Her Last Assassin by Victoria Lamb

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Will love or loyalty conquer?

Lady-in-waiting Lucy Morgan is once again torn between her dangerous attraction to William Shakespeare and her loyalty to Queen Elizabeth I.

England is facing its gravest threat yet. The Spanish have declared war, and Elizabeth finds herself attacked by sea – and by Catholic conspiracy from within her own court. Master Goodluck goes undercover, tasked with discovering the identity of this secret assassin, leaving his ward Lucy not knowing if the spy is alive or dead.

Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth is growing old in a court of troublesome young noblemen, while Lucy is struggling to love a man whose duties lie elsewhere.

When the final challenge comes, these two women must be ready to face it. But there is one last surprise in store for both of them.

Publisher and Release Date: Random House, 27 February 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Late 1500s, England and the Low Countries
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sebina

This book is the last of a trilogy, continuing the story from the previous two books. I haven’t read either of those, so please note that my views on this book will be colored by that fact.

The story starts with one of the premier spies for the British throne, Master Goodluck, being undercover in Nieuwport in July 1588. He is one of the lead characters in this book, and he’s the one who uncovers the main plots against the British Throne. What is happening between the Spanish and the British is what sets this book in motion, dealing with espionage, power and lies which abounded at that time. Queen Elizabeth I is struggling to keep her seat of power at a time when she is aging, and young noblemen continue to want a piece of her power. It is a time of war and unrest, and the Queen is fighting a battle of safety for herself and the country she rules.

Master Goodluck has a ward, Lucy Morgan, an African born Lady-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth I. Lucy Morgan has an affair with playwright William Shakespeare, and we follow their affair throughout the story. In this book, it is a time when Mr. Shakespeare is gaining recognition and popularity. We also meet Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, who became Shakespeare’s patron. The latter’s relation to Henry Wriothesley will cause a rift between himself and his Dark Lady, Lucy Morgan.

I had a number of issues with this book.

You’re meant to care for the characters – Master Goodluck and Lucy Morgan – while William Shakespeare is portrayed as a very flawed character, hurting other people without maybe meaning to, and thinking more of himself. I considered him as a bit of a villain as I read the book, though he wasn’t really. But this was partly the problem for me. William Shakespeare is one of my favorite writers, and while we know so little about him as a person, I didn’t like the way he was portrayed. There’s something that happens between himself and Henry Wriothesley that I felt portrayed homosexuals and bisexuals in a not so positive light. Having not read the previous two books I can’t say if the author portrayed a different, maybe more positive side of homosexuality in those. I hope she did.

Now, I loved that she made William Shakespeare’s Dark Lady an African woman. It was something I thought was different from what I’ve seen of other portrayals of that character. There were Africans in Britain at this time, so it’s not as unrealistic as one might think, but I did struggle with it and, maybe, didn’t completely buy the idea of the Dark Lady as an African woman. But that’s my reaction and it might be different for other readers.

Let’s talk about the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, because here is a historical figure I thought was portrayed quite well in the book. I imagine she was not an easy character to write as she was a complicated and many-sided personality in British History. The author’s portrayal of the Queen’s aging was one of my favorite parts of this book. As a reader, you understand the Queen’s struggles as a British Monarch and her struggles to be the perfect leader in strength, intelligence and physical beauty. I felt for her as she struggled to hide her age through the use of creams and the use of jewelry, for example.

Lucy Morgan is a fictional character, so her story is more successful and freely told here. I liked her. She is a loving, caring and intelligent heroine. I preferred the scenes with her and Master Goodluck, and that was probably a very good thing, considering where the story goes… With Master Goodluck, it took me some time to get an understanding of his character. He’s elusive and a master spy, so no wonder! But I liked him from the beginning. He’s a caring person, and with those he cares about he’s honest and faithful. He’s a hero, essentially.

The romantic part of this story is a bit disappointing frankly. I struggled with the book until around half-way into it, because of the lack of a compelling love story. You feel throughout the story the problem between Shakespeare and Lucy Morgan, as Shakespeare is already married and cannot marry her. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I will say that, for those readers who love a Happy-Ever-After, they will get it, just not from where they might expect it. At least I didn’t, having not read the previous books.

All in all, I really liked the book. It had a successfully told espionage plot, and was full of adventure and intrigue. For Historical Romance readers, please note that the romance is not the main part of the story (though the love story, by the end, is really lovely). I would recommend this book more to Historical Fiction readers, looking for a story about court intrigue, espionage and adventure, with many characters and a realistic historical setting.

Sebina C.

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