A Marriage Made in Secret by Jenni Fletcher
Isabella, Princess of France and Queen of England, known as the She-Wolf, will stop at nothing to regain her rightful place and stop her tyrannical husband, Edward II. Even invade England at the head of an army, if need be. For those of lesser power caught in Isabella’s wake, these are turbulent waters indeed.
Mathilde is only one of the queen’s ladies because the king owed her father a favour. Poor and dowerless, she is overlooked by everyone… except the queen herself who sees potential for a loyal servant in a girl who only wants to be loved, and draws Mathilde into her web, which throws Mathilde into the way of Henry Wright, spy and illegitimate relation of Roger Mortimer, the queen’s powerful lover. The two are immediately attracted to one another, but trust is a precious commodity in the queen’s court, and they both have too much to lose - including their lives - to take risks. They are pawns to be sacrificed or crushed if necessary, and they’re both well aware of it.
What I particularly like about this is that it plays out over quite a few years, time in which Mathilde and Henry get to see each other only rarely. The trust between them builds slowly, and even when circumstances put them on opposite sides for a while, you can see it’s still there in the choices they make. It had to play out the way it did - Henry’s choices in particular - for them to have any hope of a happy ending, but by the end I really did believe in that happy future for them.
Jenni Fletcher has masterfully woven this romance between two fictional characters into real events, sympathetically handling people not always treated kindly by historians, giving insight into them as real people with reasons for behaving the way they did. She steps delicately around some pretty gruesome events such as Roger Mortimer’s death, making it clear that it was gruesome without putting the awful details on the page. It’s very well done. There is plenty of potential for more books set in the same ‘world’ - I’d love to see a romance featuring suave King’s man Nicholas de la Beuvriere, for example!
A fantastic Plantagenet-era romance from one of my favourite medieval romance authors, this is getting a well-deserved five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title from the author.