The Enterprise of England by Ann Swinfen

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Against the backdrop of Spain’s designs to conquer England, Kit Alvarez is once again called upon to assist Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham.  The Spanish are building an enormous navy and are positioning troops across the channel in The Netherlands.  A mission to Amsterdam to gather intelligence for Sir Francis finds Kit becoming ever more resourceful in this rather new and dangerous occupation.  Kit’s main occupation as a healer is also wonderfully depicted, from the everyday ills to the horrors of war made injuries, the author’s research shines through.  What I find so intriguing is the ability of the author to reel me into the story in such a way that any interruption of my reading is met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.  Another intriguing facet is that Kit’s two life secrets remain intact, although one of them may be known to someone…someone with a lot of power.  4.7 stars   Oh yeah, I see a pattern developing as this second book in the series ends like the first; with a tantalizing last sentence.  🙂

The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez by Ann Swinfen

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My favorite period to read about in historical fiction will always be of the ancient world; the great civilizations that helped form the modern world into what it is today.  But it seems that I have been subtlety swayed into the history of Britain, from the post Roman age, the Normans, Crusades, War of the Roses, Civil War, and now into the reign of arguably England’s finest Monarch, Elizabeth, daughter of arguably one of the worst, Henry VIIIth.  There is a plot afoot to assassinate  the Queen, one that involves Mary, Queen of Scots.  Enter her ‘spymaster’ Francis Walsingham and his network of spies and codebreakers.  Christoval (Kit) is training to be a doctor but is also an accomplished breaker of codes and that comes to the ears of Walsingham who enlists Kit’s help, first as a codebreaker and gradually as an agent/messenger/forger for the good of England.  This is mostly done against Kit’s wishes but there aren’t many who can say no to the powerful spymaster; especially since another member of the spy network knows a secret about Kit, one that will certainly ruin Kit’s life.  However, that is not the only secret that Kit harbors; there is also the matter of religious affiliation, being Jewish in Portugal was fine until the Spanish introduced a quaint custom called The Inquisition.  So, Kit and family escape to England yet even in London they must practice their faith in secret.  The tale is an exciting one, one of those that is hard to put down in order to fix dinner or let the dogs out; in other words, the pages refuse to let go of the helpless, but entertained reader.  Along with the main plot, the reader is given a look into what life was like in London late 16th century, including the rough life of those who choose to entertain from the stage.  That is one thread I am looking forward to continuing in the sequel as this has the makings of a tumultuous time for Kit (I can say no more.), well that and the sentence that the book ends with.  🙂    4.4 stars

Very Like A Queen by Martin Lake

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I was privileged to get an advance copy of this, the sequel to A Love Most Dangerous.  I have enjoyed reading many of the author’s books but to me his best work thus far has been the two on the life of Alice Petherton, the marvelously created favorite mistress of King Henry VIII of England.   In the world of coincidences, a Facebook group that I belong to posed the question of which fictional character you have read comes most to life for you?  I read a lot of historical fiction and have met many great fictional characters, Fronto from SJA Turney’s Marius Mules series,  Blaise de Garsenc from A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay, etc and I now include Alice.  Martin Lake’s portrayal of a woman caught in the machinations of Henry’s court and who survives that tortuous road is brilliantly done; so much so that for me she lives and breathes in my mind even after I finished the book.  That is not to say his other characters are second class, on the contrary, his Henry, Thomas Cromwell and the others make this book a very special read.  I had 5 stars in mind after the first couple of chapters and that thought never wavered throughout.  I am hoping that Martin Lake has room in his pen and/or keyboard for more of her story.