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, C. W. Gortner's The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
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.
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
Reading Group Guide
An Original Essay by the Author
Elizabeth I: An Endless Fascination
Elizabeth Tudor, known as Elizabeth I, has exerted an endless fascination over our imaginations, even in looking at her life before she took the throne in 1558. She was the only surviving child of the glamorous, ill-fated Anne Boleyn, whose passionate liaison with Henry VIII shattered his twenty-four year marriage to Catherine of Aragon and set off a cataclysmic upheaval that changed England forever. Elizabeth's parents believed that the child Anne carried was the long-awaited prince Henry had been denied; Anne staked her claim, and her unborn child's legitimacy, on the fact that Henry and Catherine's marriage had been incestuous due to Catherine's previous marriage to Henry's deceased brother, Arthura marriage which Catherine steadfastly proclaimed had never been consummated. Yet the child Anne bore was not a boy but a girla child of controversy, destroyed hopes, and disappointment, of chaos and uncertainty. Elizabeth came into the world with what seemed to be a curse already writ into her fate. Within three years, Henry would send her mother to the sword and remarry four more times; she would gain a younger brother, Edward, as well as an older sister Mary, with whom she would engage in a near-lethal collision of wills; she would face a daunting fight for her life that would test her mettle to its core; and she would, if the legend is true, fall madly, impossibly in love with the one man she would never fully have.
Elizabeth's struggle for survival in one of the most treacherous courts in history and the glorious, often turbulent forty-four year reign that ensued upon her accession have become fodder for our entertainment for centuries. In many ways, this brittle red-haired princess with the enigmatic eyes and spidery fingersAn Original Essay by the Author
so reminiscent of her motherpersonifies our loftiest ideals of emancipation: Elizabeth refused to marry and never bore children (despite numerous rumors to the contrary), sacrificing her body and her heart for her country; she was arguably as alluring as Anne Boleyn yet never fell prey to the pitfalls that Anne paid for in blood; she displayed the fickle, silver-tongued wit that catapulted her mother to fame, coupled with the cruel, sometimes tyrannical temperament that transformed her father into a monstrous figure. Yet unlike Anne, whose tragic destiny overshadows her intense joie de vivre, or Henry, whose golden splendor is muted by the horrors of his later years, we tend to forgive Elizabeth's foibles and her mistakes, indeed even her bloodiest blunders; we forget her carcinogenic eccentricities and look past her capricious excesses, because we recognize in her a nobility of purpose, a single-minded drive to succeed, no matter the odds. We feel that we know her, intimately.
Elizabeth excelled in a time when few women could. Though she owed a debt to those who paved the way before hersuch as the formidable Isabella of Castile and the flint-hearted Eleanor of Aquitaineand she shared her stage with such unforgettable ladies as the embattled Catherine de Medici, queen-mother of France, and her own cousin, the flighty, irresistible Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth transcended even these legends to become a mythical heroine in her own right, a figure apart from the porous mortality of her contemporariesautonomous, instantly recognizable, inimitable, and uniquely unforgettable.
Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
The Wives of Henry VIII
The Secret People of the Palaces: The Royal Household from the Plantagenets to Queen Victoria
The Elizabethan Secret Services
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery
Mary M. Luke
A Crown for Elizabeth
Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
The House of Tudor
The Young Elizabeth
Edward VI: The Lost King of England
The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne
Sir Francis Walsingham: A Courtier in an Age of Terror
Reading Group Questions
1. The Tudor Secret takes place during the succession crisis of 1553. What did you discover about England at this time? Who were the major players and what were their motivations?
2. Religion plays a crucial role in the story's conflicts. What were the main issues between Catholics and Protestants? Were their conflicts based on actual religious differences or larger political power struggles? Do you see any parallels to today's religious divides?
3. Brendan Prescott is a fictional character with a secret. Like many servants of the time, he is entrusted with his master's private information. What were some of the possible repercussions he could have suffered for his actions? If you had been in his place, what might you have done?
4. The jewel featured in the book is based on an actual jewel shown in a painting of Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk, and her husband, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. Both Mary Tudor and Mistress Alice end up with different pieces of this jewel; why do you think the jewel was broken into pieces? If it was done at Mary's request, what message do you think she was trying to send?
5. Lady Dudley hides secrets of her own. What are they? Did you understand her reasons for doing what she did? What does her character tell us about the role of noblemen's wives in the sixteenth century?
6. Brendan carries a clue to his past with him all along. Why doesn't he understand its significance until the end? What part of his past does he fail to solve?
7. The death of Edward VI remains shrouded in mystery. Do you find the author's hypothesis plausible? If not, why?
8. Elizabeth Tudor is one of history's most popular figures. Why do you think she continues to exert such fascination, so many years after her life?
9. Who was your favorite character in the book, and why?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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!
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!
Historical fiction readers should thank Mr. Gortner for choosing to take us along with his imagination and give us such tales of what might have been. It takes a strong knowledge of time, place and history to be able to weave a story that at its core is completely based in fiction but populated by icons. Yet that is exactly what Mr. Gortner does with this first book in his Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. We meet young Brendan Prescott as he is making a journey to London. A foundling, Brendan was brought up in the mighty Dudley household knowing nothing of his origins. Thanks to his caretaker/nurse and unbeknownst to Lady Dudley he is well educated; he can read, write and speak French.It is a dangerous time for England as young King Edward is very ill. Dudley, Duke of Northumberland is currently in charge and is trying to maintain that control through his sons. Robert, of course loves Elizabeth (and always will) and young Guilford Dudley is being married to Lady Jane Grey. This is the London in which Brandon arrives. While there he meets William Cecil and is erm, encouraged to spy for Elizabeth.I don't want to say much more for fear of ruining this most excellent book. Mr. Gortner knows how to write to create an atmosphere of tension and fear. He also makes the characters come alive on the page. Again, as with book this well written I felt like I was watching a movie in my head. A movie I didn't want to end. I will note that our hero had the most extraordinary luck. NOTHING could kill him. But what is a good spy tale without an invincible hero, right? There is also a touch of romance - and I am not talking about Elizabeth and Dudley.This was a truly enjoyable read with an intriguing premise that sets up the rest of the series quite well. I am very much looking forward to the continuing adventures of this particular spy.
The Tudor Secret has a unique history. It was author C.W. Gortner's first published work, originally released a few years ago by some small independent publisher as The Secret Lion. The book, unfortunately, didn't get much attention, and didn't stay in print for very long. It wasn't until Gortner's The Last Queen that he was able to become an established author of historical fiction. After releasing a handful of historicals centered around fascinating female historical figures and building up his credibility in the publishing world, Gortner returned to The Secret Lion. Taking a more mature eye to the original, the text of Secret Lion was heavily edited and re-released as The Tudor Secret, in an attempt to garner new fans give Gortner's cherished novel a chance.The Tudor Secret is a little different from rest of the flood of Tudor-era historicals out there. Instead of focusing on a compelling woman from history, the story instead follows the life of Brendan Prescott, the man who becomes the spymaster of Elizabeth I. Brendan is an orphan servant working as a squire in the influential Dudley household for Lord Robert Dudley. After coming to court, Brendan gets caught up in the inevitable intrigue and political plotting during the turbulent final days of King Edward VI's reign, the nine-day reign of Queen Jane Grey, and the battle for the throne between Henry VIII's two daughters and other ambitious nobles at court. While there, Brendan meets the firey young Elizabeth, whom he instantly takes a liking to. He becomes a spy for William Cecil, Elizabeth's protector. As he struggles with the dangerous politics of the British court, Brendan must juggle a strange, unexpected truth about his parents and who he is...As a big fan of Gortner's previous novels, especially The Last Queen, I was excited about The Tudor Secret, but somewhat skeptical. It can be tough to go back and read an author's previous work sometimes, typically because he or she has matured as a writer since then and, in many cases, the skill that I had come to know and love just isn't here. So I was concerned about The Tudor Secret, but decided to try it anyway.My concerns, however, were somewhat founded. Though still interesting, The Tudor Secret just isn't as good as Gortner's other novels. It's fairly obvious to those who have read his previous work that this book was just not written at the same level as the others -the characters are hazier, the plot is less complex and more predictable, the writing skill just isn't the same....As I flipped through more and more pages, it became very apparent that this was an edited work that Gortner really loved, but should have considered completely re-vamping rather than just editing.Still, the plot, though a little slow at the beginning, grows into something fairly entertaining and somewhat compelling (hey, I finished the book didn't I?) and some of the characters, such as Elizabeth, really do shine through every time they are on the page. But fans of adult historical fiction beware -the plot is surprisingly simple and may not have enough complexity for some (perhaps this would do better if it was marketed as a YA novel?).Though I did not think reading The Tudor Secret was time wasted, it's an overall average book when compared to Gortner's other novels and the genre as a whole.
Most people who know anything about the Tudor court are aware that it was rife with intrigue and spies or intelligenciers. Gortner has added another spy to William Cecil's group, Brendon Prescott an orphan and dependent in the Dudley household. He proves to be a very likable personality with an unlikely secret. I enjoyed the book very much and finished reading it in only two days. I liked Gortner's slight twist on some historical characters and his ability to make the reader feel as if he is part of the Tudor court. However, I believe that Brendon's secret added very little to the story and could have been dispensed with without any harm to the plot. Recommended.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the beginning sentences to the very end. The characters were very well developed, especially that of the main character Brendan Prescott (a foundling turned squire for the Dudley family, who meets up with his destiny to become a spy). The setting is that of the tumultuous time of succession ¿ Edward VI to Jane Grey to Mary Tudor, and then finally to Elizabeth. Prescott uncovers plots to harm the royals, and also that of his own heritage. The plot follows that of a mystery novel, where it leaves the reader guessing who orchestrates the massive conspiracies.I commend Gortner for his work ¿ apparently it will be a series ¿ one of which I can see myself continuing to read.
The Tudor Secret is my first Gortner novel thanks to LT¿s early reviewer program. As the first in a series, this book held my interest, but I would have liked to see much more than it offered. The Tudor Secret did hit the ground running and kept that pace throughout. This is definitely, however, Tudor-lite. For those not familiar with the historical Tudor family and their courts or who prefer little history in their fiction, Gortner does the trick. The Tudor Secret is a simplified story with black, white and gray characters. Dudley¿s are bad, Princess Elizabeth, Brendan and servants are good and you¿re simply not sure yet about Cecil and Walsingham. Tudor-lite perfect for the beach.Unfortunately, historical fiction fans will find it¿s a fun fast read but lacking in depth, atmosphere and history. The novel¿s historical premise - that this is a 'back-story' of intrigue leading to "Bloody" Mary¿s reign as well as the `mystery¿ of Brendan¿s parentage will hold your interest but it could have been so much more. This is area little covered but some of the most intriguing characters, like Northumberland, come and go so quickly you¿ll wonder what was edited out. You will also find the romance between Brendan, the hero, and Princess Elizabeth¿s servant, so jarring (if you¿re not paying attention which I apparently wasn¿t) that it seemed to be deliberately thrown in. The unfortunate choice of cover led me to believe I was about to venture into a historical romance, which I didn¿t recall choosing. Lately I¿ve found some of my favorite historical fiction novels being re-released with covers obviously targeted to the Romance audience. That¿s a huge audience, granted, but I would have passed on The Tudor Secret without reading the back cover if I saw it in a book store (yeah I know, you can't tell a book by it's cover...). Having introduced the characters in this novel, Gortner has a lot of potential material for numerous installments to this series which could really be interesting. I expect book 2 to be an improvement and the series to be successful. I¿m not asking for a Sharon Kaye Penman tome ¿ just a little more.
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
I received this book through LT Early Reviewers, and I was excited when I did, because I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. The thing that I love the most about it is that you can get the blanks filled in between what the historical record says happened and what people are really like. It's fascinating to see the "what if" conversations and get a glimpse into time like that. A talented historical fiction author (like Diana Gabaldon) teaches you something while she does that; you walk away from those books feeling like you learned not only about the historical events described in the book but that you learned about humanity and the basic natures of people as well.****Mild Spoilers****I'm not sure that Gortner left me with that feeling. I knew what was going to happen with Mary being proclaimed queen and the death of Edward, having studied the time period before. I don't really feel that he added much to the historical facts in that respect. I didn't feel the suspense of whether or not this was going to happen. However, I did enjoy the story of Brendan and the revelations of his birth. I thought that the plot line about Alice could be seen coming from a million miles away, but the twist about his birth mom was fun and exciting. I also enjoyed the intrigue about the steward, that was a surprise as well.I've noticed that a few of the other reviewers commented about the romance and it's random appearance in the tale - I agree. Talk about coming out of left field. One minute she is talking to him like he's a stupid five-year-old and the next they are in bed. If you can get past that, it's a cute story. Also, I had to keep checking to see if the book I was reading was young adult or adult fiction. The book lacked a certain level of maturity and depth in a way that made me think it was supposed to be directed at young adult readers. Not that I'm knocking YA fiction - I love it and read it regularly; I think I mean that there were darkness or sexuality in people that were glossed over to make them 'less bad' in way that you would for younger readers, almost like you were looking at it through a vernier. Finally, I was irked that this book took place in a time span of something like 11 days. On day 1, Brendan is new to London and doesn't know which end is up; on day 11, he is this worldly, accomplished spy (though one who has some difficulty grasping the obvious). I feel like it would have been stronger if he would have come to court already knowing something, anything at all, about spying.Final Verdict: Overall, a good tale. I wouldn't read it if you're very versed with the Tudor family saga, as it just doesn't add much to the period. Philippa Gregory does this time period better. If, however, you're new to the Tudors, I would start with this book; I see it as a gateway book to the Tudor historical fiction world because it's not as heavy or intense as some of the others out there. I would read a sequel just to find out what happens with Brendan's character, not because of my curiosity about the royals.
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical thriller set in Tudor England. Brendan Prescott, an orphan raised by the Dudleys, discovers secrets about his own past while caught up in the court intrigue surrounding Edward VI's death and the short reign of Lady Jane Grey. Filled with action and adventure, The Tudor Secret remains a compelling story filled with Elizabethan characters and historical figures. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction set in the Tudor era and I eagerly await the next book, as the author has stated this is the first in a series. *I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*
In 1553 England, Brendan Prescott is sent to serve the Dudley family and act as squire to Robert Dudley. Nearly as soon as he arrives in London, he is swept into a swirl of politics and intrigue in a royal court whose young monarch, the fading Edward VI, lies on his deathbed. Vying for the throne are Jane Grey and the two Tudor daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, and each of them have supporters and enemies. Brendan is first asked to spy for Robert, and then to double-spy for William Cecil, a powerful name at court and an ally of Elizabeth's. I had resolved just a few weeks ago to take a break from Tudor England, since I feel the topic has been more than exhausted in today's popular historical fiction. But, when I saw this one on the Early Reviewer's page, I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and the idea of spies and secret identities and double-crossing. It sounds marvelous, but unfortunately the best thing about this book was the cover.Not that it was entirely awful, but I can't think of anything in particular that was good about it.I couldn't bring myself to be all that interested in any of the characters, especially the main character Brendan. The author wastes no time getting to the action - skipping any chance we had of getting even a good introduction. Brendan seemed silly to me - he's the type who will rustle bushes loudly while "spying," (and he does - more than once). He boldly confronts powerful nobility and royalty in some scenes, but in others, is terrified to even speak to someone in a position of power. Robert Dudley is cast as "bad," and the author makes no attempt to explore his character. I personally think him a very interesting historical figure, but the author tells us all about how Robert used to beat up Brendan when they were kids, and apparently he has still remained the cruel, more or less stupid bully.I thought it was suspiciously convenient that Brendan is able to meet with such high nobility in only the first few nights he is at court, and how as soon as Robert asks him to deliver something to Princess Elizabeth, he finds her at once. He then walks alone with her at night - I don't think that a Princess fearing for her life would just agree (or be allowed by her guards) to just stroll off with some unknown man.Some other things were thrown into the mix that seemed very staged and hurried through.There was a background romance between Brendan and a lady-in-waiting, which was at first a surprise because from the way Brendan described this woman before, I had thought that she was an old lady. He seems to develop feelings for her overnight, and it never seemed all that convincing to me.A woman from Brendan's past, who raised him in place of the mother he never had, comes into the story, but only for a matter of minutes. It was just so very pointless and strange.The third would be Brendan's mysterious identity. It's an overused plot tactic, but one that I normally love if it's well written. But here, it remains just an overused plot tactic. Brendan is a foundling, meaning that his anonymous mother abandoned him when he was a baby and that he was "found" by someone else, who raised him as a servant. He bashes us over the head with this fact repeatedly in the beginning of the book, and for the rest of it, never lets us forget it. Practically by page 2 I knew for certain that he was going to find out something about his heritage, or meet his parents, or something like that. I just wasn't interested in this book. Even though the action happens fairly quickly, it wasn't exciting because I just didn't care about the characters. Not all that good, and I will most likely not be reading the next installment in the series.
Here we are with yet another novel on the Tudors. This does present a different point of view than most. The storyline centers on a young man and not the other Tudors characters that we know so well from other books and history. And, for me that was an important plus. Although I found the book rewarding and read it in no time at all, there is something about the writing that left me wanting. The plot is complicated and intriguing, the setting invokes the Elizabethan era with great descriptions of architecture and the River Thames, and most characters are sufficiently developed. So I can't explain my longing. I see from other LT reviews that some report that C.W.Gortner's other novels more closely hit the mark. So, I will make sure to put them on my wish list. And, I encourage anyone with an interest in historical fiction, to read this book. You will receive a first hand account of the extraordinary ruthless character of the court and those who stop at nothing in an attempt to get their way. All told in a new light. Yes!
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.
C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Secret is the first novel in the new Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. The book tells the story of Brendan Prescott a young man who was raised in the Dudley household after being abandoned as a baby. Prescott is brought as a squire to the court of the ailing King Edward VI. Immediately caught up in the intrigue and drama surrounding the nobles who seek the throne for themselves and others, Prescott is drawn to the charismatic and commanding Princess Elizabeth and soon finds himself working as a double agent for her and the Dudley family. This book was really interesting and well constructed. The fictional hero fit in seamlessly with the setting and players of the Tudor court and the novel provided an imaginative look at the final days of Edward VI. Where as many historical fiction works focus on King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn or on the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this book was unique for portraying a younger Elizabeth and the turmoil in London surrounding the task of crowning a rightful heir.The Tudor Secret was a fast and entertaining read. I enjoyed Gortner's writing and am excited to see further drama and mystery unfold in future books in the series.
I could not put this book down. I love historical fiction but sometimes feel it is just a cover for romance which I do not enjoy. This book had well developed characters, intriguing plot, and well paced action. This is one of those "just one more page" books. I finished this book in record time and now intend on looking for other books by the author. If you like mysteries and historical fiction I highly recommend this book.
I love the Tudors!! What can I say? This is a period in history that is so intriqing to me. The politics, the machinations of the court, King Henry and all those wives, his children ,Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth. The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner, is the first book in the trilogy 'The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles'. It starts when sickly King Edward is on the throne and Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth are hidden away for their protection from the Dudley family. Enter Brendan Prescott , an orphan reared in the Dudley family, as a stable boy who has grown up with the Dudley sons. The elder Dudleys decide to send Brendan along with Lord Robert Dudley to court as his squire. No sooner does Brendan arrive at court, he is sent on an errand for Lord Robert. Thus starts Brendan's adventure into the world of the Tudor Court and the corrupt Dudley family as a spy. As a side story Brendan is an orphan and would like to know who his parents were, but he finds that his birth is part of the mystery that the Dudley's perpetuated. Mr. Gortner wrote this book with a twist, the 'what if' premise. He showed us what could have happened with circumstances different . Don't want to give anything away here, so you will have to get the book and read it yourself. I will tell you though that there are lots of villians in this tale. I have now read three of Mr.Gortner's books, The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and now The Tudor Secret and really enjoyed them. The author seems to have a passion for this historical era and it shows in his detailed writing, but this one is a bit different in that it has an element of suspense and even murder. I do look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
I was so excited about this book! I have read all of C.W. Gortner's books and I just love his writing style. This was his first attempt at a Tudor style book. I have to say that once again Gortner has impressed me.This story is told by a male narrator and normally I don't go for books like this, but Gortner's writing style made me fall in love with the main characters and the plot line almost immediately. I read this book in one day! There are secrets and twists throughout the book and you cannot stop reading because you are dying to figure out what is going to happen next.Set in the times of the Tudors and the constant challenges they faced in relation to the throne and court intrigue. This book by C.W. Gortner does not fail to deliver. A must read for all fans of Tudor historical fiction.
Christopher has done it again! the Tudor Secret is a fascinating look in the to the Tudor Court with a fresh pair of eyes if you will. Brendan Precott is a orpahn raised in the house hold of the Dudleys He finds his sellf sent ona misson to Princess Elizabeth and ends up becoming her protector. But then The King dissapears and Elizabeth is determined to the uncover the truth behind it puts Brendan in the middle of it all. A wonderful book ful of mystery and the intrigue of the Tudor court its one of those books you must read this year. Many thanks to Library thing for the chance to review this book/
I have not read anything about this period of history in England nor do I remember much about the Tudors from history or literature classes in high school. So The Tudor Secret was a very interesting novel to me. I am familiar with Queen Elizabeth and know how highly regarded she was so it was interesting to see how it all came about.That being said, I don't know how close to history, The Tudor Secret is. The author states in the afterward that he proposes a what-if into the time frame and therefore the story is fiction, but it is built around what is known of the time. Thus the genre of historical fiction. I know I enjoyed the book and this look into Elizabeth and the fascinating fictional character of Brendan Prescott. I also loved that this book is told from a male point-of-view. I am so use to reading books from the female point-of-view that this was very refreshing to me. Suspense books from male point-of-view, yes, but historical fiction books, not so much, at least the ones I have read. I really liked Brendan as a character. He had a strong character and a desire to do what was right. He wasn't perfect but he tried.The suspense plot that runs through The Tudor Secret was well-constructed. I found myself trying to guess what might happen next but almost always getting it wrong. The book held me spellbound and I was really sorry that work got in the way of me reading it this week. I think if I had started it on a weekend it would have been like These Things Hidden and I would not be able to put it down. Which is a rare quality in historical fiction for me personally. I know a lot of you are lovers of the genre, but I am fairly new to it and I am not often enamored by historical fiction books. Michele Moran always captivates me and now I think I will be sure and check out C. W. Gortner's other novels.This is the first in a series of books and I look forward to reading the upcoming books, and learning more about the world of Brendan, Elizabeth, Kate and Peregrine. The Tudor Secret did a great job of getting me into the time period, creating characters I cared about and captivating my attention from beginning to end. That makes a great novel for me and I am sure I won't forget this one for awhile.
A few years back, I overdosed on Tudor fiction but in the last few months I¿ve been craving the drama, court intrigue, and ever present bedroom battles that come along with Henry VIII and his wives. What I liked about The Tudor Secret was that it wasn¿t told from the perspective of the royal household, but from a 20 year-old with a blank past who is unceremoniously thrown into court life with the intent of letting it devour him.Brendan Prescott knows nothing of his past other than he was abandoned as a baby and Mistress Alice, a woman who worked as a maid for the wealthy Dudley household, raised him. A child with no background or family, he knows only too well his lowly place in the household and society at-large. His hopes rise no higher than someday being a squire or a steward and even those positions don¿t hold much interest for him. He would rather spend his days in the barn with the horses. When he is called to court by Lady Dudley to be a squire to her oldest son, Robert, his hopes of a peaceful life among horses are forgotten.Knowing nothing of court life and with no one willing to teach him, he¿s left alone among the court sharks looking to use him for their own gain, his Master Robert included. Robert promptly engages Brendan in court escapades that involve setting up a liaison with the Princess Elizabeth with whom he is in love. Brendan manages to find the Princess and deliver the message but he slowly begins to understand that nothing about court life is ever secret. Pulled unwillingly into a spy ring, Brendan becomes privy to the lives of his masters in ways he never imagined and ends up a double agent working not only for Master Robert but also to keep Princess Elizabeth safe and help her sister, Mary, to become Queen.It is Brendan¿s past though that keeps him involved long after he wants nothing more than to walk away. He wants to know who abandoned him that night so long ago but his real concern is for the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. They are targets of people who want nothing more than to overthrow Mary and Elizabeth and convince their brother Edward that neither are true heirs to the throne. Court intrigue and espionage are always terms that are mandatory when talking about the Tudors. The spying, backstabbing, and face-to-face pleasantries while secretly whispering lies behind a person¿s back are well-known traits of this family and the court they created. It¿s also what makes them all so much fun to read about. The fodder they have provided for future generations is enormous and I think that¿s why, while I might need a break to recover from the tension of crown politics, I never entirely tire of the Tudors. Gortner zeroes in on this tension and the moment that Brendan arrives at court, he starts to ramp it up making you turn pages wanting to desperately know what comes next. Telling the story from an outsider¿s point of view also makes the character of Elizabeth much more interesting. She¿s well-known but an enigma to Brendan which adds freshness to a character that can feel stiff and sometimes a little standoffish.Covering about two weeks worth of time, the story does feel a bit forced in places though and in particular Brendan who while understanding nothing of the Tudor court, manages to become involved and an integral part of a spy ring. He blunders too much in the beginning and to see him mature so quickly and in a mere matter of days, feels unlikely. But, he¿s somehow still very likable and that¿s what makes it work. He doesn¿t immediately grasp the implications of every move made at court and that sets him apart from the others and you can¿t help but side with him. If you¿re looking for a book that will pull you back into the Tudor¿s, this one¿s a good choice.
I love reading historical fiction, as well as watching it on film, especially the Tudor era. ¿The Tudor Secret¿ was my first exposure to C. W. Gortner and I could not be happier with the introduction to this Author. For the most part, this is a coming of age story. Brendan is a very young man, more a boy, thrust into the inner circle of King Edward VI¿s court which was a place full of intrigue and danger. We find out very early on that Brendan is intelligent and resourceful, and he manages to hold his own. It was such a joy to read, see and feel a twist on a history through Brendan¿s eyes. He finds himself a pawn in Dudley¿s conspiracies and gets recruited by William Cecil as a spy. The Author pulls in characters like William Cecil and Frances Walsingham to give us a great view of how spying had started. I¿ve asked myself if it¿s believable that a boy such as Brendan would be able to approach the royals to the extent that he did, and the answer was yes. After all, he was not a stranger to some of the major players, notably Robert Dudley, his brothers and his entire family. He grew up with those men, and their mother wanted him in court for a specific reason which was THE ¿mystery¿ of Brendan¿s birth. When all the pieces fall into place, and Brendan confronts Cecil, my heart just brakes as I see him age before my eyes¿¿I was beyond reason. An abyss opened beneath my feet, full of horrors I did not want to see¿¿. How could she have left me in ignorance, all these years? How could she have not realized that, in the end, what I did not know might be the one thing used against me?¿ ¿I thrust out a hand,¿No more. Please, I ¿ I cannot bare it.¿¿From the first chapter of this book, you can¿t help but be drawn to his story. It is one bumpy ride for our Hero and I loved every minute of his journey. I was inside Brendan Prescott¿s thoughts; feelings and footsteps as he walked, ran and rode to his destiny. His voice was loud and clear through the book and I got to like the boy and I¿m eagerly anticipating watching him grow into his own in the second installment which will be published sometime in 2012.I would be remiss in not mentioning the secondary characters which are just delightful, fun and witty. I do hope we see more of Peregrine and Fitzpatrick. With them by his side our Hero became more real to us. I¿m also looking forward to learning more of ¿Robin¿ Dudley, Queen Elizabeth¿s Favourite, and often thought to have been her lover. And lets not forget Master Shelton who our Hero needs to face in regards to the ¿Secret¿.C. W. did an awesome job of incorporating historical facts with fiction of the era. Historical figures of that time were so accurately painted with words that I found myself there in the midst of their intrigues.If you¿re looking for a hot romance, you might be a bit disappointed, but that should not detract you from enjoying this book. Please don¿t misunderstand. There is a love story within, lust as well, but not as much as some might prefer.At the end, the Author gave us a well written, captivating, complicated, enjoyable, richly told and very interesting story which I heartily recommend.
Originally published as The Secret Lion, The Tudor Secret is the first in what will be a series featuring Brendan Prescott, an orphan foundling who was raised in the household of the Dudley family. In 1553, King Edward is on his deathbed, and William Cecil gives a secret mission Brendan. Soon he finds himself working as a double agent, as he attempts to discover the secret of his own birth.There `s a lot to like in this novel, mainly in the historical details that the author weaves into the story. He knows Tudor history like the back of his hand, and it definitely shows in this book. Because it was his first novel, however, there are some rough patches. There were a couple of plot holes that I had trouble navigating around¿primarily, why would a secretive man such as Cecil entrust a seemingly nobody with this kind of secret mission? Brendan himself is a changeable character; at one point he¿s amazingly perceptive, at others, he has to have basic current events (that anyone of the time period would have been aware of) explained to him. However, because this is the first book in a series, I expect that we¿ll see a lot of character growth from Brendan. The other thing I didn¿t quite believe was his relationship with Kate¿at one moment, she¿s a lady-in-waiting who happens to end up as Brendan¿s sidekick; the next minute, Brendan is passionately in love with her. And Brendan¿s access to the members of the royal family was too loose to be believable.Still, as I¿ve said, there¿s a lot to like in this novel. I enjoyed how he managed to interweave historical facts with fiction, and I especially loved his descriptions of sixteenth-century London. I enjoyed the fictional Brendan¿s interactions with the Dudley clan, too. The real ¿mystery¿ here is about Brendan¿s birth, and its revelation didn¿t disappoint me!
Summary:Brendan Prescott is a 20 year old orphan who was raised by a servant of the Dudley family in Tudor England. He¿s been sent to court to serve a man who he loathes, Robert Dudley. The country is in a perilous time. The king, Edward VI, hasn¿t been seen by the public, or even the nobles at court, for some time. Dudley¿s father, the Duke of Northumberland, rules the country in Edward¿s stead. It¿s clear that he has a nefarious plan, but no one is quite sure what it is. Brendan is thrown into this political quagmire and finds himself in over his head before he even realizes it.Review:The Tudor Secret is an engaging look at a fascinating period in British history. The death of Henry VIII left a real political vacuum in the country. His son Edward was only nine years old when he was crowned, and was controlled by the Seymour family, his uncles on his mother¿s side. After their downfall, the Dudleys stepped in and took over control. The book takes place when Edward VI is around sixteen years old. There¿s an air of mystery surrounding court, as no one knows exactly what is going on.Brendan Prescott is something of an enigma. He has no clue to the origin of his birth, but from the time he arrives at court, it¿s clear that there is a puzzle behind it. He is smart and resourceful, and the spymaster William Cecil notices that from the beginning. It¿s no surprised when Cecil approaches him, and it only thrusts Brendan deeper into court intrigue, where he must fight in order to survive and protect those he cares about. The novel itself is a quick, easy read. Gortner has a way of writing historical fiction that makes the most mundane events seem completely gripping. I knew exactly what was going on behind much of The Tudor Secret specifically relating to the Duke of Northumberland¿s plot; anyone with a knowledge of this period in history does. You would think that would take away from reading the book, that I would find myself bored, but it didn¿t at all. Gortner managed to make the novel suspenseful, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen plot-wise. (It helped that the mystery behind Brendan¿s origins wasn¿t clear to me.) I was very impressed with this, as it¿s not an easy thing to do and shows how great of an author Gortner really is.There were aspects of The Tudor Secret I didn¿t love, though. The main romance seemed very strange to me. I understood why Brendan was interested in the woman, just not why it was mutual as they didn¿t seem to have much interaction. Also, it seemed very rushed to me. Additionally, Brendan wasn¿t a consistent character when it came to knowledge and intellect. It was clear from the beginning he was very smart, yet sometimes he needed the simplest aspects of history explained to him, things he probably should have known. I realize this is because the author needed a way to explain what was going on to the reader, but it didn¿t sit well with me. The novel is also not as firmly rooted in history as Gortner¿s previous works. To be honest, this didn¿t really bother me because I knew what was historically accurate, but if you¿re looking for fiction without real leaps of faith, this book probably isn¿t for you.Despite that, though, I really enjoyed The Tudor Secret. I do hope it¿s the first book in a series, as I enjoyed getting to know Brendan and would love to continue with his adventures. As mentioned previously, this is a fascinating time in history, and there is a lot more that Gortner can do with it.