In this part of Laura Andersen’s historical AU, England is in trouble, a war with Spain is brewing. Since Elizabeth and Philip divorced each other tensions have reached dangerous levels. Mary Queen of Scots managed to flee England at the end of the last book and has now married Philip. The monarchs have chosen Ireland as their first battle ground. There has been war there for years but this is the first time Spain is getting involved to defend the Catholics. The atmosphere and tone is so well set. It feels not just real but almost as if it is history.
“Fortunately we are English. We are not easily seduced by beauty.”
Stephen Courtenay is sent to fight with some of his father’s men. But while there he meets a vile and ruthless English officer who orders the slaughter of an Irish town, including all the women inside. Stephen manages to save the female prisoners and tries to escort them to a more honourable Lord. But his camp is taken by surprise in the night, they slaughter the women and most of Stephen’s men. Stephen was found by English soilders and taken to safety, he was injured but managed to survive. When he got home he had PTSD and tried to drink the intrusive thoughts and the pain away.
The Courtenay’s are worried about Stephen but the person that gets through to him and helps him is Julian, Lucie’s husband, who we met in the last book. They trained together to build up Stephen’s strength and help him mentally too. Stephen wanted revenge, he was sure that it was an the horrible English officer that ordered the attack on him. He decided to go under cover in Ireland to help Elizabeth and enact his revenge.
“How often does a woman get the chance to answer the crimes against her? I have that chance and I will not forsake it.”
Meanwhile the twins and their parents travel to Spain to visit King Philip on behalf of Anabel who can’t risk her own safety, even to visit her father. I really enjoyed reading more about the twins, Kit and Pippa’s, relationship. Pippa has some psychic abilities but when it comes to her brother they can both read each other’s thoughts and feel what the other is. “Kit narrowed in on the intangible thread that bound him to his sister. It was as delicate as silk and as durable as diamonds, the finest, brightest part of him.”
Although lots of history are changed in the books, some elements are still very accurate. The political climate was this difficult for Elizabeth to navigate in real life, she walked the fine line between Protestant and Catholic.
“That meant they held all the cards. And that was the only way Elizabeth liked playing.”