Cover Image: The Royal Secret

The Royal Secret

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London, 1670. Two young girls, Maria and Hannah, plot a murder by witchcraft. Once, “allies of a sort, united in their hatred of Abbott and his tyrannies.” Later, as Abbott is only a memory, one blackmails another.

Cat Hakesby carries on her late husband’s business as an architect and surveyor. She is commissioned to build a new poultry house for the king’s sister, which requires her to travel to France where the king’s sister resides.

James Marwood works at Scotland Yard when Richard Abbott, one of Lord Arlington’s clerks, dies. Marwood is set on an investigation of the circumstances surrounding Abbott’s death, and relates his findings to Lord Arlington, Undersecretary of State.

Meanwhile, Marwood and Cat meet once or twice a month to listen to music or go to a play or go for a walk in finer weather. It is an alliance of mutual assistance rather than affection as she prefers to keep her independence. After the end of last outing, they don’t make plans for the next time, as they usual would. That unsettles Marwood a bit. “She could forgive his unfortunate liking for low comedy, but not the way he had ogled the orange girl in front of her very eyes. (…) His boorish behaviour towards Mr Fanshawe and his guest had been almost equally bad.” Later, he extends his olive branch by writing her a letter with a plan to see a new play. She curtly expresses her refusal without any explanation. And now, it gnaws at him when he sees Cat with someone he is after.

There is one particular person at the heart of this mystery, but there is a lot of deception and some misjudgment, as well as complications. Besides one being dead, another vanishes, and yet another has a powerful friend. It presents some challenges for Marwood.

The characters come from different directions and as story develops they interestingly start coming together, as they happen to be related in some way. The plot is intriguing, culminating with a lot of intrigue and a royal secret unbeknownst to all. Written with marvelous prose sprinkled with humor, the characters come alive with their settings, vividly presented and giving a good sense of time and place. Beautifully crafted story and atmospheric in its depiction.

This fifth installment in the series reads as a stand-alone. With skillful writing, you can easily follow the characters, which drive this story to the culminating end.

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I absolutely love this series. Andrew Taylor writes with such confidence; I’m immediately drawn into the streets and smells and can visualise each setting.  Great interest in this story as Cat travels to France and the attention to period detail is a real strength.

The characters are developing with each book and whilst this reads well as a standalone, readers new to the series will miss the nuances of character development and relationships.  There’s mystery and murder at the heart of the story, plus court intrigue and there’s a real sense of being at the heart of history, although it’s fiction.  This is a totally engaging tale where it’s impossible to second guess the outcome.  Really enjoyed this.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.
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What a great read. I was transported back to the sights, sounds and aromas of the 17th Century. .  Very cleverly mixed into the tale were true life events of the tensions between the crowns of England and France and the conspiracy and death this brought amongst supporters. 
I  found the story atmospheric. It must have been a hard time to be alive. Even the wealthy didn’t always appear to have it easy. 
Totally recommend this book. An excellent read.
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It took me a while to get into this book but then it really got going! It’s a slow burner tale of murder, spying and romance against the historical background of the court of Charles the second.  I loved the sense of the period, The descriptions are excellent, including the unsavoury smells of the time.  It is the third of a series, and to get the most out of it I recommend reading the three books in order. I’m looking forward to the next in the series.
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Right from the first page of this book you are transported back to the sights, smells and sounds of 17th Century London: a period of history that I love. The political intrigue begins immediately. Who is Abbott and was he murdered? What secrets was he covering up? Is there a conspiracy behind the murders? Marwood, assistant clerk to Lord Arlington together with Cat Hakesby, a young female architect begin to slowly unravel the mystery.

I absolutely loved this book. Although I have read Andrew Taylor books before (The American Boy being one of my favourite ever books) this is the first I have read in this series. These books can be read as stand alone books. I am now desperate to continue my journey with Marwood and Hakesby (the two main characters in each book) and start at the beginning of this fantastic series with the Ashes of London. If you love historical fiction with a slowly unfolding mystery then these are the books for you! 
Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for this ARC.
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What an interesting series this is and it never fails to entertain. Slow in parts but always with an gripping ending and book 5 is no exception. I would say that none of the volumes can be said to be stand-alone but what a good reason for reading them all! 

If one ignores the adult plotting for a moment, there is a sub-plot involving 2 young girls, a lion and something I will not reveal which I found to be a fascinating adjunct to the adults shenanigans and which fitted in rather well.

Definitely a series that offers a view of late 17th Century England and all its nasty ways. Well worth your investment in time and money to discover good tales and bad behaviour.
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The Royal Secret is the latest instalment of the seventeenth century crime series featuring government man James Marwood and architect Mrs Cat Hakesby. During the reign of Charles II, people are being killed as England's enemies try to uncover the secret of a royal intrigue, a hidden treaty. Amidst this high statecraft, the King himself features as a supporting character, his sister, living in France and a client for Cat's services, is a more important one. Settings include inns and humble homes, Whitehall Palace, the French Court and Dover Castle. The story has a nice note of suspense and menace with three main narrative lines and the period background very well sketched in. 
Whilst the majority of the narrative is in the 3rd person, Marwood tells his story in the 1st person. I found this distracting.  I have read other books where voices are mixed like this, but I think it works better if the bulk of the story and certainly the opening, is with the 1st person narrator. We did not gain any particular exploration of Marwood's interior thoughts and feelings through this structure, though incidents in the plot certainly provide him with many opportunities for guilt and soul-searching.  For me, Cat, both in her occupation and in her active role in the story, and her feelings about it, is much the more interesting of the two. 
Still this is a very enjoyable well written and well-researched novel set against a little-known byway of history. There was a real secret, Taylor tells us in his author's note at the end, and it was never uncovered for a hundred years. Recommended.
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Once again an outstanding installment in this wonderful seies. This time the murders are far to close to home for Harwood. Cat however is off doing her own thing in France but how can this all link together, well with a genius brain they can. I cannot wait until the next installment and just want a happy ending for Harwood and Cat somehow.
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Another excellent book in the Cat and Marwood series. Great characters that keep on developing, interesting plot-line with plenty of intrigue. And a 'oh no!' moment when I had to stop reading for a bit. This series is well researched and just gets better and better. With thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the invitation to read and review an e-ARC of this title.
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I have read and enjoyed all the previous books in this series. Andrew Taylor evokes the feeling of the time after the Great Fire of London so well. You feel are walking through the streets of London with the characters! You know that a lot of research has gone into his books and it shows.
Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for the advance copy of this book.
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To be honest, I didnt realise this book was number five in a series  I really enjoyed it and now I'm going to buy the first four and read them , including this one again
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The excellent Marwood and Lovett series continues. Fascinating historical detail and strong characters with good story-telling.
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All the pomp, ceremony and intrigue of the 17th Century as plotters and rotters seek  to gain alliances or sabotage same. Marwood and Cat’s individual advancement in life still links them together with a tenuous relationship that gets caught up in a plot by the Dutch to destroy a proposed “Secret” Anglo French treaty. The suspicious death of a Marwood colleague escalates and the architectural qualities of the widowed Mrs Hakesby soon puts Cat amongst the chickens!
A fine work of historical fiction by an author in a series I have followed from the start.
My thanks to the NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read and review.
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More great 17th Century historical fiction from the 'pen' of Andrew Taylor. This is the fifth of his books involving James Marwood and Cat Hakesby as the main characters but skillfully interwoven with a variety of other characters (and a lion!) showing the atmosphere, politics, espionage and society of this period.. Most enjoyable reading.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to leave an unbiased review in exchange for this ARC.
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Once again Andrew Taylor immerses us into his atmospheric, beautifully crafted and well researched historical fiction set in the 17th century Restoration period in England under the reign of Charles II with all its political intrigue and treachery. It features James Marwood, clerk to Joseph Williamson and Lord Arlington, the Secretary of State, and the now widowed architect Cat Hakesby, running the firm after the death of her cantankerous husband. Cat's traumatic personal history has left her valuing her independence and vows to never marry again, although the unacknowledged feelings that Cat and Marwood have for each other results in a spiky and volatile relationship. Two girls, a maid and stepdaughter, engage in witchcraft with the intent of seeking a death.

Marwood is sent to retrieve confidential papers from the home of the now dead Richard Abbot, but the scene at the home with dead rats, leads to suspicions of poisoning and murder and a visit to the home of a merchant of luxury goods, Mr Fanshawe, the owner of a recently acquired Barbary lion, and where Abbot's widow is now residing. Fanshawe is a client of Cat's, and it is through him that she meets the Dutch Henryk Van Riebeeck, the brother of Abbot's widow, a man she feels drawn to romantically, a man inordinately interested in her commission for a exclusive poultry house planned for the beloved sister of the King. Marwood and Cat find themselves mingling within the same circle of characters but from different angles, and which includes the King, facing grave dangers, secrets, murders, and conspiracy.

Taylor's rich descriptions evoke the extreme class divisions of the time, both in London, Kent and in France, the stench and the squalor that even the French Royal Court cannot avoid, and the precarious position of women, even women of high status, such as Charles II's sister. Marwood and Cat are subject to the whims and vagaries of their rich and powerful employers and the King himself, they are in no position to own their own futures, and as Cat discovers, it is the rich who so often feel they do not need to pay for her services. In turn, Cat and Marwood are often just as careless when it comes to those who hold a lower status than themselves, although when a devastating tragedy occurs, Marwood and his servants, Sam and Margaret, are galvanised into seeking retribution for their unbearable loss. Highly recommended for those interested in this particular period of history. Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC.
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I normally take my time with Andrew's books as they are so immersive but I had an impulse to read this quickly as there seemed to be so much happening and so much at stake, I was dying to know more. If ever there is a book to make you forget where you are for a while, this is it. I was walking the streets around Covent Garden, waltzing with the king's people and trying to help build the city of London after the great fire. All this whilst trying to find out what the royal secret was. I'm tired and need a rest now but it was totally worth it!
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The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor
I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all of the books featuring James Marwood and Cat Hakesby but this could also be read as a stand-alone novel.  Andrew Taylor is a gifted writer who enables the reader to feel immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the time.  It is set in 1670 and centres around political conspiracy, undercover activities and skulduggery.  The main characters, Cat and Marwood, maintain a friendship which always seems on the edge of developing into something deeper.  At the beginning of this novel however Cat is troubled by jealousy as she fears James is too interested in another woman; despite maintaining her desire to remain a free and independent woman.
The characters are extremely well developed and Cat has carved herself out a role as an architect designing elaborate chicken houses for the rich and powerful and even attracting the attention of King Charles II.  There are royal secrets but also elements of witchcraft and a fascinating description of the obsession of the rich with collections; even living things such as the Barbary Lion delivered in such an interesting manner to the docks.  
All of the characters are well drawn and the servants too are described in vivid detail.  I look forward to reading any book by Andrew Taylor and this is a delight and one which I shall be wholeheartedly recommending to others.  I would like to thank the author, the publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
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I’ve been a fan of this series from the start and this latest instalment did not disappoint. An extremely enjoyable romp from start to finish.
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This is the fifth book in this Restoration romp, and I am so grateful to have been chosen to read this!!  James Marwood and Cat Lovett, now Hakesby, are still having this awkward, will they , won’t they relationship, but there does appear to be a gradual thawing between them when they are thrown together, only one bed available, we’ve heard that one before!, 
James is still working at Scotland Yard and involved with Lord Arlington, and his descendants still have a rather nice house , Euston House in Suffolk. Cat is continuing her late husband’s architectural business, dealing with plans and drawings. As most of her clients are wealthy, this allows her access to the same social sphere, where she runs into Janes on a regular basis. It is an unusual occupation for a female, but it gives Cat a safe place to work, respect, money( when bills are paid) and freedom. 
I have loved the previous books, but this one I found to be hesitant, and not so enjoyable. It was almost like the author thought, here is this historical event, the signing of a trade agreement between England and France, but I have to move my characters from London to Paris, and think of a convincing ploy for both Cat and James to be abroad as well. It fell a bit flat for me, but in my defence, during lockdown, I have binged watched the BBC series of Versailles , and was finding it hard to reconcile the TV version of the Duke of Orleans with the one on the page!! 
I do feel this series is best served being in London, with its sleazy pubs, pickpockets, prostitutes and the general mayhem that arises from the rebuilding of the city of London. In my opinion, Restoration London should stay in London. I wasn’t too sure about the addition of witchcraft and the two young girls , nor the poor old lion, this goes back to this sense of trying to fit the story to the history in an awkward way.
Now, just because I have criticised, this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to review the next book when it is available. They are well researched, full of wonderful characters, and a strong female lead as well. I look forward to a return to London and the usual skullduggery. 
I will definitely leave reviews to Goodreads and Amazon when the pages are open. 
Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK for my ARC, in return for my honest review.
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This is the fifth outing in Restoration England for Cat Lovett (now Hakesby) and James Marwood, the ‘friends with tension’ who solve crimes and uncover plots in the highest echelons of 1660s society. In this instalment, Marwood is called to look into the death of a colleague, Mr Abbott. Abbott’s wife was previously married to the son of a gentleman, Mr Fanshawe. His death may be linked to a notorious gambling den, The Blue Bush, at which Mrs Abbott’s half brother, Mr Van Riebeeck also attends. 

Cat, now a widow after Mr Hakesby’s unfortunate death, is continuing his architectural business. This is of course highly unusual for a woman in this period, so Cat faces the usual misogyny as she goes about her work. Yet the women of the court do hold her in esteem, and she is sent to Paris by the King (Charles II). The King’s sister is married to the brother of the French king, and she would like Cat to design a marvellous poultry house for the household. 

There follows a tale of intrigue and gradual uncovering of illicit goings-on, as Marwood and Cat pursue their goals. 

I usually love Cat and Marwood, but this didn’t seem to grab me as much as usual. Maybe it’s because we are living in a pandemic, but I didn’t feel there was much sense of threat, apart from a couple of places in the story. There was only a bit of dramatic action and although the Cat and Marwood relationship rumbles on, they were together rarely in this book. It was almost two separate stories. 
I also expected more to happen with Mr Fanshawe’s lion!

Still enjoyable, still interesting and I’m still invested in the characters. Just a bit more action.
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