Cover Image: The Royal Secret

The Royal Secret

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The fifth instalment in the James Marwood and Cat Hakesby series,  and murder and intrigue abound. Our two main characters are not on the best of terms in this one; and is Cat's head about to be turned by a tall, horsey-looking stranger? Lovely set of characters and super historical detail (who knew France's date was 10 days ahead of England's at the time?) And be warned, one character's death will probably make you cry...

Relative peace in England is balanced by the relationship of England and France but could there be plans ahead to upset that equilibrium? As Marwood attempts to solve the first murder, he finds some lost/stolen official papers which set him on the trail of  intrigue, right up to top levels.

Murder, poison, spies, deceit, intrigue, a pitiful lion, witchcraft and a good old romp in 17th Century London make this a very enjoyable read. But I really need to know if Cat ever gets paid for the work on her 'huge commission'? I look forward to the next instalment.
Was this review helpful?
Full of intrigue and twists and turns the recently widowed Cat features prominently, with some shocking scenes. Life was precarious at the court of Charles II, and Marwood hangs onto his employment by a margin. Throughly engaging.
Was this review helpful?
I love Andrew Taylor's writing and Cat and Marwood have a special place in my heart.. It was well written with well developed and likeable/dislikeable characters and a good storyline. I loved the mixed of politics and mystery. A really enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
I was left wanting more from this read. Interesting in places but the pace felt slow and felt like there was too much trying to be packed in.
Nice to read about an unusual time period.
Was this review helpful?
Murder!  Romance!  and a Lion!  - All of which make for a thoroughly entertaining and gripping read.  I find this series so interesting because of the attention to historical detail.  The accurate knowledge portrayed of London makes the characters and their actions come alive.
Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
The Royal Secret is the latest novel in the Restoration period series documenting the adventures of James Marwood, a government agent and London architect Cat Lovett. Like the others in the series it is a thoroughly engrossing read and I would recommend them all to anyone who likes historical novels set in this era.
Was this review helpful?
As this series and its characters mature, so does my enjoyment level increase. One of the factors I really enjoy is that Taylor is trying to do something a bit different with Cat and Marwood in their uncomfortable balance in their friendship. In this book both characters become involved in a spy case, but from opposite sides so to speak. I really thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gives me real pleasure to watch particularly Marwood, rise in status not only in his office but with the King- and to have the chance to see how far he’s come since the first book. It feels like cheering on an old frien
Was this review helpful?
Another wonderfully researched tale involving Cat and Marwood who at the time of this story are not on good terms. Cat has become successful in her architectual practice in Charles the Second's England and Morwood has been promoted in his employment as an agent. But, after two girls plot a death using witchcraft and a member of his office, a clerk is murdered Morwood is sent to discover the truth. Meanwhile Cat is being courted by a gentleman, who purports to be Dutch called Van Riebeech, but is he all that he seems and when the King commissions Cat to design a Poultry House for his beloved sister who is the sister-in-law to the King of France strange things happen on her journey to France to deliver it. The difference between rich and poor in seventeenth century England is brought alive in the pages and the intrigues at Court as well as between France and Holland with England are explored. Add to the tale the fact that the murdered clerk's wife is now living with her first husband's father, a wealthy merchant who is now keeping a Barbary lion in his stables and seems to be involved in different trading but what is he hiding. Again a succesful novel full of mystery and wonderfully paced. Hoping that another novel in this series is on the cards as I loved the historical setting and the two main characters.
Was this review helpful?
after a slow start with relatively unsympathetic people, and a compromised friendship (that makes things obvious for later), It all took off - I love the two detectives from previous readings of Taylor's series and his creation of a world that I can sink in to - really well done, and I'm glad I stuck it out!
Was this review helpful?
This is the second book I read in this excellent series and I loved it.
It's an excellent historical mystery, I think that James and Cat are two interesting and well developed characters.
The historical background is vivid and well researched, the mystery is solid and kept me guessing.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
I really love this series. I love old London and the characters. The plots are really well written and thought about. 
I will reread these for a longtime to come.
Was this review helpful?
Cat and Marwood are back!! I have enjoyed the previous books so much and this is another to be added to the great collection! Highly recommended. great story line as always and the chemistry between the two main characters is written about so beautifully that you can actually imagine their expressions in your mind. Great book!
Was this review helpful?
I loved the fifth book in the series. It was a direct continuation of the last book and the romance and the mystery were balanced well. The subplot with the Granddaughter was interesting but there were a couple of places this needed to be pushed further as she sometimes existed just to move the plot along and felt a little flat in these moments. I did get a bit frustrated at the romance aspect and I just want Cat and Marwood to get together properly even though the book fights this.
Was this review helpful?
Cat Hakesby has a new admirer and Marwood is disquieted.  Partly because the man is Dutch and has dubious connections, partly because he is under investigation after the death of one of Marwood's colleagues.  There seems to be a link to a merchant who lives in a house with a lion in his stable but also how does this fit in with the proposed visit of the King's sister, sister-in-law of Louis of France?
I love this series of novels by Andrew Taylor.  He has always been a terrific writer of historical fiction but this series is a joy to read.  The plots are not too convoluted but challenge the reader, the characters are brilliantly drawn and the research and understanding of Restoration London is amazing.
Was this review helpful?
Marwood and kit, a brilliant pairing..
This is the latest in the Marwood series, I have read and enjoyed them all. It is quite a long time since the first one was one was published, so I was grateful for the list of characters to help refresh my memory. The French Royal family was not easy to understand particularly Madame Orleans as she went by different names.
All of the books are intriguing with good insight into the sights, sound and smells of London.
Escapism and adventure.
Was this review helpful?
Witchcraft, murder,Royal intrigue, romance, treachery and tragedy. The Royal Secret has it all!

After two girls plot murder by witchcraft a government clerk dies in mysterious circumstances. James Marwood is asked to investigate but soon he finds himself in danger again. Meanwhile Cat Hakesby continues to work as a architect after the death of her husband. Her work attracts Royal attention, and soon she finds herself with a highly prestigious project. But all is not as it seems and soon both she and James are caught up in the machinations of court once again.

The last part of this series wasn't my favourite, truth be told (still bloody good though) so it did cross my mind that maybe these had run their course. I was very happy to find out I had nothing to be concerned about. This is the best since the first book. Taylor is always an evocative writer but this was so much so I could almost smell the blood and lion poop. Excellent stuff as always.
Was this review helpful?
A rather disappointing addition to the Marwood series.

The suspicious death of a colleague leads Marwood into an investigation of its circumstances and its links to the King. Meanwhile, Cat's work leads her to a commission with Madame, sister to the King and sister-in-law to the King of France.

The mystery is centred around actual events but the plot is thin and the pacing is slow. Marwood undertakes much unsuccessful searching for a missing suspect whilst Cat spends a lot of time waiting to be summoned by her distinguished patrons.

Relations between Cat and Marwood are strained for the flimsiest of reasons and there is little cooperation between the two until the final denouement. There is also an unwelcome subplot involving a manipulative maid and ownership of an aged lion!

Unlike previous episodes, there is little intrigue or tension in the story and a summary of events in the final chapter is unnecessary and rather condescending to the reader.
Was this review helpful?
Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate – but the task brings unexpected dangers.

Excellent research, clever plotting and fascinating historical detail combine to make The Royal Secret. This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Cat Hakesby is approached by Lord Arlington to design a poultry house for the King’s sister in France, a commission she is happy to take on. But when she has to deliver it in person, she doesn’t expect to be put in danger of her life. With a handsome Dutchman chasing her affections, James Marwood never far from her thoughts, and the whims of the French court to contend with, Cat has a lot on her plate. 

The Royal Secret is another cracking story from Andrew Taylor. The interplay between Cat and Marwood is always enjoyable, although sadly this time around they are less enamoured of each other. Throw in a mangy lion, poisonings, murders, treason and possible witchcraft and there’s plenty to keep the plot interesting. 

A page turner from start to finish. Thoroughly entertaining.
Was this review helpful?
Royal Secret starts quietly, and builds up on a slow burn. Bodies turn up in odd places, and disappear again, and plenty of people seem to have their fingers in the mess. And I’m not just talking about the appalling ordure of the Smithfield area of London (meat market) in the 1670s, either.

This is a political, spy, suspense, historical novel. Some familiarity with London of the rebuilding times after the Great Fire, plus history of the period, is worthwhile. It is perfectly possible to follow the story without either; Mr Taylor’s descriptions capture the sights and smells of the era in a way that I visualise them well. Even if it not what the author intended! Several groups of people carry out nefarious deeds, some are not what they seem, and others are exactly what they appear to be: conniving, mean, pompous, or all three.

The slow burn meant I wondered whether I really wanted to continue reading it for a while. The second third felt a trifle pedestrian, although I think the effect was deliberate. The pace flowed better towards the end, with plenty of twists, questions and revelations. All i’s were dotted and t’s thoroughly crossed by the end.

You can tell it was well written, but I have reservations about how much I liked it. Maybe it was just that the two title characters were in a bit of a bad mood throughout. Especially with each other. It put a damper on the story. Maybe it works better if you’ve read the books in sequence. I’m glad it finished with some hope for the relationship picking up a bit for the next book. And I wouldn’t have known Marwood’s name was James if it were not for the blurb–his first name is not mentioned at all.

Verdict: Perfectly readable, but maybe more scintillating if you read them in order. Not that it really makes a difference for the plot.
Was this review helpful?