My first thought on this book is that the title is misleading, because although the book is set in the reign of Mary Tudor, it’s not really about Mary Tudor at all. It’s the second in a series (I didn’t know that until after I read it, but I can see where there’s a lot of room for the prequel and subsequent sequels) about the fictional Thornleigh family, who live through the roller-coaster ups and downs of religious and political changes in Tudor England.
The main character in this book is young Isabel Thornleigh, a young girl engaged to be married, who thinks she knows what her future holds. But the future takes some very unexpected twists and turns when Sir Thomas Wyatt raises a rebellion against Queen Mary and her plan to marry Philip of Spain. Isabel’s family is torn apart, secrets about her parents’ past she had never guessed are revealed, and she ends up spending a lot of time with a handsome Spaniard, at which point the story occasionally descends into romance-novel cliches that I found a bit predictable and irritating.
Other than that, though, this was a good, fast-paced story that, like Vanora Bennett’s Figures in Silk and similar novels, illuminated the events of a turbulent historical era through the lives of the common people rather than their rulers.
A parenthetical note to my fellow writers, especially those struggling with publication: it’s worth taking the time to read Barbara Kyle’s story, on her website, of how this book and her previous novel came to be published — and then republished. It would be hard to find a story that better captures the vagaries of the publishing business. I’m glad her story had a happy ending, and I would be interested to read more of her Thornleigh books.