Synopsis from Goodreads: In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, and of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…
1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…
Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.
I read an eARC from this author late last year on Richard III and his retainers, and was excited when this title showed up as my page1books BOM club offering for December 2021. I love reading Tudor and Elizabethan historical fiction and this book focuses on the story of Amy Robsart, who was married to Elizabeth Tudor’s long-time favorite, Robert Dudley. (Dudley’s younger brother, Guildford, was married off to Lady Jane Grey for that couples’ ill-fated bid for the throne after Edward VI died and before Queen Mary Tudor took control of the throne back.) Amy died at the young age of 28, found with a broken neck at the bottom of a staircase in her home while Robert Dudley was at court after Elizabeth was crowned queen. I’ve read some other stories of possible scenarios including that Robert had her killed so that he could marry Elizabeth Tudor, that Amy killed herself because she was upset that her husband ignored her and spent all his time with the Queen, and possibly that Amy was suffering from bone metastases as a result of a particularly aggressive cancer which caused her death from a fall that would not otherwise have killed her.
The two books by this author I’ve now read follow the same organization – dual timeline plots that interweave a contemporary story with a historical one. This one marries the story of Amy Robsart and Robert Dudley with a 21st century group of characters with similar names and somewhat similar personalities. There is a bit of time-jumping that occurs in this story but it is not as pronounced as some other storylines like Outlander or some of Susanna Kearsley’s books that I’ve read. (It supports the story concept but the story doesn’t revolve quite as much around the time-jumping idea in this case.)
Where I think Cornick really shines is the historical fiction storyline. She brings the manor houses, English countryside and major historical figures into sharp detail, making them interesting and accessible, and making them feel “real”. I was already interested in hearing about another possible scenario for what caused Amy Robsart’s death, so I really appreciated the historic research and background provided to support the theory presented in the book. I was less attached to the contemporary story. I actually feel like this (and the previous one I read about Richard III’s time period) would be brilliant just as purely historical fiction without the extra current-day tie-ins, and that the inclusion of the newer story does a disservice to the rest of the writing.
Overall, I found this one an enjoyable “light” read, and a good holiday weekend title to pick up for pure enjoyment, with a bit of Tudor history tossed in for good measure. Rating it 3-3/4 out of 5 stars.