The Lost Duchess

Written by Jenny Barden
Review by Nancy Henshaw

England, 1586: Queen Elizabeth and all England prepare to meet the Spanish Armada, which is intent on invasion. Not one ship can be spared to cross the Atlantic Ocean to a fragile colony on the Virginian east coast, though Walter Raleigh is prepared to finance such an expedition. Emme, one of the Queen’s ladies, has been traumatised by rape. She eagerly accepts a task from Her Majesty’s spymaster, Walsingham: travel incognito on board the Lion and bring back her own report on the colony. Emme’s meeting with boatswain Kit Doonan changes her life forever as self-disgust wrestles with an attraction that threatens to overwhelm her. His life has been ruined time and again. This venture is another chance to show his abilities as a mariner and in his dealings with the native ‘savages’ – not a term of abuse, but one simply indicating the nature of their tribal society.

This is a deeply researched novel; as a stylist Barden is generous with the back story, although it is not altogether expertly handled. More importantly, in other ways the book rates with the best. The novel is easy to read, and the dedication is sure to make the author’s mother proud.