I came across The Tudor Secret while I was browsing the library's new books. It's supposed to be a mystery set in Tudor England and since mysteries and historical fiction are two of my favorite lighter genres, I was intrigued.
The narrator is Brendan Prescott, a foundling taken in and raised in the household of the Duke of Northumberland. The most famous member of that family (or at least the only one that rang a bell for me) was his son, Robert Dudley, who was a longtime suitor of Elizabeth I. The Duke of Northumberland's youngest son, Guilford, was married to Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VII's younger sister, Mary. Jane was (arguably) queen of England for nine days between the death of Edward VI and the accession of Mary I.
Brendan comes to court in the last days of Edward VI to serve as a squire to Guilford and is recruited by William Cecil to help advance the interests of Elizabeth. For his part, Brendan is interested in both helping Elizabeth, who he meets briefly on his first night at court when Robert sends him to deliver a ring, and discovering his origins.
Certain parts of the book were easy to anticipate, since it did fall back on predictable tropes. A young man with no family history taken in by a powerful family (even as a lowly servant) and educated beyond his apparent class by a caring guardian? There's definitely more to that story. There were also a few predictable sequences. And, of course, if you don't know how the plot to place Jane Grey on the throne ends, you evidently weren't paying attention in history class.
In spite of all that, though, Gortner does a pretty good job not being too predictable. Even though Brendan's parentage becomes partially obvious by chapter seven, the exact identity of his parents was a twist...one that isn't even resolved by the end of the book.
Gortner left a few things unresolved, though the ending definitely didn't feel incomplete or rushed. When I read in the interview at the end of the book that this was going to be the first in a series of novels with Brendan as a spy, I was excited to read more.
I'm a fan of Tudor books, though I generally prefer to read stories set in the reign of Henry VIII. The Other Boleyn Girl was probably the catalyst, though I don't particularly care her books because I feel that she generally vilifies certain characters to an exaggerated extent resulting in very two dimensional characters. To give Gortner credit, I didn't particularly see that in this novel...with a couple of possible exceptions, but even then, I feel like there was at least some groundwork laid and some historical basis.
The Tudor Secret is hardly heavy fiction and isn't the sort of novel that leaves you thinking after you finish it, but it was interesting and seems to be fairly well-researched. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys Tudor fiction and wants an interesting read.