A review of To Seize a Queen by Fiona Buckley – recently published

Still an awesome series…

When a series has been going for more than 20 years and more than 20 books, I imagine it might be hard for the author to keep coming up with intriguing plots; to keep the characters feeling real while still allowing them to develop and grow; and to keep the backgrounds familiar enough to create a sense of continuity, yet still have something a bit new to draw the reader in.   But somehow, Fiona Buckley manages it all in book after book of her Ursula Blanchard series, including in the latest, To Seize a Queen.

In this case, the familiar background is still England and still the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and yet a part of England with a decidedly different feel: Cornwall, with its Celtic heritage and remote location.  Remote enough, in fact, that English citizens apparently are being snatched with impunity by pirates for the slave trade.   As we find out in the second chapter (so not much of a spoiler), Elizabeth has become aware of this, and half-asks/half-orders Ursula, her illegitimate half-sister and former spy, to investigate.   And although Ursula for once would rather just go home after her time at court, she instead heads off to Cornwall, pretending to be a cousin of one of the missing men.   Of course, mysterious goings-on and adventures (some quite scary) ensue.

But I find that I almost appreciate the smaller and somewhat timeless details in Buckley’s books more than the big sweep of the plot.  Early on, for example, Ursula disagrees with her son, Harry, over how he’s running his household, but keeps her mouth shut.  Who among us, old enough to have adult children, hasn’t done that?   And the quarrel over stabling space for her horses when Ursula first arrives at Hampton Court reminded me so much of the quarrels over parking places at work today – and in the end, got resolved the way that many such quarrels have throughout the ages, with the application of a little rank and status.   Or even simply the worries, familiar to everyone, over how to come up with enough food when unexpected guests arrive.    Each of these has its own twist for its time:  after all, Ursula’s unhappiness with Harry is over his keeping too many servants – not a problem many folks have today.   But the small details are familiar, and thus believable, and add immensely to the depth of the story.

So, on many levels, To Seize a Queen is well worth the read.   And even if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series, Buckley fills in the background well enough that you won’t be lost.  But after reading this, you may decide you need to read the previous 22 titles!    (I’m simultaneously thrilled and bummed when I find a new author this way:  thrilled to have a bunch more good books to read, but bummed when my TBR pile grows by so many titles all at once…)   And finally, it’s kind of nice to see, with this book’s title, To Seize a Queen, a nod back to the beginning of the series, when ten of the first eleven books similarly had “Queen” in the title.

You can see my reviews of some earlier books in this series here and here and here.   And my thanks go to Severn House and NetGalley for the review copy.   And I’m already looking forward to the next installment in the series!

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Kobo US | Kobo UK | Kobo Canada

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