Karen Brooks brings her historic fiction to the blog today: set in Elizabethan England and telling the tale of a young woman, daughter of an Englishman and an Italian woman, growing up in most unusual fashion. Please read on for my review of
The Locksmith’s Daughter
Mallory Bright, when first met, is just returned home to her family, in disgrace. Having had her head turned by a scoundrel and eloping for a marriage that wasn’t, she’d disgraced herself and tossed over a solid offer from a young man soon to become a lawyer. Now, she’s guilty, saddened, and a shadow of her former self: removed from the convivial relationship with the apprentices and staff of the house, a constant (yet ongoing) trial for her mother, and not comfortable or feeling particularly welcomed in the workshops of the locksmith. A place she spent many hours during childhood learning to pick locks designed to keep unwelcome eyes from the contents they protected. In fact, even for a middle-class craftsman’s home, Mallory was vastly different. Educated in the classics, languages, math and discussing politics, her best friend a young actor and playwright who was her constant companion, the fact that she was a woman, subject to the whims of the men and society that dictated her opportunities.
But, her return home after being beaten, abused and generally treated less well than one would a pig, set her on a course that would intimately weave her own skills, her mother’s refusal to forego her catholic beliefs, and her sex into the future of the country and monarch, as she came to work for Walsingham, principal secretary and spymaster for Queen Elizabeth, a man who collected information about all in the realm, with an almost fanatical zeal to rout out Catholicism, all couched under the auspices of the faith and its followers being traitorous and treacherous to the Queen. Here is where Malory truly grows and shows that limitations should simply be based in ability and not with some other nebulous standard of faith, appearance or sex, she is used by Walsingham to gather and report on information, usually to do with the “Catholic Threat”, she’s mesmerized and thirsty for the positive feedback and attention received, all things long denied her in the past few years. Skiled as a lockpick, with a familiarity in the tricks, booby-traps and construction of locks, each becoming ever-more intricate as the secrets they keep safe are more complex or dangerous to their owners.
But, an awakening comes to Mallory as she sees the aftermath of the secrets she’s helped to unlock: and her own questions start to arrive: from personal relationships and her mother’s unwillingness to shed her papist ways to her best friend Caleb’s dancing with acceptable and not with a very mercurial Queen who takes affront quickly, served by one who seems to see threats in every corner. When the tides turn yet again, and her loyalties to family and country are tested, it’s glorious to see how she maneuvers through the dangers, taking the largest chances possible, to extricate herself from the grips of the fervor that inflames the crown.
Nothing could please this history geek more than another story with a heroine, flawed yet brave, determined and clever, to work in the seediest and most treacherous place of all – the machinations around Queen Elizabeth and her court – with the threats (real and imagined) to the crown, one without clear heir, the ongoing purge of Catholicism started with her father’s (Henry VIII) schism from Rome, and the customs, descriptions, and even quick mentions of court and courtiers – Brooks has written a story that is gripping intelligent, and hopeful, even when things seem darkest. I love history and historic fiction, and the research, characters and the times just come alive in this story, and had me glued to each page and moment: smart fiction that engages and delights, perfect for that ‘sense’ of late 16th century England and the people who built lives and survived the changing tides.
Title: The Locksmith's Daughter
Author: Karen Brooks
Genre: Elizabethan, Historical Fiction, Setting: Britain
Published by: William Morrow
Published on: 31 July, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 22 Hours: 32 minutes
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From acclaimed author Karen Brooks comes this intriguing novel rich in historical detail and drama as it tells the unforgettable story of Queen Elizabeth's daring, ruthless spymaster and his female protégée.
In Queen Elizabeth's England, where no one can be trusted and secrets are currency, one woman stands without fear.
Mallory Bright is the only daughter of London's most ingenious locksmith. She has apprenticed with her father since childhood, and there is no lock too elaborate for her to crack. After scandal destroys her reputation, Mallory has returned to her father's home and lives almost as a recluse, ignoring the whispers and gossip of their neighbors. But Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster and a frequent client of Mallory's father, draws her into his world of danger and deception. For the locksmith's daughter is not only good at cracking locks, she also has a talent for codes, spycraft, and intrigue. With Mallory by Sir Francis’s side, no scheme in England or abroad is safe from discovery.
But Mallory's loyalty wavers when she witnesses the brutal and bloody public execution of three Jesuit priests and realizes the human cost of her espionage. And later, when she discovers the identity of a Catholic spy and a conspiracy that threatens the kingdom, she is forced to choose between her country and her heart.
Once Sir Francis's greatest asset, Mallory is fast becoming his worst threat—and there is only one way the Queen’s master spy deals with his enemies…
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: