The Secret of the Rose

The Secret of the Rose

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by Sarah L. Thomson

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An exciting and romantic spy-thriller set in Elizabethan England, featuring a brave heroine who must disguise herself as a boy-or have her true identity revealed.


An exciting and romantic spy-thriller set in Elizabethan England, featuring a brave heroine who must disguise herself as a boy-or have her true identity revealed.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Jane G. Van Wiemokly
Via a plot device right out of Shakespeare, fourteen-year-old Rosalind disguises herself as a boy to survive, along with younger brother Robin, in 1592 London. Their father is in prison, arrested for the treasonous offense of being Catholic, but they arrive only to discover that he has died. Struggling to exist, they meet playwright Christopher Marlowe, who recommends Robin as an apprentice at the Rose Theatre. Rosalind, now Richard, becomes Marlowe's servant to run errands and to transcribe his plays. Taking care to hide any traces of their Catholicism in increasingly uneasy and perilous England, they must justify their beliefs with what is necessary to survive. In addition to the fear of being discovered as Catholic and female, Rosalind begins to suspect that Marlowe might be a spy and could betray her at any time. Thomson brings the smells and sights of Elizabethan London to life. Her descriptions of daily life feel real, such as having to share the one-and-only stool in Marlowe's lodging or being attacked simply because one is a player or an immigrant (shades of today). Part historical mystery, part suspense, this fast-paced story is propelled by Rosalind's desire not just to survive but also to learn who she is. Thomson uses some English pronouns as they were used in the Elizabethan sixteenth century (thee and thou for you). This device can slow the start of the book, but the reader is soon absorbed within the compelling story. Notes on the language and Marlowe are appended.
Children's Literature
Fugitives, fourteen-year-old Rosalind Archer and her younger brother Robin, search for safety in a strange town with people they have never met. The year is 1592, and the crime of the children and their newly imprisoned father is being Catholic. Forced to leave their home and flee for their freedom, if not their lives, the children have come to London because they have no where else to go. Soon after arriving in the large and confusing city, tragedy strikes again when the children discover that their father has died in the tower. Following closely upon that loss, Rosalind is the victim of an attempted rape, and is robbed of most of their money. The resourceful young lady decides that her most reasonable avenue of safety is to disguise herself as a boy, and that Robin will be well protected as an apprentice in the Rose Theater. Rosalind renames herself "Richard" and finds employment as a scribe to the infamous and controversial playwright, Christopher Marlowe. Intrigue, betrayal, adventure, courage, and cowardice flow as freely as the murky waters of the Thames in this page-turning novel. 2006, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, Ages 12 to 18.
—Janice DeLong
The action and suspense in this work of historical fiction grips the reader from the first pages. The setting is London in the reign of Elizabeth I, during a period of persecution?—?Catholics are forced to hide their faith; they are being arrested, imprisoned, tortured, executed. All property and other assets are confiscated. The story begins with two Catholic children, Rosalind (14 years old) and her younger brother Robin, forced out of their comfortable lives and onto the streets of London when their father is arrested. They are robbed, and after Rosalind escapes being raped by hooligans, she decides to disguise herself as a boy, Richard. By luck, Christopher Marlowe, the playwright, hires Rosalind/Richard as his servant and Robin finds a home with the young actors at The Rose, a theatre. Although Rosalind is always worried that her true identity will be discovered, she and Robin find a certain amount of security. Because she is educated, she copies Marlowe's scripts as part of her duties. The plot becomes quite a challenge, as Rosalind discovers that Marlowe knows she is female and a Catholic, but chooses not to betray her; yet she finds evidence that he himself is a spy for the Crown and is being blackmailed. A young William Shakespeare makes an appearance in the story, as a collaborator on one of Marlowe's plays. Rosalind realizes she has a gift for creating costumes, and part of the joy of this story is the detail of life in the Elizabethan theatre. Fast-paced, complex, this novel will please good students who enjoy immersing themselves in a fascinating time and place. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, HarperCollins,Greenwillow, 295p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Rosalind Archer, 14, has led a simple life in the Elizabethan countryside. However, when her merchant father is imprisoned for practicing the forbidden Catholic faith, she and her younger brother Robin make their way to London to find him, hoping to gain his release. They lose their money to clever thieves, and, discovering that the friends they've been told to turn to have also been arrested, they are desperate for food and shelter. Enter Christopher Marlowe, playwright extraordinaire, brusque of manner but generous of heart. He offers them apprenticeships at the Rose Theatre. Robin jumps at the chance, while Rosalind, who has disguised herself as a boy, agrees instead to become Marlowe's servant. The plot is complicated by the death of their father, Marlowe's discovery of Rosalind's Catholicism, and the playwright's own secret goings-on, which ultimately result in his murder. But through it all, Rosalind finds her place in the world and the promise of a life once-unimagined, yet fulfilling. Thomson stresses the "down-and-dirty" side of Elizabethan London, zeroing in on the constant political intrigue that marked the Virgin Queen's reign. While she creates a clear, realistic picture of the times, the suspense of the story is not as well crafted and those looking for an action-packed thriller may be disappointed. Nevertheless, Rosalind is a well-developed heroine, and her story does introduce a part of Elizabethan history not found in other tales of the period. Definitely worth consideration, but as an additional purchase.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Rosalind and her younger brother Robin are the children of a wool merchant, turned out of their comfortable home when their secretly Catholic father is imprisoned. They make their way to Elizabethan London to find him, in short order losing their carefully hoarded coins and possessions and discovering that their father has died in prison. Robin is distracted by and soon taken in by players who need a tumbling boy. Rosalind chops off her hair and dresses as a boy to keep herself safer as well as to protect her brother. As Richard, she catches the eye of the brooding Kit Marlowe-mercurial, secretive-who needs a boy to run his errands and make fair copies of his plays. This fast-paced and accessible tale is full of the dark side of Elizabethan times: spies and informants; persecution of Catholics; stench and disease; fear of immigrants, the plague and of the players themselves. The title refers to the Rose Theatre and to Rosalind's own secrets of gender and religion. While the historical aspects are clear and not trifled with (she does get to meet Will Shakespeare), it is Rosalind's story that compels. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

The Secret of the Rose

Chapter One

August 1592

They put the heads of traitors on spikes over the gate of London Bridge.

"They boil 'em first," said a woman's voice from behind us in the jostling crowd. "And dip 'em in tar."

"Oh, aye," another voice answered her with ghoulish satisfaction. "Makes 'em last longer. They do say some of 'em have been up there ten years and more. Take care, then—"

That last part was to me, for I had stopped in the middle of the road, putting out a hand to clutch my brother by the arm. The two women pushed past, grumbling. People walked around Robin and me as we stood, looking up at the great stone gatehouse with a tower three stories tall rising over the arched entrance to the bridge. On the top of the tower, in the red-gold light just before sunset, we could see the long poles with the blackened heads. They had no faces anymore, but it was too easy to imagine the hollow eyes watching us, the empty mouths stretched open in silent warning.

"Rosalind?" Robin asked me, very quietly. "Will they do that to Father?"

"Of course not!" It was a relief to be angry, to let my anger set my feet moving again. "That's for traitors. Father's no traitor, Robin."

"But he—"

"Peace, Robin!" The crowd was pressing in close on either side as we squeezed underneath the gate and onto the bridge, and it would not do to talk in public of what our father had done. Or of the evening I had been picking rosemary in the garden. I'd come into the kitchen, my hands full of the small, sweet-smelling leaves, and had heard voices. Peering into the hallway, I saw my fatherstanding at the open front door. Outside, holding a lantern, was Thomas Chapman, the sheriff.

"'Tis late for a visit, Tom," my father had said mildly.

"I have no choice in the matter, Master Archer."

From where I stood, hesitating at the end of the long, dark passage, I could see other men behind the sheriff, men that I knew.

"You'll let us in, Master Archer," the sheriff said.

"Indeed," my father answered, looking out at our friends and neighbors, come to tear our lives apart. "It seems I have no choice as well."

No, it would not do to talk about it now.

I kept tight hold of the sack over my shoulder that held everything I owned in the world and took Robin by the hand. Normally this was a thing he would not allow, now that he was all of ten and disdained mothering by his older sister. But he did not let go, and swung his own sack with his other hand as we made our way across the bridge, wide as a street, with shops lining either side. The air was damp with the heat of late summer, and heavy with the stench of the River Thames below.

Apprentices were closing the stores for the night, clearing off the goods from the wooden shutters, hinged at the bottom, that could be let down into the street to form counters. But as I passed by a glove maker's, my eye lingered on a white pair sewn with pansies. In an instant a boy Robin's age, eager for one last sale, snatched the gloves up and held them out to me. "Very pretty, mistress, and soft as a kitten's fur, just feel this now, and the height of the fashion . . ."

Shaking my head, I gripped Robin's hand and walked on. It was true I had money in my purse, hanging from the girdle beneath my petticoats for safekeeping. But it was not for luxuries like new gloves. The Rosalind Archer of two weeks ago, daughter of a rich merchant, might have fancied such vanities. But the Rosalind Archer of today had different uses for her money.

There was another tall gatehouse to walk under at the far end of the bridge, and then we were in London itself.

This city, I thought, was bursting at its seams. The buildings crowded together, shoulder to shoulder: houses, taverns, inns with their bold wooden signs, fishmongers, the pavement before them slick and bright with blood and silver scales. Even the air was crammed full of noise. "Fish! Freshest fish!" bellowed the shopkeepers, and women with baskets on their arms argued shrilly over prices. Someone laughed and chattered to a companion in a language I had never heard. The breath in my nose was thick with smells—the filth of the river, horse dung in the street, meat cooking in the taverns, the sour tang of beer, and the strong, salty, rotten stink of fish.

I felt battered and shaken and breathless. My feet, of their own accord, faltered and stopped once more. How did anyone ever find their way in this maze, this din, this absurd mass of people? In my panic, all I wanted was to turn and run, back across the bridge, back down the country roads Robin and I had trudged so wearily, back to the village where I knew every house, every face, where I practically knew every sheep in the fields.

Foolish. Impossible. Oh, the village was still there, the houses and the fields and no doubt the sheep as well. But there would be no returning, either for Robin or for me. And hadn't I learned in these past weeks that the men and women I had grown up among were as much strangers to me as the people pushing past us in this unfamiliar street?

I took a breath to steady myself. We had nowhere to return to. But we did have somewhere to go. We had come to this overwhelming city for a reason—to find our father. And when we did, it would not matter that we were strangers here, that we were lost. Because when we found him, then we would be home.

The Secret of the Rose. Copyright © by Sarah Thomson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sarah L. Thomson is the author of Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag, a Nebraska Golden Sower Award finalist; all the Wildlife Conservation Society I Can Read Books, including Amazing Tigers!, winner of an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award; and What Lincoln Said, written with "admirable simplicity" (ALA Booklist). Sarah lives in Portland, Maine.

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Secret of the Rose 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it. One of the best books I've ever read.