published: 24th September 2020
Arrested by her sister for treason, who in her household can Elizabeth trust?
1553: deeply-divided England rejoices as the rightful heir, Mary Tudor, sweeps to power on a tide of populist goodwill. But the people should have been careful what they wished for: Mary’s mission is to turn back time to an England of old. Within weeks there is widespread rebellion in favour of her heir, her half-sister, princess Elizabeth, who is everything that Mary isn’t. From now on, Elizabeth will have to use her considerable guile just to stay alive.
Orphan Alys Twist has come a long way – further than she ever dared hope – to work as a laundress at the royal Wardrobe. There she meets Bel, daughter of the Queen’s tailor, and seems to have arrived at her own happy ending.
But in a world where appearance is everything, a laundress is in a unique position to see the truth of people’s lives, and Alys is pressed into service as a spy in the errant princess’s household. Alys herself, though, is hardly whiter than white, and when the princess is arrested she must make a dangerous choice.
Galley provided by publisher
If you asked me just what happened in this book, I would have zero chance of telling you. I’m, firstly, not entirely sure I absorbed any of the plot. But secondly, I’m not entirely sure there was one. Or at least, not one I could follow.
Broadly speaking, the story follows Alys, a laundress in Queen Mary’s service, who is sent to spy on the Princess Elizabeth, but later comes to be on her side? I guess? This is kind of where I got lost in terms of plot. I’m not entirely sure when or why Alys decided she would side with Elizabeth. I’m not entirely sure what her role even was in the second half. In all honesty, this feels less like a whole book in itself and more like half of a book.
I think part of that is that I was never clear on what drove Alys to most of her actions. The spying on Elizabeth is clearly not her choice, but then. Why did she change her mind? What drove her to make the decisions she did in the second half of the book? Because I couldn’t answer questions regarding her motivations, I didn’t really care about what was happening in the plot or to her.
Not that, I’d argue, much did happen in the plot. Like I mentioned earlier, the book felt more like half a book than a whole one. When it ended, I flipped through a few more pages, half expecting more to it. But there wasn’t more to it. It didn’t even feel open-ended in the kind of satisfying way, it felt like there wasn’t an end. Like it had been stopped mid-arc.
So really, I was just bored reading this. So bored that not even the sapphic romance could get me interested (sadly). But if, unlike me, you have a better attention span and enjoy historical fiction where not a lot happens…
Well, you might well like this.