The third appearance of Ursula Blanchard, Lady of the Privy Chamber to Queen Elizabeth I, reads more as an action / suspense novel than a mystery / whodunit. Mistress Blanchard wishedly wanted to get away from the intrigue and dangers of court for a while. Queen Elizabeth, wanting to help her escape, sends her on a mission into France, a country on the verge of civil war. She gives Ursula a message to deliver to Queen Caroline, offering assistance and arbitration if war breaks out.

Ursula is accompanied by her former father-in-law, who is traveling to France to pick up his ward. Ursula has never gotten along with the father of her first husband Gerald and he has yet to forgive his son for marrying her.

The path they take through the country is meandering and takes time with back-tracking to cater to the young ward's whims. She is Helene, a sixteen-year old shrew, who claims she aspires only to be a nun. Ursula is not convinced, but she uses the girl's suits as a cover to contact her estranged second husband, Matthew de la Roche, a wanted man in England but living nearby in France. They manage to spend a few passionate hours together before the inn is set on fire. She helps Matthew escape and soon finds out that the men in her own traveling party were responsible for the arson. They were using her as bait to flush de la Roche out.

Seething with fury, she presses forward to Paris and deliveries Elizabeth's message to Catherine. Before she can turn towards home, her own maid-servant is arrested and accused of plotting to poison Queen Caroline. To free Dale from the French prison and certain execution, Ursula races to Antwerp to find a treasure hidden two years earlier by her first husband. It is a large enough treasure to ransom a queen.

A merchantman with murderous Turks on his trail joined the group while on its way to Paris and now companies Ursula to Antwerp. With her intelligence and wit and his connections and worldliness, they outwit Turkish assassins and French mercenaries loyal to Catherine, bent on getting the treasure for themselves.

Back in the French Court, a meeting with an Englishman also carrying a message from Elizabeth to Catherine reveals just how deeply she has been betrayed by her own queen, making her decision about staying with her husband crystal clear.

In "Queen's Ransom", Ursula is not called upon to resolve mysterious murderers by person or persons unknown, rather to pierce the veils of confidentiality, conspiracy and treachery to prevent her servant from being burned at the stake and to protect her husband from the queen's court from arresting him and taking him back to England. She finds herself surrounded by betrayal from all directions.

Fortunately, this novel is kept moving as Ursula travels to Paris, Antwerp and back to Paris, facing numerous and exciting adventures along the way. The story does not get bogged down while the reader waits for Ursula to interview suspects and search for clues. Her adventures keep up a fast pace and the result is an exciting page turner. Ursula Blanchard is the Elizabethan Renaissance equivalent of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan.



Source by Alan G. Scott