A lively historical adventure-cum-family-tangle, set in the 16th century, in the days when the brain trust of England's Elizabeth I suspected (rightly) that forces in France, Spain, and Scotland were mulling over the possibility of removing (perhaps violently) the Queen and replacing her with the imprisoned Mary of Scotland. The derring-do here is accomplished mightily and charmingly by a sort of renegade Errol Flynn from the Border country who's aided eventually by a shrewd lass of misty ancestry. Arriving at the estate of Adderstone is exquisitely beautiful (if a bit daft) Arbel, orphaned niece of its matriarch, Margaret Forster. With Arbel is Christie, her companion and (it is assumed) cousin. Margaret's three sons adore Arbel, but Margaret's brother, Stephen Ridley of nearby Black Law, gleams with hatred of Christie. Why? More puzzlement: most of the Adderstone/Black Law crowd detest Luke Ridley, blazingly blue-eyed, untidily blond, and adopted by Margaret's dead brother David. But then Luke, in his untidy castle, consorts with low types, leads raiding parties for livestock, smuggles, and is a crackerjack spy. But one day Luke will be snared and brought before Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's secretary of state and spymaster. Now Luke must undertake a dangerous spy mission, succeed, or die horribly. He succeeds, of course, with the help of Christie, who's been scouring Paris for a clue to her past. After a series of dazzling escapes, it's back to the Border for some deadly family feuds and jolly revelations. A first novel with pounding good historical action, humor, and bounce.