To Ruin a Queen

Written by Fiona Buckley
Review by Nicole Leclerc

Fiona Buckley draws the reader into the story with her lively and fluid first-person narration: “The journey that took me from the Château Blanchepierre, on the banks of the Loire, to Vetch Castle on the Welsh March began on April 4, 1564, when I snatched up a triple-branched silver candlestick and hurled it the length of the Blanchepierre dinner table at my husband.” This is the voice of Ursula Blanchard, former spy to Elizabeth I, now married to a man who supports Marie Stuart’s claim to England’s throne. Ursula sets out for England only to be trapped once more into the service of the Queen. Philip Mortimer hopes to regain his family’s former power by threatening to blackmail Elizabeth. Ursula embarks on a series of adventures and perils in order to defuse the menace that could ruin the Queen.

Buckley’s tale of political and personal intrigue is well structured, satisfyingly complex and action filled. Her characters have many facets which render them quite believable. The historical details are smoothly incorporated into the story.
I strongly suggest that this series be read in order, since the numerous references to past events made it difficult for me to get my bearings. Ursula occasionally proffers feminist ideas that sounded too modern to my ears, and her relationship to men is also confusing. She is attracted rapidly to many of them, and it never feels like she loves the husband waiting in France. These were for me the weakest and less credible parts of the book. Still, this is a very satisfying page-turner.