Suddenly Ursula finds herself at the center of the scandal, trying to protect Elizabeth as she loses her heart to a Frenchman who may be flirting with sedition against her Queen. She can trust no one, neither her lover nor her monarch, as she sets out to find the truth in a glittering court that conceals a wellspring of blood and lies.
To Shield The Queen is an Elizabethan mystery but unlike my previous read (The Poyson Garden) the detective here is one of the queen's lady's in waiting. Ursula Blanchard is a young widow, when she finds herself almost destitute after the death of her husband a post is found for her as lady in waiting to the queen thanks to the fact that her own mother was fulfilled that same role for queen Anne Boleyn.
When Ursula arrives in court it is common knowledge that the Queen and Robert Dudley, her Master of the Horse are romantically linked. Nothing inappropriate has happened but they do spend a lot of time together and since Dudley is married there is a lot of gossiping going round. Ursula is adjusting to her new duties and its obligations when Dudley, with the Queen's accent, asks her to go to his wife, Amy Robsart, and assure her that he is not trying to harm her as she, and half the court believes.
Ursula manages to gain Amy's trust and tries to convince her but the truth is that a few weeks later Amy Robsart is found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Ursula suspects murder but unable to prove it she directs her efforts to find the killers of her trusted servant John instead. While she follows the killer's trail and uncovers a plot against the queen she ends up finding out exactly what happened to Amy.
I really enjoyed reading about Ursula, she was an intelligent and strong willed woman, forced to make her own way in the world to support herself and her young daughter, but still a woman of her time with the restrictions and limitations of the period. Then I really liked that there's a true sense of history. In fact it almost feels like Buckley used the historical facts we know and believably connected all the dots, explaining what we do not know, it's always nice to have an author filling the "holes” of history so well. And then I really enjoyed the subplot and how the political and religious unrest also played a huge part in this story.
I can't wait to find out what happens next both to Ursula Blanchard!