The Queen's Spy by Clare Marchant
Book Review

book cover
Publication Date: 8th July 2021
Publisher: Avon
Format: Print, ebook and audio
Page Length: 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Dual Timeline


1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne. There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England. Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

My Thoughts

Tom Lutton, a deaf mute apothecary, arrives in London from France and finds employment as assistant to the royal apothecary to Elizabeth I. He gains the Queen's attention when he introduces her to the taste of vanilla, a new spice which he'd been given as payment in exchange for medical treatment.

Francis Walsingham, the Queen's spymaster, is also interested in Tom when he discovers that Tom is able to lipread – making Tom the ideal spy. Tom is wary, but is somewhat pleased that his disability and his talent for lipreading are valued. His spying assignments bring him into contact with many, but it is his involvement in the Babington plot that brings tragedy to his door.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Mathilde, an independent photojournalist, also travels from France to England curious about a letter she has received from a solicitor. Her life is turned upside down when she learns that she has inherited an old manor house together with a family she never knew existed. Her initial reaction is to sell the house and resume her solitary life, but she feels drawn to it and also the novelty of having family. Although unsettled by the atmosphere of the old house, unusual sightings and the presence that she feels strongly in the garden, it is the discovery in the abandoned chapel on the grounds that compels Mathilde to change her plans, at least until its secret is revealed.

Whilst I enjoyed both timelines, it was Tom's that was far more interesting. Life was difficult and dangerous for him with his disability, but he was very enterprising. He taught himself to lipread, made up his own signing language and also devised a code to quickly jot down the details needed for his reports to Walsingham, a fact that impressed the spymaster greatly.

I also liked the connections that Tom and Mathilde shared. Aside from journeying from France, both wished for a place to call home, safety and family. They both loved plants and even nurtured vanilla plants, which I learnt need hand-pollination to fruit successfully.

The Queen's Spy is an engaging read. With history, romance and a mystery to solve, it is sure to delight fans of Tudor fiction and those who also enjoy dual timelines.

Where to Purchase

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Meet the Author

image clare marchant
Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT, before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweller.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins, or visiting the nearby coast.

Connect with Clare:
TwitterFacebookInstagramAmazon Author Page

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  1. Thank you for hosting today's blog tour stop!

  2. Hm... why do I get the distinct impression that this is another example of an unnecessary contemporary time line? The Tudor parts sound great, the modern parts sound... forced. Oh well...

    1. The two parts did blend well. Tom's story ended sadly and Mathilde's ended happily, so a dual time frame had a benefit here.

  3. I liked this author's first book but this feels much more like all too much familiar ground.

    1. I haven't read any of her other books, so can't compare, but in the dual time frame novels I've read I usually find the historical part more interesting than the contemporary.