The Tudor Secret

( 24 )

Overview

The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies.

Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, ...

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Overview

The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies.

Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.

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  • The Tudor Secret
    The Tudor Secret  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Gortner's latest riveting historical (after The Last Queen), the influential Dudley family sends orphan servant Brendan Prescott to serve their cruel son, Lord Robert, at King Edward's court, and the young man is soon caught up in intrigue, suspicion, and shifting loyalties. Young King Edward is under the thumb of the Dudleys, but illness is greatly affecting his influence. Then the lion-eyed Princess Elizabeth, whom the Dudleys view as a threat, arrives and Prescott becomes a spy for her protector, William Cecil. Deeper involvement in the conspiracies surrounding the throne makes Prescott increasingly uncertain of loyalties, including his own, and he begins to question his fate and identity. In Gortner's capable hands, Prescott is a believable and enjoyable hero, a man of strong loyalties but naïve enough to be exploited. And while the Dudleys are mostly broadly drawn villains, Robert has depth, and though readers familiar with the Tudor era will know the key players, they may be surprised by their depiction here. Gortner handles action with aplomb, adding a riveting, fast-paced thriller to the crowded genre of Tudor fiction. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

Praise for C. W. Gortner

“Riveting . . . In Gortner’s capable hands, Prescott is a believable and enjoyable hero, a man of strong loyalties but naïve enough to be exploited. And while the Dudleys are mostly broadly drawn villains, Robert has depth, and though readers familiar with the Tudor era will know the key players, they may be surprised by their depiction here. Gortner handles action with aplomb, adding a riveting, fast-paced thriller to the crowded genre of Tudor fiction.”—Publishers Weekly

“Even Tudor fans who know all the key players and historical backdrop will be captivated by Gortner’s storytelling and his engaging hero. He juxtaposes his naïve and loyal hero with the cruel Robert Dudley, enhancing the plot and grabbing reader interest as much as the quick pace and lush historical references. The novel is both entertaining and thoughtful.”—RT Book Review

“An exciting, vividly rendered story of intrigue and espionage.”—Booklist

“Dazzling cast of characters . . . at its heart, the brilliant and enigmatic Elizabeth. Never have spy and counterspy been more challenged, villains more duplicitous, and life for those in power—or hoping to be—more dangerous. . . . Fast-moving tale of espionage and suspense . . . The velvet peril of Tudor England comes alive in this haunting look at Elizabeth I’s secret spy.”—Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII

“A brilliantly executed plot and three-dimensional characters . . . this is historical fiction, and very well done at that; very highly recommended.”—Historical Novels Review, editors’ choice

Library Journal
Gortner's (Confessions of Catherine de Medici; The Last Queen) third historical novel and the first in his "Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles" details the rivalries struggling for power during the demise of the young King Edward VI. Narrator Brendan Prescott, a lowly page in the employ of the once powerful Dudley family who saved him as a foundling, takes readers into the Tudor court as he is sent on a secret mission to protect the king's sister, the Princess Elizabeth, from the scheming of King Edward's uncles. Opening with great promise, the novel begins to disappoint after the first few chapters. Gortner breaks one of the unspoken rules of historical fiction: if it's not true, it must at least be believable. There is nothing plausible about Brendan being the royal personage he is later discovered to be or his many escapes from danger. Most problematic, though, is the lack of emotion behind Brendan's supposed love of Elizabeth, who is portrayed as without intelligence or wit. Overall, Gortner's uninteresting plot goes nowhere, in an unfortunate contrast to his acclaimed previous novels. VERDICT Not worth the money, but as it is part of a series, this title may need to be reconsidered should the second book prove more entertaining. Strictly for the author's most ardent readers and Tudor fiction fans.—Audrey Johnson, Arlington, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312658502
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Series: Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles Series , #1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 380,020
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

C. W. Gortner is the author of the acclaimed historical novels The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. He holds an MFA in writing with an emphasis on Renaissance studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues. Half Spanish by birth, he lives in Northern California.

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Read an Excerpt

WHITEHALL, 1553
 
Chapter One
 
Like everything important in life, it began with a journey—the road to London, to be exact, my first excursion to that most fascinating and sordid of cities.
We started out before daybreak, two men on horseback. I had never been farther than Worcestershire, which made Master Shelton’s arrival with my summons all the more unexpected. I scarcely had time to pack my few belongings and bid farewell to the servants (including sweet Annabel, who’d wept as if her heart might break) before I was riding from Dudley Castle, where I’d spent my entire life, unsure of when, or if, I would return again.
My excitement and apprehension should have been enough to keep me awake. Yet I soon found myself nodding off to sleep, lulled by the monotony of the passing countryside and my roan Cinnabar’s comfortable amble.
Master Shelton startled me awake. “Brendan, lad, wake up. We’re almost there.”
I sat up in my saddle. Blinking away my catnap, I reached up to straighten my cap and found only my unruly thatch of light auburn hair. When he first arrived to fetch me, Master Shelton had frowned at its length, grumbling that Englishmen shouldn’t go about unshorn like the French. He wouldn’t be pleased by the loss of my cap, either.
“Oh, no.” I looked at him.
He regarded me impassively. A puckered scar ran across his left cheek, marring his rugged features. Not that it mattered. Archie Shelton had never been a handsome man. Still, he had impressive stature and sat his steed with authority; his cloak, emblazoned with the ragged bear and staff, denoted his rank as the Dudley family steward. To anyone else, his granite stare would have inspired trepidation. But I had grown accustomed to his taciturn manner, as he had been overseeing my upkeep since his arrival in the Dudley household eight years ago.
“It fell off about a league back.” He extended my cap to me. “Since my days in the Scottish wars, I’ve never seen anyone sleep so soundly on horseback. You’d think you’d been to London a hundred times before.”
I heard rough mirth in his rebuke. It confirmed my suspicion that he was secretly pleased by this precipitous change in my fortune, though it wasn’t in his nature to discuss his personal sentiments regarding anything the duke or Lady Dudley commanded.
“You can’t go losing your cap about court,” he said as I clapped the red cloth hat back on my head and peered toward where the sun-dappled road climbed over a hill. “A squire must be attentive at all times to his appearance.” He eyed me. “My lord and lady expect much of their servants. I trust you can remember how to behave with your betters.”
“Of course.” I squared my shoulders, reciting in my most obsequious tone: “It’s best to remain silent whenever possible and to always keep your eyes lowered when spoken to. If uncertain as to how to address someone, a simple ‘my lord’ or ‘my lady’ will suffice.” I paused. “See? I haven’t forgotten.”
Master Shelton snorted. “See that you don’t. You’re to be a squire to his lordship’s son, Lord Robert, and I’ll not see you squander the opportunity. If you excel in this post, who knows? You could rise to chamberlain or even steward. The Dudleys are known to reward those who serve them well.”
As soon he uttered these words, I thought I should have known.
When Lady Dudley joined her family year-round at court, she had sent Master Shelton twice a year to the castle where I remained with a small staff. He came ostensibly to oversee our upkeep, but whereas before my duties had been confined to the stables, he assigned me other household chores and paid me, for the first time, a modest sum. He even took in a local monk to tutor me—one of thousands who begged and bartered their way through England since old King Henry had abolished the monasteries. The staff at Dudley Castle had deemed her ladyship’s steward unnatural, a cold and solitary man, unmarried and with no children of his own; but he had shown me unexpected kindness.
Now I knew why.
He wanted me to be his successor, once old age or infirmity demanded his retirement. It was hardly the role I aspired to, filled as it was with the tiresome domestic obligations that Lady Dudley had neither time nor inclination for. Though it was a far better future than someone in my shoes ought to expect, I thought that I’d rather remain a stable hand than become a privileged lackey dependent on Dudley sufferance. Horses, at least, I understood, whilst the duke and his wife were strangers to me, in every sense of the word.
Still, I mustn’t appear ungrateful. I bowed my head and murmured, “I would be honored if I were one day deemed worthy of such a post.”
A cragged smile, all the more startling because of its rarity, lightened Master Shelton’s face. “Would you now? I thought as much. Well, then, we shall have to see, shan’t we?”
I smiled in return. Serving as squire to Lord Robert would prove challenge enough without my worrying over a potential stewardship in the future. Though I’d not seen the duke’s third-eldest son in years, he and I were close in age and had lived together during our childhood.
In truth, Robert Dudley had been my bane. Even as a boy, he’d been the most handsome and talented of the Dudley brood, favored in everything he undertook, be it archery, music, or dance. He also nursed an inflated sense of pride in his own superiority—a bully who delighted in leading his brothers in rousing games of “thrash-the-foundling.”
No matter how hard I tried to hide or how fiercely I struggled when caught, Robert always managed to hunt me down. He directed his walloping gang of brothers to duck me into the scum-coated moat or dangle me over the courtyard well, until my shouts turned to sobs and my beloved Mistress Alice rushed out to rescue me. I spent the majority of my time scrambling up trees or hiding, terrified, in attics. Then Robert was sent to court to serve as a page to the young Prince Edward. Once his brothers were likewise dispatched to similar posts, I discovered a newfound and immensely welcome freedom from their tyranny.
I could hardly believe I was now on my way to serve Robert, at his mother’s command, no less. But of course, noble families did not foster unfortunates like me for charity’s sake. I had always known a day would come when I’d be called upon to pay my debt.
My thoughts must have shown on my face, for Master Shelton cleared his throat and said awkwardly, “No need to worry. You and Lord Robert are grown men now; you just mind your manner and do as he bids, and all will go well for you, you’ll see.” In another rare display of sensibility, he reached over to pat my shoulder. “Mistress Alice would be proud of you. She always thought you would amount to something.”
I felt my chest tighten. I saw her in my mind’s eye, wagging a finger at me as her pot of herbs bubbled on the hearth and I sat entranced, my mouth and hands sticky with fresh-made jam. “You must always be ready for great things, Brendan Prescott,” she would say. “We never know when we’ll be called upon to rise above our lot.”
I averted my eyes, pretending to adjust my reins. The silence lengthened, broken only by the steady clip-clop of hooves on the cobblestone-and-baked-mud road.
Then Master Shelton said, “I hope your livery fits. You could stand to put some meat on your bones, but you’ve good posture. Been practicing with the quarterstaff like I taught you?”
“Every day,” I replied. I forced myself to look up. Master Shelton had no idea of what else I’d been practicing these past few years.
It was Mistress Alice who had first taught me my letters. She had been a rarity, an educated daughter of merchants who’d fallen on hard times; and while she’d taken a post in the Dudley service in order to keep, as she liked to say, “my soul and flesh together,” she always told me the only limit on our minds is the one we impose. After her death, I had vowed to pursue my studies in her memory. I lavished the sour-breathed monk that Master Shelton had hired with such fawning enthusiasm that before he knew it, the monk was steering me through the intricacies of Plutarch. I often stayed up all night, reading books purloined from the Dudley library. The family had acquired shelves of tomes, mostly to show off their wealth, as the Dudley boys took more pride in their hunting prowess than any talent with the quill. But for me, learning became a passion. In those musty tomes I found a limitless world, where I could be whomever I wanted.
I repressed my smile. Master Shelton was literate, as well; he had to be in order to balance household accounts. But he made a point of saying he never presumed to more than his station in life and would not tolerate such presumption in others. In his opinion, no servant, no matter how assiduous, should aspire to be conversant on the humanist philosophies of Erasmus or essays of Thomas More, much less fluent in French and Latin. If he knew how much his tutor payments had bought for me in these past years, I doubt he’d be pleased.
We rode on in quiet, cresting the hill. As the road threaded through a treeless vale, the emptiness of the landscape caught my attention, used as I was to the unfettered Midlands. We weren’t too far away, and yet I felt as if I entered a foreign domain.
Smoke smeared the sky like a thumbprint. I caught sight of twin hills, then the rise of massive walls surrounding a sprawl of tenements, spires, riverside manors, and endless latticed streets—all divided by the wide swath of the Thames.
“There she is,” said Master Shelton. “The City of London. You’ll miss the peace of the countryside soon enough, if the cutthroats or pestilence don’t get to you first.”
I could only stare. London was as dense and foreboding as I’d imagined it would be, with kites circling overhead as if the air contained carrion. Yet as we drew closer, abutting those serpentine walls I spied pasturelands dotted with livestock, herb patches, orchards, and prosperous hamlets. It seemed London still had a good degree of the rural to commend it.
We reached one of the seven city gates. I took in everything at once, enthralled by a group of overdressed merchants perched on an ox-drawn cart, a singing tinker carrying a clanging yoke of knives and armor, and a multitude of beggars, apprentices, officious guildsmen, butchers, tanners, and pilgrims. Voices collided in argument with the gatekeepers, who had called a halt to everyone’s progress. As Master Shelton and I joined the queue, I lifted my gaze to the gate looming overhead, its massive turrets and fanged crenellations blackened by grime.
I froze. Mounted on poles, staring down through sightless sockets, was a collection of tar-boiled heads—a grisly feast for the ravens, which tore at the rancid flesh.
Beside me Master Shelton muttered, “Papists. His lordship ordered their heads displayed as a warning.”
Papists were Catholics. They believed the pope in Rome, not our sovereign, was head of the Church. Mistress Alice had been a Catholic. Though she’d raised me in the Reformed Faith, according to the law, I’d watched her pray every night with the rosary.
In that instant, I was struck by how far I had come from the only place I had ever known as home. There, everyone turned a blind eye to the practices of others. No one cared to summon the local justices or the trouble these entailed. Yet here it seemed a man could lose his head for it.
An unkempt guard lumbered to us, wiping greasy hands on his tunic. “No one’s allowed in,” he barked. “Gates are hereby closed by his lordship’s command!” He paused, catching sight of the badge on Master Shelton’s cloak. “Northumberland’s man, are you?”
“His lady wife’s chief steward.” Master Shelton withdrew a roll of papers from his saddlebag. “I have here safe conducts for me and the lad. We are due at court.”
“Is that so?” The guard leered. “Well, every last miserable soul here says they’re due somewhere. Rabble’s in a fine fettle, what with these rumors of His Majesty’s mortal illness and some nonsense of the Princess Elizabeth riding among us.” He hawked a gob of spit into the dirt. “Idiots. They’d believe the moon was made of silk if enough swore to it.” He didn’t bother to check the papers. “I’d keep away from crowds if I were you,” he said, waving us on.
We passed under the gatehouse. Behind us, I heard those who had been detained start to yell in protest. Master Shelton tucked the papers back into the saddlebag. The parting of his cloak revealed a broadsword strapped to his back. The glimpse of the weapon riveted me for a moment. I surreptitiously reached a hand to the sheathed knife at my belt, a gift from Master Shelton on my fourteenth year.
I ventured, “His Majesty King Edward … is he dying?”
“Of course not,” retorted Master Shelton. “The king has been ill, is all, and the people blame the duke for it, as they blame him for just about everything that’s wrong in England. Absolute power, lad, it comes with a price.” His jaw clenched. “Now, keep an eye out. You never know when you’ll run into some knave who’d just as soon cut your throat for the clothes on your back.”
I could believe it. London was not at all what I had envisioned. Instead of the orderly avenues lined with shops, which populated my imagination, we traversed a veritable tangle of crooked lanes piled with refuse, with side alleys snaking off into pockets of sinister darkness. Overhead, rows of dilapidated buildings leaned against each other like fallen trees, their ramshackle galleries colliding together, blocking out the sunlight. It was eerily quiet, as though everyone had disappeared, and the silence was all the more disconcerting after the clamor at the gate we had left behind.
Suddenly, Master Shelton pulled to a halt. “Listen.”
My every nerve went on alert. A muted sound reached me, seeming to come from everywhere at once. “Best hold on,” warned Master Shelton, and I tightened my grip on Cinnabar, edging him aside moments before an onslaught of people came pouring into the street. Their appearance was so unexpected that despite my grip, Cinnabar started to rear. Fearing he would trample someone, I slid from the saddle to take hold of his bridle.
The crowd pressed around us. Deafening loud, motley, and smelling of sweat and sewer, they made me feel as though I were prey. I started to angle for the dagger at my belt before I noticed that no one was paying me any mind. I looked at Master Shelton, still mounted on his massive bay. He barked an indecipherable order. I craned my head, straining to hear him above the noise of the crowd.
“Get back on that horse,” he shouted again, and I was almost knocked off my feet as the multitude surged forward. It was all I could do to scramble onto Cinnabar before we were propelled by the mob, careening among them down a narrow passage and spilling out onto a riverbank.
I yanked Cinnabar to a halt. Before me, algaed as liquid jasper, ran the Thames. In the distance downstream, rimmed in haze, a stone pile bullied the landscape.
The Tower.
I went still, unable to take my gaze from the infamous royal fortress. Master Shelton cantered up behind me. “Didn’t I tell you to keep an eye open? Come. This is no time for sightseeing. The mob in London can turn cruel as a bear in a pit.”
I forced myself to pull away and check my horse. Cinnabar’s flanks quivered with a fine lather, his nostrils aflare, but he seemed unharmed. The crowd had rushed ahead toward a wide road, bordered by a line of tenement houses and swinging tavern signs. As we moved forth, I belatedly reached up to my brow. By some miracle, my cap remained in place.
The crowd came to a stop, an impoverished group of common folk. I watched, bemused, as barefoot urchins tiptoed among them, dogs skulking at their heels. Thieves, and not one over nine years old by the looks of them. It was hard to see them and not see myself, the wretch I might have been had the Dudleys not taken me in.
Master Shelton scowled. “They’re blocking our passage. Go see if you can find out what this lot is gawking at. I’d rather we not force our way through if we can help it.”
I handed over my reins, dismounted again, and wedged into the crowd, thankful for once for my slight build. I was cursed at, shoved, and elbowed, but I managed to push to the front. Standing on tiptoes to look past the craning heads, I made out the dirt thoroughfare, upon which rode an unremarkable cavalcade of people on horses. I was about to turn away when a portly woman beside me shoved her way forth, brandishing a wilted nosegay.
“God bless you, sweet Bess,” she cried. “God bless Your Grace!”
She threw the flowers into the air. A hush fell. One of the men in the cavalcade heeled close to its center, as if to shield something—or someone—from view.
It was then I noticed the dappled charger hidden among the larger horses. I had a keen eye for horseflesh, and with its arched neck, lithe musculature, and prancing hooves I recognized it for a Spanish breed rarely seen in England, and more costly than the duke’s entire stable.
Then I looked at its rider.
I knew at once it was a woman, though a hooded cloak concealed her features and leather gauntlets covered her hands. Contrary to custom, she was mounted astride, legs sheathed in riding boots displayed against the embossed sides of her saddle—a sliver of a girl, without apparent distinction, save for her horse, riding as if intent on reaching her destination.
Yet she knew we were watching her and she heard the woman’s cry, for she turned her head. And to my astonishment, she pushed her hood back to reveal a long fine-boned face, framed by an aureole of coppery hair.
And she smiled.

 
Copyright © 2011 by C. W. Gortner

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Reading Group Guide

The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies.

Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

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(7)

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(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Definite must read for those in love with Tudor England.

    I have a thing where I love any historical fiction that has a lot of intrigue and mystery. I also love the politics behind the court. I'm fascinated by it. This book has everything you want. Intrigue, mystery, twists and turns, some action, a bit of romance, it's a mixture of everything! however it's so well written and well done that it doesn't feel like it's been put together sloppily.

    The plot flows and the pace is even. What I liked the most is the point of view of the character. Most historical fiction novels take place in the viewpoint of someone who's Royalty, and almost always it's a female character. So, seeing the story from Brendan's eyes is definitely something different and I would say, refreshing. It's about time we see it from a guy's point of view! and a 'nobody' at that!. I'd have to say I liked him from the start. He's easily likable and his development throughout the novel was from a young man with an almost childlike naivete to someone who's well versed in how to behave and act in court, and who's about to become a double agent (so to speak). I thought the change was very well done. Brendan matured throughout the novel and the transition was smooth.

    I'm a huge fan of political intrigue, and this book has a lot of it. I loved the double crossing, the secrets revealed, and the deeds done in the past that are coming back to haunt certain individuals in the book. The Dudleys are as scheming and ruthlessly ambitious as ever (and I still have a strong dislike for Robert Dudley. Always have. Always will). Frances Brandon follows close behind on my hate list. It's amazing how ambition and greed takes precedence over everything else and brings out the worst in people. It might be a challenge to keep track of all the intrigue however once you get all the characters straightened out, everything does fall into place.

    Besides Brendan, I've taken a liking to Cecil. Although he's also a sneaky sly character who uses Brendan, and others to his own purposes and agenda, I like how he underhandedly talks himself out of a tense situation and manages to turn it around. He remains unharmed and still in a powerful position as Elizabeth's advisor. He's a very 'quiet' character, yet his behind the scenes actions make the plot interesting and makes it move forward with Brendan's help.

    I think it might have helped to have a little family tree chart handy, or at least a list of characters for those that might not be familiar with Tudor history it does get slightly confusing towards the end it takes a bit to straighten out Brendan's connections and ties with other families. However, those well versed in the history, will have no problem. Other than that, there is no other issue I can think of with this novel.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and as this is the first book in the Spymaster Chronicles, I am waiting for the next one! I loved the intrigue. Absolutely loved it. I definitely recommend this for historical fiction lovers of Tudor history.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Gortner wows Tudor Fans with the "What if Factor"

    C.W. Gortner really is the best when it comes to exploring the "what if" factor. I love that a key component of The Tudor Secret's story line is a case of "what if". I recommend that if you are a staunch supporter of complete historical accuracy then I am going to tell you right now this novel will not be meant for you. On the other hand if you happen to be more like me and do not find it imperative to have complete historical accuracy then "The Tudor Secret" is the perfect historical entertainment for all Tudor lovers.

    Brendan Prescott, hot name Hu, I think so too. Hot Brendan knew he was foundling even at a young age. He was cared for by Alice who found Brendan as a babe outside a cottage on the Dudley's homestead. Alice was a Dudley servant and she raised Brendan as her own son that is until she was killed on the road when he was in his early teens. This novel is darker than others I have read because you find that Brendan has a dark past with the Dudley brothers. To say they were atrocious to him would be an understatement.

    The Dudley brothers were barbarous and cold to Brendan but mostly because of their own self-serving reasons. When they wanted to the boys together could be merciless but even scarier yet was their mother. Pure evil in this one, she was cruel to him when he was just but a child. After Alice was gone Brendan found the house Stewart master Shelton took him under his wing and made sure he was to be his future replacement as the Dudley's household Stewart. Brendan's day came when at twenty one he was called to plunge head first into the murkiness known as the Tudor court. The Tudor succession was on rough footing with all the intrigue raging between the nobles and courtiers; everyone had something to hide especially the Dudley family even down to the lowly squire Brendan.

    Brendan from the start was to be Robert Dudley's man even though they despised each other more than that they despised each other. This novel does not show the pretty side of Robert instead Gortner chooses to focus on Robert's more devious traits. Flat out Robert was extremely vain, short tempered, and rude to his staff, but I can see where it is coming from because he was or could have been all of the above in my mind. I love it that Brendan as soon as he is as court has like a sixth sense about people and he just knows things are amiss in Tudor court even if he cannot comprehend it at the time. On Brendan's first reporting to his Lord Robert Dudley: Robert demanded that fresh to court Brendan go and hand deliver a ring to the king's sister Lady Elizabeth. As we all know Elizabeth was the light of Robert's life. In trying to accomplish Lord Roberts's outlandish task Brendan falls like Alice fell in wonderland into a rabbit hole of disturbing deceit that he was completely unprepared for.

    Propelled between the dead King Henry's children; Edward, Mary, And Elizabeth for in what seemed like a domino effect of constant intrigue Brendan finds he has no other choice but to just keep going because in the Tudor court there can be no looking back. Everything Brendan touched drew a reaction and when he was forced to touch upon the courts world of "half-truths" he had no choice but to get caught up in the mysterious happens of the Tudors. In the Tudor court it was not easy to ride the wave of shifting powers, for Brendan it would be sink or swim in the sea of Tudor England.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    Enjoyable

    I love historical fiction, and enjoyed this book about the turmoil of the succession after the death of Edward VI. We have plots within plots and betrayal after betrayal. I look forward to the further adventures of Gortner's fictional character, Brendan Prescott.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Highly recommended

    If you love Elizabethen literature you will love this.

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    LOVED IT.

    HISTORIAL NOVELS ARE SO GREAT IN TWO WAYS. SOME HISTORY AND A STORY TOO. THIS HAS BOTH. I DID NOT WANT TO GET TO THE END.

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  • Posted July 25, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I'll not explain my review title to avoid a spoiler for readers

    I'll not explain my review title to avoid a spoiler for readers about to take themselves into the time of Elizabeth I. You'll know when you finish this riveting historical. You'll go behind the scenes as Henry's son Edward lies dying and various plots evolve among several parties hoping to put forward Elizabeth and Mary, Henry VIII's daughters. At the same time one contingent places the tragic Jane Grey on the throne for her nine-day reign. Thrust into this is C. W. Gortner's Brendan Prescott, the reluctant hero who manages to play an important role in the life of Elizabeth. It's a non-stop spy novel from the male point of view, a welcome variation on the many Tudor stories. Highly recommended.

    James Conroyd Martin
    Author of PUSH NOT THE RIVER
    & AGAINST A CRIMSON SKY


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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Tudor Secret

    15. The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
    Welcome back to the Tudor court (one of my favorite places to read about). King Edward is sick and rumored to be dieing. The kingdom is in an uproar, and the regent prepares to put Jane Grey on the throne, usurping both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth.

    Enter Brendan Prescott, an orphan raised by the Dudley family at their country estate, sent to court to serve their son Robert. But as everyone in the Tudor era seems to, they have an ulterior motive. Brendan finds himself sucked into a web of intrigue revolving around a plot to imprison and possibly execute the Princesses.

    Overall, a very interesting story. The author admits to taking liberty with some of her characters and expanding on rumors that were very vague in the time. I had two big complaints. One, that there were a few contradictions in the story. People were said to have one point of view or opinion only to have it miraculously flip a couple of chapters later without any explanation. Two, the romance in the story seems to spring out of nowhere. I was very much blindsided by it. Once I paused and went back, just accepting it and moving on, it was a nice part of the overall story.

    The characters grew and developed, but it was all very abrupt and made things a bit choppy. If there is a second in the series, I will probably give it a try and give the author another chance to smooth out the flow of her story.

    2.5/5

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    A Historical Novel Like No Other!

    Incredible. Fabulous. Page turning suspense. I absolutely fell in love with this book instantly! C.W. Gortner writes his novels in such a way that his readers become the story. That's what happened to me with this awesome first installment to Gortner's Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.

    Reading Brendan Prescott's story and his life as a spy, so to speak, in exchange for finding out about his past and who he really is, was thrilling. The treason that takes place amongst this story, is indescribable as it lends the action to the story. It fascinated me to turn each page and see a new twist each time. At times, I found my heart racing as I waited to see what would have to Brendan, as he sets forth to protect Elizabeth. To read these kinds of novels about real people mixed with fictional characters in a fictional setting, is outstanding.

    I could go on and on about this thrilling, suspenseful treason filled novel, but if I do, I fear that I'll give away spoilers, and I don't do that, so I will stop here.

    But, I will tell you this: you MUST give this series start a try. Words and 5 star praises aren't enough to do this author's work justice. His research is outstanding, and his stories instantly capture the reader. If you love History, the Tudor era and fantastic writing, DO NOT MISS Gortner's 5 star novel. I can't wait until the second installment to this incredible spymaster series, as well as going back and reading his novel, The Last Queen!

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  • Posted February 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Everyone has a secret....

    I am a huge fan of C.W. Gortner's The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Last Queen and so when the opportunity to review The Tudor Secret came my way, I quickly seized it! And I was not disappointed!

    As a newborn babe Brendan Prescott was abandoned on the grounds of the powerful Dudley family. Taken in and raised at Dudley Castle, Brendan is tormented daily by the Dudley brothers, in particular the handsome, yet arrogant Robert. As the book opens, we find Brendan riding towards the court of Edward VI, where John Dudley is Lord Protector, to begin his service as squire to his old adversary Robert. Not long after coming to court, Brendan is solicited by William Cecil to assist in uncovering a plot against the Princess Elizabeth, which they believe is lead by the ambitious Dudley family. While unearthing secrets at court, Brendan is hoping to find answers to his own mystery.the identity of his parents and the truth behind his birth.

    The Tudor Secret was a quick, light read with an entertaining mystery within a mystery. Brendan is a very charming character, as are his sidekicks Kate, the feisty lady-in-waiting and young Peregrine, stable boy turned spy's assistant, I just adored! Though it wasn't as historically heavy as Gortner's other two novels, The Tudor Secret is nonetheless an entertaining and fun read and I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

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  • Posted January 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Another Winner From C.W. Gortner's Pen!

    I am a real fan of C.W. Gortner's work and was thrilled to be given an opportunity to read and review this latest book. This volume, the first of a chronicle series, introduces us to the character of Brandon Prescott. Brandon was found as a newborn and was taken into the Dudley household by their herbalist and nurse, Alice. The Dudley family is wealthy, powerful& avaricious. Close to the boy King - Edward VI - the Dudleys have wielded their power over the throne and are poised to keep Henry VIII's daughters Mary and Elizabeth from ever reaching the throne by marrying their youngest son, Guilford, son to Lady Jane Grey (daughter of Henry VIII's sister, Mary). Jane was, of course, later called the 9 days queen - which tells you what happened to the grand Dudley scheme.

    Brandon is brought up in the midst of the Dudley family; treated as an orphan and scape goat of the Dudley boys, but, when the family is away at Court, Brandon has access to the many books owned by the Dudleys and schools himself in languages and history. Suddenly Brandon finds himself packed up and on the way to Court to serve as Robert Dudley's squire as payment for his upbringing. As soon as he is presented at Court he quickly becomes embroiled in a game of power and politics. An overheard comment that he "bears the mark of the Rose" brings back the pain of not knowing who his mother. Brandon wonders what the comment - and the hidden birthmark on his thigh- mean. Does someone know who his family is? Brandon begins to search for answers to his lineage. He learns to live by his quick wits. When he is introduced to the Lady Elizabeth he quickly becomes aligned with her & aids her as she seeks to gain access to her dying brother, Edward, in order to say good-bye. Access to the dying boy king was rigorously controlled by the Dudley clan, but Brandon plots a scheme to allow Elizabeth to see her brother. Along the way, Brandon is kidnapped, and ultimately brought to the home of William Cecil who sets him a task and enmeshes him in the world of spycraft. Sir Fracis Walsingham is portrayed as a shadowy figure whose presence adds to the winding turns of the plot. The true heir to the throne of England after Edward is Mary, and she finally discovers that her brother has died - the Dudleys did not make that information public for some time after his death - and gathers her forces to march on London to reclaim her crown from Guilford Dudley and Jane Grey.

    This book is not as large a book as C.W. Gortner's earlier historical novels about Juana of Castile (The Last Queen) and Catherine de Medici (The Confessions of Catherine De Medici), nor is it, perhaps, as historically based. That being said, it does, indeed, carry the true flavor of the time,speaks of real persons, events and history and you don't have to reach reach too far to see how the plot could have been plausible. Who is Brandon Prescott (answered in the book)? How does he come to work for William Cecil and what will his next assignments be? This book really sets up the series and I can't wait for the next volume!

    This is another winner for Mr.Gortner and I am now eagerly awaiting the next book in this chronicle series! Any C.W. Gortner fan, historical fiction fan or Tudor fan will be thrilled with this excellent read!

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  • Posted December 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A great historical

    In 1553 the affluent influential Dudley brood dispatches servant Brendan Prescott to serve their cruel son Lord Robert at young King Edward's court. The young orphan knows that the Dudley family own King Edward who has been gravely ill and unable to rule.

    The Dudley patriarch fears intelligent survivor Princess Elizabeth more than the heir to Edward's throne Princess Mary. William Cecil, protector of Princess Elizabeth, enlists Prescott to spy on his employer. However, the more the lad learns about those surrounding the royal siblings, the more he believes competing and overarching conspiracies abound, but is unsure what she should do with what he learns because she trusts no one.

    The key to this Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles tale is ethical Brendan who believes in loyalty, but unsophisticated in the ways of court intrigue as he is caught between his duty to the Dudley clan and to the princess. He and vicious Lord Robert bring freshness to the entertaining Tudor historical as the rest of the latter's family and much of the court is stereotyped. Still C.W. Gortner (see The Last Queen) reveals the secrets behind those playing for power on a life and death royal stage through the only transparent participant who participates in a parallel play way.

    Harriet Klausner

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