Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Queen's Gamble

Barbara Kyle is a great author, and this is the 4th in a series that can be read as stand alone books. The Queen's Gamble is during the second year of young Queen Elizabeth I's reign- troops have landed in Scotland and are preparing to invade England along with the French and Spain. She is being put to the test already, and many say she won't last long. Isabel Thornleigh, daughter of Honor who has been written about in the previous books, travels to England with her husband Carlos and their son Nicolas for a visit. Last Isabel had heard is that her mother was in prison and on trial for treason. She hoped with her gold that she could buy her mother's freedom. Upon arriving there, they are met and greeted by her brother Adam's wife, Frances Grenville. The Grenvilles had long been an enemy of the family, and it was because of them her mother had been tortured and was now in prison.

Isabel was surprised to see she had married her brother and was also heavily pregnant; as Frances rushed them to her parents' home she tried to tell her a little of what had been going on. Since the trip had taken a few months, a lot had happened in that time. Queen Mary had passed away, and upon Queen Elizabeth's coronation she had rewarded Isabel's mother Honor and released her from prison. Her mother was now a close friend and confidante of the new queen's, for her help she had given the Protestant cause. Isabel was overwhelmed and relieved to find her mother healthy, alive and also quite wealthy. Her father had also been knighted; the honors bestowed upon their family by this new Queen were quite impressive. During their visit, Isabel soon senses the tension in the city and discontent. She is attacked and barely saved on an outing, because someone sees her cross that she is wearing. She had spent the last 5 years in Trujillo living with her husband and son, and they had converted to the Catholic faith. Many in England were leery and violent towards those that were still Catholic. Queen Elizabeth had declared England to be a Protestant country, but of course there were always secret Catholics still practicing and worshipping in secret.

Isabel doesn't see her mother much as she is often at Court in attendance upon the Queen. They soon learn that an invasion is under way any day now, and soon Carlos is called by de Quadra, the Spanish king's envoy, to help serve the French in their military campaign against England. He feels forced to go, because their livelihood and income depend upon the goodwill of the French and Spanish. Carlos was Spanish and had grown up with no good bloodlines, and so had crawled and worked his way to where he was now- quite wealthy and respected in the New World. As he leaves, Isabel stays behind with her mother and tries talking her parents into leaving and going home with her. Matters quickly grow serious when Isabel is called upon to meet the Queen, and is asked about where her loyalties lie. She declares herself a true subject of England, and soon the queen is sending her on a mission to take gold to her troops in Scotland. The Queen keeps her son as insurance, basically a hostage until she returns.

Husband and wife are on two opposing sides, and Isabel travels for weeks to Scotland and delivers the gold. While there, she witnesses an attack and many are killed or wounded. England's small army is seriously depleted and in danger; Isabel decides to help by visiting her husband where he is stationed nearby, to spy on the enemy. Her mission is dangerous as she could be caught at any moment, and she could put her husband in danger as well. Carlos discovers what she is about and sends her away in extreme anger; as military advisor to the French he can't be seen to have an unloyal wife. Isabel leaves and ends up staying with the Grenvilles for a time, where her sister in law Frances is staying with her new baby. While there, she is privy to secret conversations and whisperings going about. The Grenvilles are plotting treason, to attack and kill Queen Elizabeth and put the Scots queen on the throne. Isabel again pretends interest and to be on their side, which is plausible because her husband is working for their side and she has been in Spain the last 5 years. When Christopher the brother discovers her snooping through his papers, he tries to kill her.

Isabel is barely saved in time by her husband who has come to make up with her- he had helped prisoners escape and so now had to flee himself. They travel back to London where they hope to warn the Queen about the plot to assassinate her. Carlos goes to talk to the French ambassador to explain his actions, and hoping to keep their home and incomes. Isabel goes ahead and waits to speak with the Queen; word had already reached them of the plot, and they arrest her on suspicion of treason. Because of her spying and pretending to be on the other side, she had actually incriminated herself accidentally. While her parents and husband strive to break her free from the Tower, she prepares herself to die. She is to hang the next day with several others; she is also pregnant. Her mother pleads with the Queen to grant her an audience, which she agrees to only because her mother's loyalty. Isabel pleads guilty so as to save her family, she did not want to risk their lives also.

Through some exciting events Isabel is pardoned and set free. Carlos and Isabel decide to stay in England as they had lost their home and incomes back in Spain because of Carlos's switch to the English side. They are granted manors and incomes in England from the Queen, as thanks for saving her life. While I have left out many details, it does seem the book is left open to another one in the series. Christopher Grenville, thought to be dead from the skirmish, may be still alive. I have read the other books in the series and it does help to understand the characters if you have read the others. I liked this book because it was exciting, dangerous and courageous. As always there are sexual scenes to avoid, but that is basically it. I am still fascinated by Queen Elizabeth and her many dimensions. Thought to not survive a second year of reign, she went on to reign for over 40 years and it was called The Golden Age. The Queen of Scotland passed away, leaving her young daughter Mary in her stead. Mary of Scots and Queen Elizabeth, cousins, were to have an 18 year long feud.


  1. I just got this at the Library!! I'm so excited to start it tomorrow! :)

  2. Oh good I hope you like it! It might be a little confusing getting to know the family's story background but it should make sense. Let me know what you think! (some sexual scenes to avoid of course).