The Royal Secret was offered by the publishers via Netgalley; I’m very grateful to them for it. Listed as another in the Marwood & Lovett series, I didn’t realise how many there were out already. I thoroughly enjoyed Ashes of London, and I have another on the kindle… but this is number 5! Despite that, there is no problem with picking up on the characters, save that Cat Lovett is now Cat Hakesby, and never a mention of the Lovett of the series title remains.
I was at a writer Zoom event during the week I read this, with the authors Sophie Hannah and Hope Adams (Dangerous Women). The latter turned out not only to be Sophie’s mother, but a long established author under another name. In answering a question on their favourite current authors, Andrew Taylor featured strongly!
The Royal Secret (Marwood and Lovett #5)
by Andrew Taylor
From the No.1 bestselling author of The Last Protector and The Ashes of London comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood and Cat Lovett during the time of King Charles II.
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.
Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world.
Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe… [goodreads]
The 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.Book Review | The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor 'Bodies turn up in odd places, and disappear again… plenty of people seem to have their fingers in the mess. A very readable historical suspense' #netgalley #theRoyalSecret Click To Tweet