Jeanne, a young French exile orphaned by the wars of religion on the continent, is brought to London as a young girl disguised as a boy. Growing up, the disguise has not been shed and she finds a living as a clerk, ending up in the household of Robert Cecil. As she witnesses the intrigues and plots swirling round the court of Elizabeth I in the last days of Gloriana’s reign, she finds herself sucked into the orbit of the dashing and ambitious young favourite, the Earl of Essex. The queen draws near to the end of her life, with no heir to follow, and the stakes are high.
As Essex hurtles towards self-destruction, Jeanne finds her loyalties, her disguise and her emotions under threat – in a political climate where the least mistake can attract dire penalties.
This is a beautifully written and evocative novel, rich with the details of life and politics of Elizabeth I’s court. Jeanne’s struggle for survival and love is interwoven with her passionate pull towards the gardens she documents, a lovely and seductive backdrop to the novel.
‘Entrancing, compelling, and beautifully written…This is the historical novel as literary fiction – and damned good literary fiction at that.’ – Alison Weir