What if the stillborn son born to Anne Boleyn had actually survived, but no one knew but the mid-wife? What if the mid-wife took the child to a Catholic couple to raise? What if that child ended up believing that he was Elizabeth's bastard half-brother and working as the royal stable master in her court? These questions are the premise of Terri Brisbin's time travel novel, The Queen's Man.
Sharon Reynolds is a textiles expert asked to evaluate a trunk of clothing found in Tenby Manor, a structure dating from Henry VIII's time. At her first look at the clothing, an irregular seam catches her eye and she discovers papers that include a confession of Anne Boleyn's mid-wife. The documentation is compelling. In her excitement, she falls through a wall and lands in another small room. She is suddenly transported to Elizabethan times and mistaken as the new seamstress sent to work for the court. She decides that she must have been sent to find the legitimate heir.
On her first day at court, she is rescued from an out-of-control horse by Richard Granville, stable master for Queen Elizabeth I. He later also rescues her from a group of drunken revelers. She is attracted to him, but doesn't want to get involved because she hopes she can return to her time after she completes the task.
Richard is well-liked by the ladies of the court and friendly to all, but he longs to be rid of the stigma of being Henry's bastard. He has been secretly approached by a group that wants to promote him as the king and return the throne to a Catholic monarch. To pursue such a goal could result in a civil war and his death as a traitor.
Sharon spends her time trying to adjust to the time period and to carefully search for the legitimate heir. She knows that too many questions could be dangerous in such an unstable era. She begins to trust Richard, but when she finally starts asking her questions about Henry's bastard, he thinks that she will either shun him or try to use him to get favors from the queen.
Until the questions, he had thought she might be different from the rest of the women of the court.
Time travel stories succeed by convincing the reader that someone has switched times. Brisbin does a good job doing that. She also spends just enough time on Sharon's adjustment to the court, not stretching it out. In the last third of the book, she builds the tension beautifully as
Richard's position becomes more and more dangerous. However, it didnít seem believable that it would have taken so long for Sharon to discover that Richard was one of Henry's bastards, particularly when the author spends so much time showing how quickly gossip traveled in the court. This made the middle of the book drag a bit.
The time period is well described, painting colorful, noisy, smelly pictures of everyday life. The secondary romance between Sharon's maid and Richard's servant is a nice, sweet touch. Anyone interested in this time period should enjoy the historical references. The "what if..." questions make this an enjoyable story.
--B. Kathy Leitle