The Captive Queen: A Novel of Mary Stuart

Written by Danny Saunders
Review by Joanna Urquhart

In his historical fiction debut, Danny Saunders takes his readers to 16th-century Scotland and the storied reign of Mary Queen of Scots as it’s encountered by pretty young Englishwoman Charlotte Gray, who has fled from London with a dark secret and managed, through luck and good conversation, to achieve a place in Mary’s household as a favored lady-in-waiting (where, as Saunders ironically has her think, “her life would never be bad again”). When a figure from Gray’s past re-appears and threatens her with blackmail, she is almost relieved when Mary gives her an assignment to go undercover and spy on the machinations of John Knox.

Saunders expertly merges that plot-line into the forward momentum of Mary’s larger story, culminating in her long captivity in England and the many plots that grew up around her as Queen Elizabeth’s prisoner. Readers see the familiar saga of Mary’s life from the unusual viewpoint of Charlotte Gray, and Saunders keeps the whole narrative moving along at a confident pace, although he too often resorts to purple prose, breathless dialogue, and repetitive descriptions. The paperback is a beautiful little thing, beautifully produced.