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Queen Without a Crown

An Ursula Blanchard Mystery
. 978-1-78029-014-0. M
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Burned out on secret-agent missions assigned by Queen Elizabeth I, spy and lady-in-waiting Ursula Blanchard (The Siren Queen), nonetheless attacks two new cases with verve. It is November 1569, and the Scots are cooking up trouble. Elizabeth wants Ursula to sniff out possible traitors by visiting targeted sites near the border. The queen knows Ursula is already working on a case for a young royal messenger named Mark, who is desperately in love and needs to clear his late father's name. The father was wrongfully accused of a poisoning death some 20 years ago, and only proof of innocence will satisfy the parents of Mark's intended. Surprisingly, Ursula gets a break in this cold case from a portrait artist. If Ursula can find the portrait of Mark's father, she might save Mark from a broken heart. Since the painting is probably in a home near the Scottish border, she combines her two missions. Before long, the clever and gutsy Ursula is riding for her life.
VERDICT Abundant foreshadowing, exciting action, and well-drawn characters make Buckley's ninth entry in her romantic suspense series stand tall. Readers might also enjoy Peg Herring's series featuring a younger Elizabeth. For female-led intrigue from other time periods, also consider Miriam Grace Monfredo or Carol K. Carr.

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