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The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner

Posted By Claire on February 8, 2011

The Tudor Secret C W Gortner

US version

“The Tudor Secret” is the latest novel from C W Gortner, author of “The Last Queen” and “The Confessions of Catherine de Medici”, and I was excited about reading it when I heard that it was actually the first book in a series called “The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles” and was described as being “filled with intrigue”. Intrigue, spies, danger, and all at the Tudor Court – just what I want to be reading on a cold, dark winter’s night!

The book was wonderful, I read it in one weekend and have been busy recommending it to friends and family. The main character is twenty year old man, which makes a change from the usual Tudor woman, and we follow this man, Brendan Prescott, as he travels to the court of Edward VI to serve Robert Dudley, son of John Dudley, the most powerful man in Tudor England in the Summer of 1553. Brendan is a “foundling”, a man who knows nothing of his real parents, and who has been brought up in the household of the Dudley family. His loyalty ought to lie with the Dudley family, as he has been ordered to court by Lady Dudley and he serves her son, but the Summer of 1553 is one of conspiracy and betrayal and soon Brendan finds himself acting as a double agent and meeting men like William Cecil and Francis Walsingham and the woman they serve, the enigmatic Elizabeth Tudor, who has come to court worried about the health of her half-brother, Edward VI.

We all know the real story of that fateful summer, but who are the real ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ at the Tudor Court in 1553? Is Edward being controlled and being forced to make certain decisions against his will? What is Lady Dudley’s hold over the Grey family? Who exactly is Brendan Prescott? And who can Brendan really trust? This is what you will be asking yourself as you journey through this gripping novel, as you get caught up in the dangerous world of the Tudor Court, as you pray that Brendan will survive the many perils he is faced with. It is a wonderful page turner and Gortner is a fantastic wordsmith – his descriptions are vivid and he has an amazing talent for bringing the historical characters to life, for example, his description of  Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk:-

“Metallic eyes bore into me. She must have been handsome at once, before inactivity and overindulgence at the table had taken their toll. The phantom of a once-robust beauty could still be discerned in the tarnished auburn hair coiled under her enormous jeweled headdress, in the strong line of her aquiline nose, and in the pampered translucence of her skin, which was taut and white, without blemish or wrinkle.

But it was her eyes that transfixed me; cruel, appraising, and appallingly shrewd, those eyes belied the indifference of her expression, tyrannical as only those born to privilege can be.”

Wonderful writing!

UK version

UK version

If you have read my reviews of historical novels before, you’ll know that I look for 3 main ingredients in such a book:-

  1. Is it “unputdownable”?
  2. Does it make you want to research the characters more?
  3. Is it believable?

This book fulfils all three criteria. It gripped me and kept making me want to read “just one more chapter”, it made me want to find out more about the Dudley family and characters like Barnaby Fitzpatrick, a loyal friend of Edward VI, and it was believable in that it was based on the events of 1553 but just made the reader look at them in a new and different way. “The Tudor Secret” is not just an historical novel, it is a fast-paced thriller, and I just can’t wait for the next book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles!


“The Tudor Secret” was released on the 1st February by St Martin’s Press in the USA and by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK. Click on the relevant book cover (UK or US) to order your copy from Amazon.

Here’s the video trailer for “The Tudor Secret”:-


3 Responses to “The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Looks really intriguing! As do his other novels! It’s great that it’s a series…another couple of books to go on to my ever growing book list! 🙂

  2. Lisa H says:

    I’ve just found Gortner’s books and am currently comparing a sample of his “The Last Queen” (about Juana la Loca, Catherine of Aragon’s sister) with 2 other books about Juana I. As you say, he is very descriptive and pretty un-put-downable.

  3. […] coming out since being completely gripped by the first book, “The Tudor Secret” – click here to read my review of that one. Just like the first book, this book has all the right ingredients […]

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