's mystery; it's real. Janet is a very realistic woman. Her queen, as a Scottish woman, has died, and she doesn't truly believe it was for the reason everyone else is talking about. So she sets out to solve it by herself, three days after the queen's beheading.
The story unravels the mystery in a way I really enjoyed, by having Janet talking to people who knew the queen or were around her at a crucial moment and then shifting into their memory, allowing the reader to see the queen through that person's eyes.
But the book isn't just about what Janet thinks happened to the queen, it's also about her family life and her growth as a person. Her digging for answers creates problems for herself and her husband and changes their entire relationship, and, in the process, changes Janet as well into a more likable woman with real problems.
There are a few more graphic scenes in the book: rape, a beheading or three, and a couple of other things of that nature that Lee captured beautifully. The emotions were all there, and by the end of the book, no matter how you feel about the Queen of Scots, she will have your sympathy.
This is the first historical I've ever read, and while it was a little difficult to get into in the beginning, it was time well spent. If you enjoy history or historicals at all, I recommend this one. Lee has written a wonderfully, intriguing story about a queen no one fully understands.