Friday, May 3, 2013

Blog Tour Review: Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle

From the Back Cover:

Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.

Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest rival. Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign…

Compelling and inventive, Blood Between Queens artfully blends history’s most intriguing figures with unforgettable characters, bringing to dazzling life the fascinating Tudor era.

My Thoughts:

I finally got a chance to read a Barbara Kyle novel, and now I see why so many of my friends are fans. Though Blood Between Queens is the first of her novels I've read, it is the fifth installment in her popular Thornleigh series, but fortunately, not having read the previous novels was not an issue, as the story is designed to stand completely on its own. In fact, the things that happened in previous books were only touched upon, and in such a way that now I really want to go back and read those stories to see how some of the characters got to where they are in this book.

This story follows young, beautiful, fiery Justine Thornleigh as she attempts to keep her head above water, caught in the flood of secrets, plots, and intrigues afoot as Mary Queen of Scots seeks aid from her cousin Elizabeth, and as Spain attempts to exploit the situation to exert their power over England. As a ward of Baron Thornleigh, one of Elizabeth's most trusted advisors, and as a native of the north where Mary is being held and attempting to bolster support from the Catholic northern lords, she's a perfect candidate to play spy for Elizabeth's interests. It's also the perfect chance for her to prove her loyalty to the cause and to the Thornleigh family for taking her in after her father, a devout Catholic and staunch supporter of Mary, was killed after a failed attempt to overthrow Elizabeth. Though few people actually know she was born into the Grenville family, she is anxious to remove the taint her father's treason has left on her. But things begin to get twisted as Justine gets to know Mary and finds her loyalties divided--not only between Elizabeth and Mary, but between her birth family and foster family, and her betrothed. And as a fanatical plot to put Mary on the English throne threatens everything Justine holds dear, she'll have to decide once and for all what is truly important in life and where her allegiance, and her heart, truly lie.

I was impressed with Ms. Kyle's ability to deftly manage a large cast of characters within an intricate, fast-paced plot. It has quite a few high drama moments, and though some of the main plot points are fictional, it's very gripping and exciting. Because there are a lot of characters and shifting view points, and because the plot is so involved, there's not as much room for character and relationship development. But even for that, no one is portrayed in black and white. Most of the characters at one point or another are forced to confront truths they'd rather not face, and I found myself growing rather attached to a few of them, wondering what future books may have in store for them, and when I'll be able to find the time to read the first four books in the series!

When I first picked up this book, I had thought it would cover a bit more of the tumultuous relationship between Elizabeth and Mary. Justine's story takes place during a relatively short span of time after Mary has fled murder charges and a forced abdication in Scotland, seeking safe harbor and assistance in getting her crown back from England. Ms. Kyle does a great job of portraying both Mary and Elizabeth as clever, ambitious, multi-faceted women. Though there's much more history to come between them, and I'm hoping perhaps more of that relationship between the two royal cousins will be explored in a future novel. Ms. Kyle gives a much-appreciated historical preface and author's note to help set the stage for the reader and give insight into how she wove her fictional characters and story lines into factual history. Blood Between Queens is entertaining historical fiction--puts me in mind of the style of some other books on my favorites list from authors like Donna Russo Morin, Marina Fiorato, and Robin Maxwell--just the right combination of facts and fiction, subtlety and drama, and emotion and ambiance to make for a lively and compelling read.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

Blood Between Queens is on a blog tour!
Click here to view the tour schedule,
with more guest posts, reviews, and chances to win!
Click here to visit Barbara Kyle's website.

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