Apprentice Spy

by Martin Lake

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When young actor Thomas Mapperley faces dire punishment for seducing the daughter of an aristocrat he is saved by an unlikely champion, Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth.

Mapperley is soon dispatched to the Low Countries where William, Prince of Orange is engaged in a deadly struggle against the powerful forces of the Spanish Crown. If he loses the war, the Low Countries will remain part of the Spanish Empire. If he wins, the Low Countries may become a new nation.

Mapperley finds he is both pawn and player in the turbulent times ahead, captured by the Spaniards, used as an agent by William and finally witnessing the terrible sack of Antwerp, the wealthiest city in Europe. And every moment, his life hangs in the balance.

Perhaps being a spy was a bad move. Perhaps he should have remained an actor.


A thoroughly enjoyable tale of a period/topic of history that was unfamiliar to me. The Dutch versus The Spanish for control of the low countries of Europe. Thomas is an actor, but once he’s ‘drafted’ into the realm of Walsingham’s spy network, he develops the skills necessary to survive what I feel is the real villain in this tale – The Spanish Inquisition. During the course of this page turning tale, Thomas and his companions (wonderful characters in themselves especially Angel) are faced with many challenges – another of the author’s strengths are the details of the places and events in this well-researched piece of European history. Emotionally charged, entertaining dialogue, and an edge of the seat drama make Apprentice Spy a pleasure to read…something I’ve come to expect from this author and I have yet to be disappointed. 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐


by Judith Arnopp (Goodreads Author), Cryssa Bazos (Goodreads Author), Anna Belfrage (Goodreads Author), Derek Birks (Goodreads Author), Helen Hollick (Goodreads Author), Amy Maroney (Goodreads Author), Alison Morton (Goodreads Author), Charlene Newcomb (Goodreads Author), Tony Riches (Goodreads Author), Mercedes Rochelle (Goodreads Author), Elizabeth St. John (Goodreads Author), Annie Whitehead

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Betrayal, treachery, treason, deceit, perfidy—all names for the calculated violation of trust. And it’s been rife since humans trod the earth.

A promise broken
A mission betrayed
A lover’s desertion
A parent’s deception
An unwitting act of treason
Betrayal by comrades
Betrayal by friends

Could you resist the forces of misplaced loyalty, power hunger, emotional blackmail, or plain greed? Is there ever redemption, or will the destruction visit future generations and even alter history? These questions are still with us today.

Read twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore these historical yet timeless challenges from post Roman Britain to the present day.

AD 455—Roman leader Ambrosius is caught in a whirlpool of shifting allegiances
AD 940—Alyeva and cleric Dunstan navigate the dangers of the Anglo Saxon court
1185—Knight Stephan fights for comradeship, duty, and honour. But what about love?
1330—The powerful Edmund of Kent enters a tangled web of intrigue
1403—Thomas Percy must decide whether to betray his sovereign or his family
1457—Estelle is invited to the King of Cyprus’s court, but deception awaits
1483—Has Elysabeth made the right decision to bring Prince Edward to London?
1484—Margaret Beaufort contemplates the path to treason
1577—Francis Drake contends with disloyalty at sea
1650—Can James Hart, Royalist highwayman, stop a nemesis from destroying his friend?
1718—Pirate Annie Bonny, her lover Calico Jack, and a pirate hunter. Who will win?
1849/present—Carina must discover her ancestor’s betrayer in Italy or face ruin.


As the saying goes, I’ve got good news and bad news. First the good news, of the 12 authors who contributed to this collection of glorious tales, I have had the pleasure of reading the works of 7 of them; so I knew what to expect from their tales. The bad news is that now that I have been exposed to the 5 previously unread authors, I now have 5 more authors who will undoubtedly contribute to the growth of my To Be Read pile. (Editor’s note – we realize and understand that that isn’t bad news, but the reviewer wanted to keep the 12 authors in suspense for a second or two as to the direction of this review😁) As to the stories themselves, they provide the reader with a plethora of imaginative ways, time periods, and situations where betrayal is the key element in the plot. So many different ways it reminded me of Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. Indeed the variety of traitorous behaviors is a highlight of this delightful anthology. With the stories being unrelated to each other, the reader has the option to take a breather between each tale, which given the intensity or disbelief exuding from the just finished chapter, is probably a good idea. Bollocks and damnation there’s some mighty fine storytelling ahead my fellow readers. Just be aware that your book buying budget may be the victim of betrayal by heart over mind.📚 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Drake – Tudor Corsair

(The Elizabethan Series Book 1)

By Tony Riches

Twitter Handles: @tonyriches @maryanneyarde

Hashtags: #HistoricalFiction  #SirFrancisDrake #CoffeePotBookClub



Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure.

Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune.

Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. Her unlikely champion becomes a national hero, sailing around the world in the Golden Hind and attacking the Spanish fleet.

King Philip of Spain has enough of Drake’s plunder and orders an armada to threaten the future of England.


An engaging tale of discovery and survival on the high seas, Drake navigates the sometimes turbulent oceans, and the always tricky life at the court of a Tudor Queen. Loaded with action, and characters alive with the time, the tale is much like a Letter of Marque carrying warship as it transports the reader along the story lines…primed for engagement, tacking into the wind, changing course with the twists and plot surprises. It was a perilous occupation, hunting for treasure in uncharted waters with a price on your head, and the author has provided an entertaining, page turning look at one of history’s heroes of that turbulent age. 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Buy Links

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The Queen’s Devil: (William Constable Spy Thriller series Book 3) by Paul Walker

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Publication date: 27 July 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction / Historical Thriller

Publisher: Sharpe’s Books

Print Length: 274 pages

Twitter Handles: @PWalkerauthor @maryanneyarde

Hashtags: #TheQueensDevil #HistoricalFiction #CoffeePotBookClub



William Constable, recently married astrologer and mathematician, has settled into routine work as a physician when he is requested to attend two prisoners in the Tower of London. Both are accused of separate acts treason, but their backgrounds suggest there may be a connection.

Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley urge William to discover further intelligence from the prisoners while tending their injuries from torture.

The agent’s investigations lead him to the French Embassy, which lies at the heart of a conspiracy which threatens the nation.

Through his enquiries, an unsuspecting William becomes entangled in a perilous web of politicking and religious fervour.

The threat comes from one the most powerful men in the English court – one referred to as the Queen’s Devil.

William faces a race against time to unpick these ties, climaxing in a daring raid on the Embassy.


Let me start by saying that now that I have read The Queen’s Devil, the third William Constable book, I will certainly be reading the first two. The Queen’s Devil is a thrill ride of a mystery, full of interesting, well thought out characters, set in the period involving Elizabeth’s issues with Mary Queen of Scots. Issues that threaten her reign, and which drag the protagonist back into the clutches of the kingdom’s spymaster, Walsingham. The tale moves at a very satisfying page turning pace; deepening the plot as it progresses to an edge of the seat climax. One of the fascinating story lines involves the discussion of the nature of the universe; a discussion that has dire consequences for Constable, It may seem strange to us in the modern era, that there were segments of society in the 16th century who still subscribed to a Biblical model for the Solar System, i.e. the Sun revolves around the Earth, etc, etc. and that you could be tortured and executed for promoting a scientific explanation, i.e. the Copernican model. Then again, given the response to the current COVID-19 pandemic by some governments, maybe we’re not so much more advanced than the clerics making martyrs out of Gio Bruno, et. al. 

As I said above, I will be adding the first two books to my ever growing ‘To Be Read’ pile, though they are all readable as stand alone novels, and I have a hunch that there may be more forthcoming. Good for us. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author Bio:


Paul Walker

Paul is married and lives in a village 30 miles north of London. Having worked in universities and run his own business, he is now a full-time writer of fiction and part-time director of an education trust. His writing in a garden shed is regularly disrupted by children and a growing number of grandchildren and dogs.

Paul writes historical fiction. He inherited his love of British history and historical fiction from his mother, who was an avid member of Richard III Society. The William Constable series of historical thrillers is based around real characters and events in the late sixteenth century. The first two books in the series – State of Treason and A Necessary Killing – were published in 2019. The third book, titled The Queen’s Devil, was published in the summer of 2020.

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The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St.John


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  A fascinating tale of the period when England said goodbye to the Tudors and hello to the Stuarts. The protagonist, Lucy, grows up in a household where she is treated with contempt by her guardian and by her scheming sister Barbara. In a time when women had very little say in their futures and where the intricate, backstabbing antics of the Royal Court, Lucy struggles to survive.  Married to an important member of the King’s retinue of courtiers, she finds herself living in the infamous Tower of London, the wife of the Tower Gaoler.

The author paints a vivid picture of life in the early 17th century. I was drawn in by the descriptive, and indeed the educative nature that arises from the pages. Lucy, a woman, dares to formulate and even more daring, lets her opinions known. It was indeed a world dominated by men of noble birth, not very unlike the world we live in now(substitute rich for noble). In Lucy’s words, “I so tire of these court behaviors, where the men who rule think only of their own affairs and not of those of the citizens of this land.” Words that I utter every day.

I chose to read this book not knowing much of the period, at least not from the perspective of the court of King James and his son Charles. I now know a lot more, and if there is one thing I love to do is to learn history. If I can do that and be entertained along the way, then so much the better. The author has done those things while at the same time preparing the way for a sequel. After all of the pain, anguish, fear, and even the joys of her life, Lucy emerges as one of the more interesting characters I have come across in my historical-fiction reading. 5 stars

The Queen’s Mary – In The Shadows of Power by Sarah Gristwood


Once again I venture into what is a mostly unknown time and subject to me, but that is what I love about English history; there’s just so much of it that I doubt I’ll ever be bored by it.  This is a story about the Scottish Queen Mary but it is told through the eyes of one of her ladies in waiting, Mary Seton.  The fate and fortunes of those of noble birth is always fascinating and in the case of this particular Queen, fatal.  The author kept me on my toes throughout the story as the various intrigues of the Queen; a woman who appears to be out of her depth; especially so when the men she marries turn out to be at cross purposes with the Scottish nobility.  It is also a tale that is filled with the intricacies of court life; of the lives of those who were born and raised to serve the Queen’s Majesty. In Mary Seton, the last of the four Mary’s to still serve the Queen, we find a woman in constant turmoil as to her loyalties and a desire to be free of the demands of her position. The narrative flows at a nice pace as we follow the Queen and her Marys down the path to the inevitable clash with Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England.  4 stars