I was complaining recently about wanting more Tudor-era stories by new-to-me authors, and now another one has come along. This book is the sixth in a series, but stands up very well as a novel in its own right, neither leaving me puzzled as to who the main characters were nor overwhelming me with a vast array of minor characters dropping in simply to let readers of the whole series know their favourites from previous books are getting along okay. Add to that a heroine who knows exactly what she wants and works to get it, regardless of what the men around her think, and a slice of European history that I could do with knowing more about, and you’ve got a great set-up for a gripping read.
Fenella is Scottish by birth but was forced to flee her home after a series of unfortunate incidents in her youth. Having settled in the Netherlands, she and her new Dutch husband were successful shipbuilders until the Spanish invaded the country. After Fenella’s husband is killed, she flees to the Channel Islands with her wounded father-in-law, where she re-establishes her business and listens anxiously for news of the ongoing fighting against the Spanish by both Dutch and English forces. Then an English privateer limps into port with Spanish prisoners and Fenella is reunited with two men from her past, only one of whom she’s glad to see.
Having dealt with the unwelcome visitor – one of the Spanish generals responsible for her husband’s death – Fenella joins forces with Adam to return to the occupied lands, where both have family and friends they need to help, as well as treasure to retrieve. The growing attraction between the pair is overshadowed not just by the continuing machinations of Adam’s estranged wife, who has stolen his children from him after aiding a group of English rebels in an attempt on the life of Queen Elizabeth, but also by more figures from Fenella’s past. Many of the latter are now fighting on the side of the Dutch rebels, although at least one appears to have joined the conflict on the other side.
Fenella and Adam, however, are firmly on the side of the Dutch rebels, and both soon find themselves involved in various sections of the fighting, along with facing multiple brushes with death.
The book moves along at a cracking pace, and while Fenella and Adam spend much of it involved in separate adventures, the bond between them is obvious. There’s action and suspense by the bucketload, and at times the fear that one or both might not make it to the end of the book had me torn between wanting to read on and fearing the worst if I did so. My only tiny niggle is that the greatest non-life-threatening obstacle to Fenella and Adam’s happiness is overcome a little too conveniently in the book’s wrap-up chapter, but all in all this was a smashing novel, and I definitely want to investigate other books in the series.
1572. Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is scattered about the continent, plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands, the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. . .
Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances–and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember.
With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history’s grimmest chapters. The Queen’s Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age where love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.
Read an excerpt.