The Queen’s Letters by Jen Black
With regret I reached the end of this exciting tale of intrigue and adventure, brilliantly coloured by Jen Black’s strong sense of period. In this novel we are taken to France, Scotland and England in the time of Henry Vlll and the details of daily life which she has so well researched convinced me I was actually there with her all the way.
Her hero, Matho Spyrston, is no stereotype adventurer but a living breathing character who has appeared in earlier books and whom we are happy to meet again as he undertakes a dangerous mission to deliver the Queen’s letters.
Journeys always make for fascinating reading and Jen takes us with Matho and the delightful youth Jehan through sixteenth century France at a time of intermittent warfare. Intertwined with his story is that of Meg Stewart and the Earl of Lennox whom we have also met before, both of whom had previous dramatic dealings with Matho and now provide the fitting climax to this novel as old scores are settled.
The different strands are cleverly woven together and the tensions between the warring factions within the Scottish court keep the drama at a high pitch throughout. Matho has to escape many life threatening situations but they develop plausibly, not at all in James Bond fashion, and the love interest with Agnes de Guise is similarly handled, realistically, because she too is an inconsistent, believable human being. There is also a wealth of other characters from cruel cardinal to cheerful stable boy. Jen brings to life everyone who has a part in her story however small and I find this one of the most delightful features of her writing.
I can heartily recommend this novel as an enjoyable and rewarding read.