All the Queen's Players
Jane Feather
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Buy *All the Queen's Players* by Jane Feather online

All the Queen's Players
Jane Feather
382 pages
April 2010
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In 1586, Queen Elizabeth’s house and realm continued to flourish. To maintain that state, much was required; an intricate web of unexpected spies playing their parts, constant intelligence from all over Europe, and knowledge of all the spies little peccadilloes to ensure their loyalty. Even so, no other could have ensured the safety, success, and loyalty to Realm, Crown, Queen and Faith as could the ultimate conductor, Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham.

The imprisoned Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart, instigated countless attempts on Queen Elizabeth’s life and crown from her disadvantaged position under lock and key. The continued war of the faiths fueled challenges to Elizabeth and attempts to raise Mary to the throne. Religion masked the emplacement of spies in her midst and targeted the unfortunate — who, with a little a coaxing from Walsingham’s well-placed men, found themselves entrapped by All the Queen's Players and tried as traitors to the Queen.

Rosamund Walsingham is thrown into this world of spies and death with little choice and many disadvantages. As the cousin of Sir Walsingham, she is made junior lady-in-waiting to the Queen - a prestigious position, but also a dangerous one. In the world of the courtiers, her naivety and quick complacency have disastrous results; jealousy, manipulation and social status are everything to everyone.

Rosamund possesses impressive artistic skill for drawing with complete accuracy and detail things she has seen around her. She need only see it once and quickly for the memory and image to be ingrained on her mind — her ink and quill do the rest. Like any true artist, her love for art extends beyond her own media. When she discovers the playhouses in the company of her brother and his lover, Christopher Marlowe, she’s absolutely hooked.

William — courtier, lover of plays, and would-be playwright — is Rosamund’s perfect match. Together they find the plays and true love; sadly, their carelessness also seals her fate. There are no friends when the real hope is to remove the competition; when information doesn’t add up, Rosamund is jubilantly betrayed to the Queen in hopes of getting rid of her.

The ranks of Sir Walsingham’s spies have swelled in numbers as of late with the addition of Christopher Marlowe and the young courtier William. The noose has been closing in on Mary Stuart, but with Queen Elizabeth so set against signing her death warrant, Mary must be caught red-handed. As Sir Walsingham’s niece and talented in ways that few can claim, Rosamund’s disgrace is the perfect excuse for removing her from the Queen’s service and putting her to good use in his spy service, with a long, nasty task ahead of her.

This simple girl with a love of the arts now faces a life in prison, on her guard at all times, trying to wheedle her way into the trust and heart of one who has power while living a charade as somebody and something she isn’t. Her heart is lost somewhere in England with her William, her soul hurting with the knowledge of what her actions would do to the life of another. Rosamund yearns for the simple pleasures of the playhouses and their delights. Even when her time of service is finally done, who can say what Sir Walsingham and Queen Elizabeth will decide upon her fate.

All the Queen's Players is one of the most engrossing reads to date this year. With a phenomenal plot and rich in love, a perfect amount of strife, a rollercoaster of drama and charged character depth, this novel should join the ranks of Jane Feather's others and be put in for an award. Feather is the author of over twenty bestselling books, including the Cavendish Square Series. All the Queen's Players is comparable to works such as The Other Boleyn by Philippa Gregory and The King’s Daughter by Barbara Kyle.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Sonia R. Polinsky, 2010

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