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Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner

The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner
Book 1 of The Spymaster Chronicles
Previously published as The Secret Lion
Paperback, 336 pages
St. Martin's Griffin
February 1, 2011
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Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Source: Received from publisher for review
Summer, 1553: Brendan Prescott, an orphan reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family, is brought to court, where he finds himself sent on an illicit mission to King Edward VI’s brilliant, enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth.

But soon Brendan is compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil—who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth's quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder.

Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret brings this world to life from a new perspective, telling the story of a spy who becomes the protector of England's future queen.

I know it is early in the year to say this and have it carry much weight but…Best…Book…of 2011! I am calling it now. I have never been a fan of the Princess/Queen Elizabeth I but anything that C. W. Gortner writes I will read. This book was amazingly well written – I am so pleased that he was allowed the opportunity to re-release this book (previously self-published under the title The Secret Lion) and thus allow a wider audience to enjoy it. Gortner seamlessly weaves Tudor lore with a mastery of suspense – even with all of the twists and turns you don’t lose anything in this novel.

This novel was a breath of fresh air for me in regards to Elizabeth. She is an important character, certainly, but the central focus of the book is Squire Brendan Prescott. We see him quickly develop from a slightly na├»ve squire to a dashingly handsome spy. It was so refreshing to have a male central character when the genre is typically filled with the other. We get to know all of the characters a little bit, but I felt the Dudley’s were a little underdeveloped for me. But, with this being the first in a series of books, I expect that there will be a lot more character growth throughout, so this doesn’t bother me too much. It was interesting that the majority of the characters were either fictional or lesser written about which added a new spin to the story being told.

The premise of this story is set mostly in the fictional setting with historical characters and real events weaving in and out. It is amazing to me how well the author was able to blend the historical with the fictional and nothing seemed out of place. Very quickly you are swept up in the intrigue and mystery of what is happening at court. Seeing everything from the viewpoint of Prescott keeps you in the dark more often than not, but that is one of the things that keeps you hanging on to every word. This novel is very fast paced and before you know it you will be closing the cover and be unable to let out your breath. There are some crazy revelations in this novel and it was an absolute joy to read. I cannot wait for book 2!

I have to share with you this one quote that seemed to speak directly to why many of us read:

“But for me, learning became a passion. In those musty tomes I found a limitless world, where I could be whomever I wanted” (Gortner 8).

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book or watch the below book trailer?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia 

Also by C.W. Gortner

tudor conspiracy
The Tudor Conspiracy (Book 2)
[My Review]

tudor vendetta
The Tudor Vendetta
(Book 3)
[My Review]

confessions of catherine de medici
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
[My Review]

queens vow
The Queen’s Vow
[My Review]

mademoiselle chanel
Mademoiselle Chanel
[My Review]

the vatican princess
The Vatican Princess
[My Review]

the last queen
The Last Queen


Find C.W. Gortner: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Wow. I enjoyed "Confessions of Catherine de Medici". He made her seem so human. Ha. Elizabeth is one of history's characters that seems so much larger than life. She seems unreal and is very daunting to me.
    I'm super excited for the excerpt!

  2. I've always been a bit intrigued by the Dudley family, even 'tho I don't particularly like them. This books sounds wonderful, and I know the writing will be good, since I read The Last Queen and know Mr. Gortner is a talented author.

  3. Best of 2011, that's something :) I do like teh sound of this.

    Glad I came on over

  4. I just received a copy of this book, though I didn't request it. I loved "Confessions of Catherine de Medici" and "Last Queen" but I'm not sure I will like this one as I'm not that into mysteries. Your review has made me more interested in it so, I just may read it after all.

  5. I've never read this author before but I definitely would like to start with this book!

  6. Allison - Elizabeth isn't the most prominent figure in this story - but I felt like she was brought down to earth again in this book.

    Linda - I haven't known too much about the Dudley's but the whole family are major characters in this story and I am presuming the whole series to be.

    Blodeuedd - I think it might take a lot to knock this off the top of my pile. Glad you stopped by.

    Teddy Rose - It is less of a mystery and more of an espionage story (with the mystery being more of Brendan's past). I really found the format very similar to India Black. There is a guy, his female companion, and the young poor boy that helps them out of situations. You might enjoy it.

    BRNTerri - His other books are very different from this one, but they are all great- you wouldn't be remiss picking up any of them.

  7. Thank you, Heather, for your amazing review and for hosting this giveaway. I love visiting The Maiden's Court and I hope your readers enjoy THE TUDOR SECRET.

    Best of luck to all with the giveaway!

  8. Best book of the year, I can totally understand that having read his other work. I just hope the remainder of your reading year is just as good for you! What are those crazy revelations you refer too? Not that I needed encouragement but that certainly is a tantalizing hook?

    Here is my conundrum. I have an original 'The Secret Lion', which I received after years of searching but at that same time learned of the new release with the edits and rewrites. Which copy would you suggest I read first? Christopher if you check back in, I would certainly love your response.

    I just wanted to add that you and your fellow Round Table bloggers did a wonderful job with Sandra Worth's new book.

  9. I am so glad he was able to republish this book and that it will be the beginning of a series. I enjoy books of mystery and intrigue and the Tudor era certainly was filled with those. With Mr. Gortner's pen behind this book I know it will be good. I look forward to reading it and the rest of the series.

  10. Dawn - In regard to the revelations - Brendan is kinda on a quest to learn more about himself. And while he is doing his spying and such he learns things about his past that are shocking (completely fictional mind you, but still fun). From what I understand, the new version, The Tudor Secret, has an additional scene between Lady Elizabeth and Brendan that fleshes out her character and makes their interactions more pivotal. Other than that, I think it was mostly standard editing & polishing as the author says. I hope this helps! You are so lucky to have gotten your hands on one of the originals! Thanks for the compliments on the Round Table event!

    Librarypat - It was certainly full of intrigue! I hadn't really read any of the historical books like this before, but I find that now I am noticing more of them - probably because I am more tuned into it now. I am so excited for the rest of the series - I think he is working on book two currently.

  11. Omg, best book of 2011?! That's a huuuge endorsement!! I'm so especially excited now -- I've heard wonderful things about Gortner's books and am intrigued about this one! I'm a big fan of Elizabeth -- and have been less wild about a few of her portrayals so I'm curious to see Gortner's!

  12. Audra - I think it is saying something if I don't like Elizabeth normally but found her interesting in this book. If I find a better read this year, this book will still be in my top couple.


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