Review

The Tudor Conspiracy

by C. W. Gortner

Picking up where THE TUDOR SECRET left off, THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY drops readers back into the intrigue of the Tudor court and the rivalry between two sisters who both want to wear the English crown.

Brendan Prescott is enjoying the quiet life with the love of his life, Kat, hoping to put the past behind him by building a new future. When Cecil, the old spymaster who pulled Brendan into his web months earlier, pays a visit, Brendan feels his calm life slipping away. It turns out his instincts are correct, as there is news of a fresh danger to Princess Elizabeth. Brendan fears that everything he’s been struggling to overcome and forget has now come back to haunt him. Agreeing with Cecil’s assessment of the situation, Brendan consents to go to court to help Elizabeth. Unfortunately, he must do so while pretending to be working as a spy for her half-sister, Queen Mary, who wants to do nothing more than throw Elizabeth in the Tower and forget about her. With a royal marriage to be announced between Mary and the Catholic prince of Spain, Philip, the little game is now a matter of life and death --- and not just for Elizabeth, but also for her ardent followers.

"Is this series worth reading? Yes, if you want a new perspective on the Tudor court and a glimpse at a not-so-sisterly rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see how the next book in the series takes shape."

As before, Brendan walks a tight line. He needs the Queen and her cohorts to believe and trust him while he does all he can to help Elizabeth. With talk of a rebellion making its rounds among court favorites, his timeline keeps shrinking. Elizabeth wants him to leave her alone to fight her own battles, but he can’t abandon her, even when he should. Along the way, he fights a few demons of his own, real and imagined.

Brendan is still a bit of a blunder when it comes to the spying game. I like him, but I began to wonder why anyone would want this guy helping out. Yes, he’s loyal, almost to a fault, but he doesn’t always see the connections that others do at court, which makes him a hazard to a degree. Having stayed away for so long, Brendan isn’t able to ingratiate himself easily in court circles, leaving him no room for mistakes. He has a knack for quiet observation, but there’s only so much that’s going to get him. In the end, he learns a few valuable lessons about the game he plays.

I do like that this story is told from an outsider’s perspective, an element I also enjoyed in the first book of the series. Telling the story from Brendan’s perspective makes so much of the court intrigue seem silly, and the rivalry that is so important to one person just comes off as trite. It helps that Brendan doesn’t buy into any of it either, but that’s also a bit of a downfall for him. You see what’s going on as the reader, even though he doesn’t. It does add a nice bit of tension to the story.

Is this series worth reading? Yes, if you want a new perspective on the Tudor court and a glimpse at a not-so-sisterly rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see how the next book in the series takes shape. Author C. W. Gortner leaves it open with several moral dilemmas on the table for Brendan. I’m aware of the sisters’ fates, but what happens to the spy is the story I want to keep reading.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on August 9, 2013

The Tudor Conspiracy
by C. W. Gortner