On her way to being presented at court, Catherine Moor fights back with spirit when she is attacked in a teeming London street. Tales of Cat’s adventure reach the queen, who — impressed with the young woman’s lively mind — claims her as a lady of the bedchamber.
Author: Anne Herries
ISBN: 0-373-30511-7 (Harlequin Historical)
Finished/Tossed: 4 July 2007
Who: Catherine Moor and Sir Nicholas Grantly
When: September 1560; 1571-1573
This is the second book in The Elizabethan Season mini-series. Elizabeth has been on the throne for approximately 12 years. It is the “summer” of her reign, a time that sees the exposure of the Ridolfi Plot, execution of the Duke of Norfolk, the massacre of Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Eve, Francis Drake setting off to the Americas to plunder Spanish shipping, and, of course, her advisors attempting to marry her off to the duc d’Alençon.
The hero of this book is Sir Nicholas Grantly, younger brother of Harry Grantly. Harry died in Italy while on his Grand Tour with Oliver Woodville (hero of Maid of Honor). His brother’s death still haunts him. Though initially an idle courtier, he agrees to work with Walsingham to uncover plots against the queen. He is returning from one such mission when he first meets Catherine Moor, the heroine.
At first, Catherine believes he’s nothing more than a rogue, having seen him laughing at much-tormented actors in a village square. He comes to her aid twice, once on the road to London and then again when she and her father are set upon by thieves. Nick’s flirtatious behavior has her on her guard. She has decided that she rather stay unmarried, caring for her father, and will only agree to a marriage if it’s a love match. Just when his behavior toward her make her think that she might mean more to him than a casual flirtation, Nick leaves London without a word.
On a mission for Walsingham, Nick is gone longer than he expected. He can’t stop thinking about Catherine and comes to realize that she is the only one for him. He fears that she may have long since married. All that he can hope for is that she’s still free and that she might be interested in him. He has no idea just how deep her feelings were when he left.
Catherine believes herself a woman scorned. Her heart is broken and her pride hurt. Having come to Elizabeth’s attention because of her bravery during the attack on her father and herself, Catherine has been a maid of honor to the queen since Nick left London. She has spent that time fending off amorous suitors, holding to her decision never to marry, and continually telling herself that she doesn’t care for Nick and that he is nothing but a rogue and flirt. Catherine is, at times, tedious in this observation of Nick. Fortunately, she never becomes a shrew. That’s Louise Montpellier’s role.
After he returns to court, Nick attempts to woo Catherine. At first, he’s puzzled by her behavior because he’s unaware of the hurt she felt when he left. During one of their verbal sparring matches, the queen commands that Nick write a play and that he and Catherine must perform in it. This provides Nick with the chance to humble himself before Catherine and prove that he is sincere. It works, but now the queen is no longer in a good mood regarding her ladies marrying.
Nick is a nice guy and never really deserves the label of rogue, at least not during the time Catherine is acquainted with him. He must keep up the charade at court as his job is a secret (the queen knows, of course). There are several instances in the book, besides the times he comes to Catherine’s aid, depicting Nick’s acts of kindness to others. Nick thinks himself ambitious, but he comes across as a man determined to learn what really happened to his brother, and his association with Walsingham is a means to an end. Not that he doesn’t want to serve his queen. He just doesn’t come across as a person trying to maneuver for favors in court. Serving the queen and keeping her happy are just survival tactics.
The mystery, which is carried over from Maid of Honor, is still unresolved by the end. However, a little more light is shed on the character of Bevis Frampton, and we now have more of a motive. The supernatural elements are handled better in this book than in Maid of Honor. Though this makes it a better book than Maid of Honor, I will not be keeping it.
The book had me feeling nostalgic for Victoria Holt novels, especially My Enemy, the Queen.