In the spring of 1603, Elizabeth I of England is just days from death. While others flee her court to jockey for positions under the future king, Frances Gorges stays by the old queen’s side. There, while dreaming of returning to her family estate and their gardens full of medicinal plants, Frances uses her considerable knowledge of plants and healing to comfort the queen.
Young Frances’ dream of returning home proves short-lived, however, when her ambitious uncle forces her to take a position as a lady to the new king’s young daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Once installed, Frances witnesses the utter debauchery of the king’s court. At the same time, she must tread lightly through endless political intrigues, as the king’s intolerant Puritanism makes it deadly to be called a Catholic or a witch. While the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil, would delight in revealing Frances as a witch for her healing powers, another courtier close to her, Tom Wintour, has a hand in organizing the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Can Frances survive and protect those she loves in such treacherous times?
Tracy Borman has a Ph.D in history and is England’s joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust. She clearly knows her history. Masterfully set in a tumultuous time with well-crafted characters, The King’s Witch is a wonderful first novel that is difficult to put aside. Borman makes historical figures, such as the insecure King James and the intelligent, honorable Tom Wintour come to life on the page. Readers will root for the fictional Frances, who faces impossible odds at times but never loses her sense of self.
The first book of a trilogy, The King’s Witch will have its readers waiting impatiently for the next two volumes.