Title: The Tudor Secret
Author: C.W. Gortner
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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.
I love C.W. Gortner’s novels (reviews of The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici), so I was excited to read his latest, The Tudor Secret. The subtitle, The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, makes me suspect this will be a series, and I would welcome such a development from as talented an author as Gortner is.
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.