Being the illegitimate sister of Queen Elizabeth I once again puts a widow in danger.
Tangled family relationships press Ursula Stannard (Heretic’s Creed, 2016, etc.) to help her ward Kate Ferguson’s husband Eric Lake’s half brother George Harrison’s wife, Marjorie, who’s a friend of Ursula’s Aunt Tabitha. George had run off with a wealthy woman more than 30 years before but now, down on his luck, has returned to batten on Marjorie, who has no choice but to take him in. Meanwhile, Edmund, the abusive husband of Marjorie’s sister-in-law Lisa, now claims that her twin children are not his. A twisted mess involving money will lead to more than one murder. Even more tricky for Ursula is a summons from her half sister, Elizabeth, who’s contemplating marriage to the Duke of Alençon, a union that would bring a useful alliance with France but would put the queen, who’s not quite past childbearing age, in a very dangerous position should she become pregnant. The queen’s advisers are split over the prospect of her marriage, and the country as a whole is against her marrying a papist, but Elizabeth is attracted to the Duke, who, though physically unappealing, is bright and amusing. Ursula, who’s often worked as a spy for Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham, is this time asked only to collect letters from a spy in France and pass them on. As they travel between several of Elizabeth’s palaces and the homes of the Harrison family, Ursula and her trusted servants, Brockley and Dale, little suspect that the problems of the two families may have a common denominator.
Another fascinating look at Elizabethan life that hinges on a complex mystery.