As King Richard II and his cousin Henry of Lancaster jostle for power, a widow caught between them struggles to support her family.
The year 1399 finds York widow Kate Clifford (The Service of the Dead, 2016) raising three children not her own. When her husband left her deep in debt, she took in his two bastard children; the third is the daughter of her eldest brother. All her brothers, including her twin, who remains always with her in her mind, were killed in a border feud that sent her mother, Eleanor, fleeing to Strasbourg with her second husband, Ulrich Smit. Now widowed again, Eleanor has returned, newly religious, with three companions to help set up a beguine house, a place where women lead a life of devotion but are not bound by vows. One night, Kate’s household is awakened by the baying of her wolfhounds, Lille and Ghent, signaling danger next door at the house her mother is leasing. Sister Dina is not in her room, and there’s a great deal of blood. York is full of armed men supposedly protecting the city from Henry, but their fealty to the unpopular king is uncertain. Kate can count on her loyal servants, Jennet and Berend, but no one else. Her mother is obviously hiding a secret, her brother-in-law is eager for her to remarry so he can get the business her husband left her, and her powerful uncle seems to support her but has hidden plans of his own. The traumatized Dina is eventually found, but the maidservant Nan, whose lover may have been involved, vanishes. Despite the lies that greet her every question, Kate is determined to find the truth and preserve her family from danger.
The heroine’s second adventure, a complicated mystery set against the turmoil that led to the War of the Roses, is most likely to appeal to fans of serious historical intrigue.