Lady of Secrets by Susan Carroll

Heat Level 1.5 ** There is one sex scene, but it’s fairy tame by modern standards!

Historical Fiction/Romance

Stuart Era

REVIEW RATING: 5 STARS

Blurb

Queen Catherine de Medici is dead, and for Meg Wolfe—successor in a line of legendary healers and mystics known as “daughters of the earth”—it is a time of new beginnings. She strives to be ordinary, invisible in the mists of Faire Isle, and is determined to put the terrifying days of a wicked mother and turbulent childhood behind her. But soon a summons from King James will rekindle a menacing power from the past, bringing haunting visions of a nightmare already unfolding—and a shattering mystery steeped in magic that will determine a destiny from which she cannot hide.

Meg’s task: Save the king from the most insidious form of treachery, invisible to those who do not possess Meg’s extraordinary gifts. But as Meg discovers, there are more sinister motivations at play in the king’s world. Torn between two very different men whose motives and secrets are tied inexorably to her own fate, Meg learns that she can no longer trust anyone or anything—not even her own heart.

Review by Caz

I didn’t realise when I requested this title for review that it was the sixth book in Carroll’s Dark Queen series. Fortunately however, the story is self-contained so it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the earlier books.

In this story, set in late 1605, Susan Carroll has very skilfully blended together her fiction with real historical events. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, other than to say that although it becomes apparent quite early on in the novel exactly which conspiracy the principal characters become involved with, there are still many twists and turns to come as the reader begins to put all the pieces together, including one shock near the end that I really didn’t see coming.

Margaret Wolfe is a wise or “cunning” woman, known as The Lady of Faire Isle, who lives more or less as a recluse. She is a skilled healer and reputed to have other, more supernatural gifts, gifts that could easily result in her being accused of witchcraft. She is haunted by her past, specifically by the thoughts of her mother who was skilled in the dark arts and who thought to use her daughter to lead a great and terrible coven of witches who would destroy order and rule by fear. Fortunately for Meg, she was rescued from her mother’s clutches by her father and did not return to the Faire Isle until years later after her mother’s death. But she still fears an inner darkness, even as she fights against it. She has a quiet strength but will fight tooth and nail for those she loves and the things she believes in.

Armagil Blackwood is, by contrast, a mess, a n’er-do-well who drinks too much, loathes himself and cares for nothing; and Meg dislikes him intensely. But there is much more to the man beneath the rough exterior, and Meg finds herself intrigued and attracted to him as she begins to learn more about him. They make an unusual couple – the ‘white witch’ and the Oxford-educated doctor – but after a bumpy start, they fall hard for each other and the romance between them is charmingly done.

There is a well-drawn supporting cast, too – religious fanatics, mad would-be witches, and Meg’s breeches-wearing, sword-bearing friend and protector, Seraphine, who is not as tough as she seems.

The historical detail in the book is very informative without overwhelming the story, and the author has done a very good job on the picture she has painted of early seventeenth century London, with its dim and dank alleyways and less-than-salubrious lodging houses; and on the glimpse she gives us of life at the court of James I.

Overall, I found this to be an extremely engaging, hard-to—put-down book. Its mix of historical accuracy, fiction, romance and mystery was very well blended, and the ending was sweet and satisfying. I enjoyed it so much that I am now planning to read the other books in the series when I can.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

About me

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.

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