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The Royal Secret

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‘The Royal Secret’ is another excellent instalment in the historical drama series by Andrew Taylor that started in 1666 with the Fire of London. I hesitate to call ‘The Royal Secret’ a thriller as these books cross historical sub-genres and are consequently fulfilling on a number of levels. Crime, political intrigue, social commentary, architecture, strong characterization and a dash of romance all set in the post-Restoration excess, poverty and turmoil of Charles II’s rule.
Every successful thriller needs a villain to hate and Dutchman [or is he?] Henryk van Riebeeck certainly gives James Marwood the run-around. Marwood, now working for Secretary of State Lord Arlington, is charged with investigating the disappearance of top secret papers and the sudden death of a palace clerk. As Marwood follows the trail across London via a gambling club and Smithfield meat market, Cat Hakesby pursues success as an architect. Having completed a successful commission – a rather grand poultry house – her next project is a bigger, grander poultry house for a French aristocrat who is also sister of King Charles. Nothing is as it seems in this series so when Cat travels to France to show her plans to her client, we know she must unwittingly be caught up in a political intrigue. But what exactly? And how does this connect with Marwood’s pursuit of missing state papers which threaten a diplomatic treaty being negotiated between the English and the French? Is van Riebeeck a villain or a hero?
Based on the machinations of a real treaty between France and England, Taylor has once again combined a sharp plot with colourful characters [one gentleman is a collector of exotic animals] and, of course, Marwood and Cat. The will-they-won’t-they thread which runs throughout this series faces a chasm here not helped by copious misunderstandings, jealousy, Cat’s stubborn independence and Marwood’s dedication to the secrecy of his employment.
Excellent. Bring on the next one.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/
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As usual in my reviews, I will not rehash the plot (plenty of other reviews like that out there).

This is the fifth book in Andrew Taylor's "Marwood and Lovett" series. I've read the other previous novels in this series so was pleased to be invited to read this.

The relationship between Cat and Marwood is still at the heart of the novel, and we already know some of the other characters involved too.  There are some interesting new faces in this novel - including the mysterious Dutchman, and a lion!  The action moves between London, Kent, and France, which adds another interesting layer to the plot. 

This novel (like others in the series) blends fact and fiction - here, it's interesting to hear about the relationship between Charles II and his sister, as well as the activities of France and the Netherlands at that time.

I'm assuming there will be a sequel, and am already looking forward to reading it.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC. All opinions my own.
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The Royal Secret is the fifth novel in the Car Hakesby\James Marwood historical mysteries set in Restoration England. Both characters fortunes are on the rise but danger and political intrigue continue to follow the couple. I love these novels and truly did not want this one to end.
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The quality and breadth of these books is maintained! I am enthralled by the setting and the rather prickly friendships and allegiances. Literally gulped this down in two sittings! No book indigestion either !
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Another brilliant read from Andrew Taylor.  This time, Cat is asked to travel to France for Madame, the kings sister but is unknowingly drawn into a plot against talks between the kings of England and France.  Marwood is tasked to investigate a suspicious death which identifies the plot  and the danger that Cat may be in.   Unfortunately, they have fallen out and her stubbornness makes it difficult to let her know.

These books follow the journeys and relationships between Marwood and Cat and can be read alone - although there are a few references to their previous involvements.
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This is the fifth book in the Marwood/Lovett (Hakesby) series and it's one of those rare things - a book  that I just didn't want to come to an end.  The setting is 1670 London and France.

Cat has been a widow for two years now and she's in no rush to tie herself down to any other man.  It looks like Marwood won't have luck in getting any closer to her. She's enjoying being an independent woman, even if people do assume that her architectural plans are being drawn by a male employee. 

When Mr Abbott one of Marwood's colleagues dies Marwood is given the job of searching his home for a document he had removed from work, but the house has been abandoned and has not much more than dead rats in it. Marwood suspects that Abbott must have been murdered and that a strange Dutchman might be involved, is he a spy or just a harmless relative of Mrs Abbott? The investigation brings him into contact with Cat again and thankfully their relationship moves along quite a bit. This is a great read.
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Another great read in this series from one of my favourite historical fiction writers. 

Full of intrigue and rich with detail. Can’t wait to read the next instalment.
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Another sterling episode in Taylor’s beautifully evoked and well-researched 17th C mystery series. Cat Hawkesby is given a special commission while a group of young women attempt to murder a lord by witchcraft. Beneath all of this is a Royal secret hat could change the course of history. Taylor is especially good at showing the various hard divisions of class and the precarious hold on power by political factions. This was a great addition to the series.
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My thanks to HarperCollins U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Royal Secret’ by Andrew Taylor in exchange for an honest review. I combined reading with its unabridged audiobook edition, narrated by Leighton Pugh. 

This is the fifth book in Taylor’s highly successful series of historical thrillers set in Restoration Britain featuring government agent, James Marwood, and his architect friend, Cat Lovett. 

As the title indicates at the heart of this novel lies an explosive royal secret that could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe.

It opens with two young girls plotting murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk, the stepfather of one of the girls, dies painfully. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate and finds that he is not the only one looking for answers. Once again he is plunged into unexpected dangers.
 
Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby (formerly Lovett) has been employed by a wealthy merchant who lives on Slaughter Street where he keeps a captive Barbary lion locked in his stables. His daughter was married to the aforementioned clerk, who had died under mysterious circumstances.

Then Cat is asked to undertake a prestigious new commission; the design of a Poultry House as a gift for the woman that King Charles II loves most in all the world.

Cat and James spend much of the book hardly speaking to one another following a rather amusing misunderstanding during a visit to the theatre, though inevitably their paths do keep crossing. 

Andrew Taylor’s historical political thrillers are just superb; combining impeccable historical research with his storytelling skills that brings the Restoration period vividly to life. 

I enjoy reading of Marwood’s adventures though he is certainly no James Bond and likely closer to one of George Smiley’s agents. I also admire Cat and her determination to be independent and recognised as an architect in her own right. There is great characterisation throughout, though there was also sadness. I really felt for Caliban, the lion kept in deplorable conditions for the amusement of a wealthy merchant. 

‘The Royal Secret’ proved a highly engaging political thriller set in this fascinating period of European history. Its publication continues to strengthen Andrew Taylor’s position as a master of the genre.

Highly recommended.
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I love this series – especially the way that Taylor has woven real historical events into his fiction. This latest book does a wonderful job of bringing both our protagonists into a fascinating area of history, involving Charles II in an intrigue that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond thriller.

Once more we revisit the lives of James Marwood and Cat Hakesby, who have now struck up a steady friendship due to their shared past – though it isn’t without some bumps along the road. Meanwhile a rich merchant who hires Cat to do some work for him has acquired a lion called Caliban. And his daughter-in-law and young granddaughter come to live with him, after a family tragedy. These are the threads that are woven into a wonderful, detailed adventure that had me turning the pages far too late into the early morning to discover what happened.

Reading this tale, I was glad all over again that I live now, rather than in a time when a woman doing anything else other than domestic chores drew surprise and unwelcome attention – a bit like that hapless lion. Taylor has nailed the period, which is vividly depicted right down to the clothing, the smells of the time, the food and drink. When Cat goes on a journey, it is more of an endurance test, particularly when the weather isn’t playing fair. No wonder everyone wore layers and layers of clothing, if they could afford it.

Meanwhile, Marwood is yanked from his usual duties to perform yet another dangerous, unpleasant task that will derail his career if he is caught, or fails to uncover what is going on. And once again, Cat somehow becomes emboiled in the middle of the nefarious events, so their interests collide – and so often seems to happen to this pair. Taylor’s writing means that I don’t find it difficult to believe how this happens.

The climax of this adventure is shocking – and left me thinking a great deal about this one after I’d finished reading it. All in all, a thoroughly accomplished, gripping historical adventure that comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of The King’s Secret from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10
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The events of The Royal Secret - book five in Andrew Taylor’s series of mysteries set in seventeenth century London during the reign of Charles II - take place around four years after the Great Fire and our first meeting with James Marwood and Catherine – Cat – Lovett.  Theirs is an unusual relationship; they’ve saved each other’s lives and reputations more than once, and both have good reason to be distrustful of others, yet they’ve formed a somewhat uneasy but genuine bond of something stronger than friendship, but which doesn’t always contain any of the warmer feelings friendship might provide.  There’s a strong undercurrent of attraction there, too, something neither of them is particularly willing to acknowledge, especially Cat, whose traumatic personal history and unhappy marriage to a much older man, mean she is more determined than ever to never again give up her independence.

Cat has taken over the running of the business left by her late husband – a draftsman and architect – while Marwood continues to do well in his post as secretary to (and sometimes spy/investigator for) Joseph Williamson, Under Secretary of State to Lord Arlington.  They’ve started to see each other every couple of weeks – to take walks, to dine, to visit the theatre – and it’s during one of the latter excursions (after Cat gets annoyed when she sees Marwood looking appreciatively at a comely orange-seller) that they chance to meet Mr. Fanshawe, a  merchant and a client of Cat’s, and his companion, Henryk Van Riebeek  (to whom Marwood takes an instant dislike because he starts flirting with Cat.)

Marwood encounters Fanshawe again few days later, when he is instructed to retrieve some confidential files that were removed from Lord Arlington’s office by one of his clerks, Richard Abbott.  Abbott has died suddenly and had not returned the files beforehand, and when a visit to Abbot’s lodgings proves fruitless – all Marwood and his servant find there are dead rats – he learns that Abbott’s wife – who was formerly married to Fanshawe’s son - and stepdaughter have gone to live with Fanshawe at his home in Slaughter Street.  Marwood pays Fanshawe a visit in order to retrieve the files, and when looking them over later that day, uncovers some discrepancies which only intensity his suspicions as to the nature of Abbott’s death.  He discovers that Abbott had run up huge gambling debts at the Blue Bush – and while there to see what he can find out, Marwood catches sight of a familiar face – Van Riebeek – although he’s going by a different name.  This fact, in addition to the dutchman’s familial connection to Abbott (Abbott’s wife is Van Riebeek’s sister) convinces Marwood that he is involved in some way – and also that there is more going on than meets the eye; that what he found in the files, Abbott’s murder and Van Riebeek’s hiding under an assumed name are all related somehow, and that whatever links them is far more serious than he’d at first thought.

Meanwhile, Cat has been commissioned by Lord Arlington to design a poultry house for the king’s sister Minette (who is married to the Duc d’Orléans, brother of Louis XIV), and is asked to travel to France with the plans and to have a scale model built to take with her as well.  Once arrived in France however, she can’t help wondering if there is some other reason for her presence there – and whether the interest Van Riebeek had shown in her before her departure, had been genuine.

As is the case with the other books in the series, the mystery in this one incorporates actual historical events and takes place (mostly) in a London still being rebuilt after the Great Fire. Mr. Taylor skilfully weaves together fact and fiction wherin uncertain political alliances, treachery and intrigue all come into play as Cat inadvertently becomes caught up in the very mystery Marwood is investigating. Although I wasn’t sure what that mystery was going to be to start with – with mentions of poison, witchcraft, a caged lion and disgruntled servants, there’s a lot going on! – I was nonetheless caught up in the world of Restoration London the author evokes so well.

Cat and Marwood are complex, flawed, three-dimensional individuals and their relationship – which veers from dislike to affection and back again – is frustrating and well written.  I appreciate Cat’s determination to make her way in an unusual (for a woman) profession in a man’s world, and how much Marwood has grown – is continuing to grow – as a character.  He’s perhaps more cynical than he was, and he’s learned how to play the game with those who are more powerful than he is, but at heart, he’s a good, decent man while very much a man of his time.

Excellent research, clever plotting and fascinating historical detail combine to make The Royal Secret another excellent instalment in the Marwood and Lovett series.  I really hope there’s more to come.

B+ /4.5 stars
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This excellent book continues the story of Marwood and Cat Hakesby from the previous book ,although it could easily be read as a stand alone for anyone who hasn’t read the rest of the series. I whizzed through it ,as I really wanted to find out what happened .It has a villain ,a fast moving plot ,a lot of court intrigue and lots of period detail.
I loved the relationship between the two main characters and the ‘ will they ,won’t they’ plot development.
Highly recommended.Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review which reflects my own opinion.
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This is the 5th book in the series and although it does work as a stand-alone book I do think it’s best to read them in sequence to get the full background of the Restoration period and the relationship between James Marwood and Cat Hakesbury (formerly Lovatt).

The year is 1670, two years have passed since the end of the previous book, The Last Protector. Cat Hakesby’s work as an architect continues after her husband’s death and after designing a poultry house for the young daughter of Lord Arlington, the Secretary of State, she gains a commission to design one for Charles II’s sister, ‘Minette,’ the Duchess of Orléans. Meanwhile Marwood is a government clerk clerk to Joseph Williamson and also working for Lord Arlington. They find themselves involved in a complicated situation that is full of danger.

Marwood is instructed to investigate the mysterious death of Richard Abbott, one of Lord Arlington’s men, and retrieve some confidential papers from the victim’s home. Abbott’s step-daughter, Maria and the maid, Hannah have been dabbling in witchcraft and Maria believes she is responsible for his death. Marwood’s investigation brings him into contact with a merchant, Mr Fanshawe (also one of Cat’s clients) and through him with a mysterious Dutch gentleman, Henryke Van Riebeeck. Van Riebeeck just happens to be Anna Abbott’s brother, and Fanshawe’s son was Anna Abbott’s first husband and the father of Maria. After Abbott’s death she and Maria together with Hannah had gone to live in Fanshawe’s house. Fanshawe is an interesting character, who has recently bought a lion, who he named Caliban, a mangy bad-tempered beast that he keeps in the stables at his house in Slaughter Street.

So, Cat and Marwood are both involved with the same people, although in different circumstances. Their relationship is somewhat ambiguous. She is a strong-minded woman, a widow who values her independence in a society where women, although used to running households and dealing with their families’ financial matters, were only just beginning to find a place in society outside the home. And she doesn’t welcome Marwood’s interference in her life. That the two of them are attracted to each other is not acknowledged by either of them – especially, in this book, when Cat finds herself drawn romantically to Van Riebeeck. Her work takes her to the Royal Court in Paris to discuss her designs for the poultry house, although Minette seems more concerned with political matters and Cat wonders what the real reason for her visit is.

This is a well researched historical novel, mixing fact and fiction, bringing the streets of London and the royal court in Paris to life. At the same time it presents a mystery full of political intrigue, danger and conspiracy, involving witchcraft, poisonings, and tricky international relationships. It is only towards the end of the book that the royal secret is revealed – and I had had no idea until then what it was. I do hope there will be a sixth book for Marwood and Lovatt.
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Andrew Taylor is one of my favourite authors and I particularly love his Marwood and Lovett series. This is the fifth book and I think it is my favourite so far. It can also be read as a standalone; there is a helpful index of characters at the front and historical notes at the back.

The story opens in 1670 with two young girls playing at witchcraft. Soon afterwards, the step-father of one dies in mysterious and agonising circumstances. A government clerk known for gambling and drinking, unpopular with his family and in debt to a local villain, it is only surprising no one has killed him before now. James Marwood, tasked with retrieving some sensitive government files from the man's house, suspects his death is not quite as it appears. Marwood begins an investigation, only to find himself - and the lives of those around him - in real danger.

Meanwhile, Cat Lovett's architecture business is going from strength to strength and she's been handed a commission to design a poultry house for the woman the King loves most in the world - but is she being used as a royal pawn?

The Royal Secret is set during one of my favourite time periods and I love all the historical details, particularly the glimpses into royal life, which is not quite as glamorous as one would hope! There is lots of spy-like intrigue as Marwood tries to track down the utterly ruthless killer. Cat receives an all-expenses paid trip to France (which doesn't go quite the way she is hoping) and there is even an appearance by a real lion. My only quibble with the story is that Cat allows herself to become distracted by a pretty face. I had thought she was smarter than that!

The Last Protector would suit anyone who loves a cracking good historical mystery and authors such as Laura Shepherd-Robinson and Antonia Hodgson. I can't wait to read the next one in the series!


Thank you to Andrew Taylor and HarperCollins for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.
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This is the fifth book in Andrew Taylor’s Marwood and Lovett series and one of my favourites so far. Set in England during the reign of Charles II, each book in the series works as a separate mystery novel, but if it’s possible for you to read them in order (starting with The Ashes of London) you will have the pleasure of getting to know James Marwood and Cat Lovett from the beginning and watching their relationship develop.

The Royal Secret opens in 1670 with two young women plotting a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards, their target, Mr Abbott, meets his death under unusual circumstances. The dead man had been a clerk working in the office of Lord Arlington, Secretary of State, and James Marwood, also a government clerk, is asked to investigate. Beginning with a visit to Abbott’s lodgings to look for some confidential files the man had taken home from Arlington’s office, Marwood is soon on the trail of the mysterious Dutch merchant Henryk Van Riebeeck – a trail which will lead him first to the notorious Blue Bush Tavern and then to the home of Mr Fanshawe, owner of a captive Barbary lion called Caliban.

Meanwhile, Cat Hakesby, formerly Lovett, has taken over her late husband’s architect firm and has been given a commission by the king himself to design a poultry house for his sister Minette. Another of Cat’s clients is Mr Fanshawe and through him she meets Van Riebeeck, a man to whom she finds herself drawn romantically. Although she is unaware of it at first, Cat quickly becomes entangled in the same mystery that Marwood is trying to investigate, but with a very different perspective on what is happening.

Those of you who have read the previous books in the series will be familiar with Cat and Marwood’s uneasy relationship and their obvious attraction to each other which they seem unable to acknowledge even to themselves. That continues in this one and is becoming frustrating, but I’m grateful that Andrew Taylor didn’t just give us an instant romance that was resolved by the end of the first book. It’s another reason to keep reading the series!

As usual with Taylor’s books, the story unfolds against a backdrop of real historical events. In fact, they are often more than just a backdrop and become a significant part of the plot. In this particular novel, there is a focus on the political intrigue between England, France and the Dutch Republic, as well as on the tensions in the marriage between Charles II’s sister Minette (Henrietta Anne) and the Duke of Orléans, the king of France’s brother. These storylines take our characters to Paris where Minette has summoned Cat to discuss the designs for the poultry house and to Dover where secret negotiations are underway. With so much going on, as well as the mystery to be solved, this was a difficult book to put down and I was sorry to come to the end. I hope there’s going to be a sixth adventure for Marwood and Lovett!
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As always Andrew Taylor breathes fresh life into an almost forgotten moment in English history. His fictional characters blend perfectly with the real-life ones.
The sights, sounds and smells of life in 1670 permeate every single page.
The plot is complex and full of cloak-and-dagger moments, shifting the action from London to Dover and then to the Royal Courts of France.
This is historical fiction writing at its very best. Andrew Taylor may have many rivals but none can match his imagination and skill.
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James Marwood is tasked with investigating the death of a clerk who shows the signs of possibly being poisoned. The case takes a strange turn with the possibility of a foreign man being involved and soon there are more deaths. One which hits very close to home for Marwood. Cat Hakesby meanwhile is called to design a poultry house for someone very close to the King, A commision like this leads to a trip to France but is there any connection between the two? 

Another brilliant story in the series. This is book 5 and a welcome addition. I love this series and of course Marwood and Cat. The stories are never just about romance and more on the actual mysteries which is refreshing though a part of me does long for them to get together, Marwood is not your typical leading hero and yet he's refreshing and interesting. Cat is also a strong character and not a typical damsel, she's strong and independant. The plot is interesting and kept me reading, plus the ending was reall well written. I'm hoping for more. A brilliant read.
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I have become quite a fan of this series, this being my second jaunt into the world of Marwood. 

This book is just as good as the last one I read. Andrew Taylor just writes so so well, his characters really do come to life for me and there is never a dull moment which can often be the case with historical fiction. He’s truly got me hooked on the genre now.

Wonderful!!!!

My thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the advance copy.
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This time we find Cat and Marwood at odds, although their friendship has blossomed recent events put a strain on their relationship which may see it ruined completely. 

Marwood finds himself working directly for Lord Arlington and whilst he follows orders he cannot help but think there's more to the plans than meets the eye. Cat meanwhile has been commissioned to work on a building for the King's sister and meets a man named Van Riebeck, she is automatically drawn to him, but what is he hiding and why does Cat also not trust him? 

As events escalate and murders increase Marwood knows Van Riebeck is the key to everything but what's Cat's involvement and can he solve it all before their friendship it completely ruined? 

I enjoy this series more and more with each book. This one is fast paced, full of apprehension with a couple of twists thrown in to make it a perfect mystery. 

Taylor incorporates details about everyday life in London making you feel like you are right there with the characters. 
Throughout this series the characters have grown on me and not just Marwood and Cat, Stephen, Pheebs, Sam and Margaret are all great characters. There are also some very dislikeable characters, I won't say much about them to avoid spoilers but I will say I think Maria needs new friends. 

As I was coming to the end I had to slow down my reading to savour it more but eventually I came to the end and now eagerly await the next instalment. 

If you enjoy a good mystery I'd certainly recommend this and you don't need to have read the previous books but I would also read them as they're all great!
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The fifth book in this strong, quality historical crime series does not disappoint . Historical details that weave fact with fiction make this compelling reading and James and Cat feel like old friends. This is a series that delivers in a quietly understated way that makes for a satisfying read.
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