Friday, April 19, 2013

Review - Blood Between Queens

Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle; Thornleigh (series) #5. Publishes April 30, 2013 by Kensington. 448 pages.

Bottom Line: An enjoyable but not extraordinary Tudor-era novel focusing primarily on family dynamics and romantic intrigues. It would be a good summer read, choice for fans of the previous books, or for that person who has read EVERYTHING on the Tudors. Should be picked up by libraries who have the others in the series or for a browsing paperback collection.

I downloaded a ebook review copy of this without realizing it was part of a series.While I was frustrated at the hints of backstory that were never fully explained, it did work as a standalone book.

Blood Between Queens is the story of Justine, a young ward of an Elizabethan courtier and how she becomes entangled in the messy relations between Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin/rival/heir Queen Mary of Scots.

Justine has been raised by a rival family from her own (think Hatfields and McCoys but in Elizabethan England) after her father's treason ruined her family. She alone knows he is not dead, but rather fled the country. But even she is surprised when he returns to the country and tries to enlist her help to overthrow Elizabeth and put Mary on the throne.

Beyond the political intrigues, Justine is torn between sympathy to her father and childhood Catholicism and love of the family that raised her, a nephew of whom she is betrothed to. Tough choices especially when she is sent to captive Mary's side as a companion and undercover agent for Elizabeth.

The Tudor time is a familiar ground for novelists and this is a good addition to that collection. (Confession I've read much of that era and I'm not sure how I missed this series before.) It is full of historical details and the setting was richly portrayed. In fact at least once I read a detailed description of Elizabethan life (streets, houses, sounds, people, etc) with a feeling of deja vu for having read a similar scene a chapter or so before.

It is engaging as a standalone and it will be a welcome next chapter to those who are enjoying the family's previous epistles. However it might not be the first book I recommend to someone looking for a Tudor-era novel.

My primary complaint is that it was fairly predictable. Never once was I particularly surprised by a character's motivation or actions or any plot development. That said, I did enjoy the book and it had just enough of a plot to keep turning the pages primarily enjoying the characters and the settings.

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