(Cover picture courtesy of Michelle Diener’s site.)
An artist never betrays her patron . . . especially one of the world’s most powerful kings.
Susanna Horenbout has learned this lesson from the cradle. But when she receives a letter from her father telling her to do just that, she faces a dilemma. Betray Henry VIII, or carry out the request of her father’s employer, Margaret of Austria, and pass secret information to Henry’s queen, Katherine of Aragon.
Caught between the machinations of her husband and her nephew, the Emperor Charles, Queen Katherine needs all the allies she can get. But what can Susanna really do to help her, and even if she does, will it be enough?
Susanna and her betrothed, Parker—one of Henry’s most trusted courtiers—balance on the knife’s edge of treason as they try to make sense of both international and domestic conspiracies. Sometimes, it’s better the enemy you know . .
[Full disclosure: I was sent a free paperback copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
With the serious cliffhanger at the end of the second book I knew I immediately had to start In Defense of the Queen. I’m very invested in this series by this point so you can understand why I was a little anxious to find Susanna in a lot of trouble in this third installment.
As with the previous two books, I loved the characters. Susanna and John’s bond is stronger than ever partly because of all of the trials they’ve gone through as a couple. Still, I was more than little worried about the two what with all of the assassination attempts and Susanna being accused of treason. I’ll admit that I have become quite attached to both Susanna and John.
I liked how we were in Susanna’s point of view a lot more than we were in the second book because she still is my favourite character. She’s tested again and again but I love that no matter how hard or awful the situation is, she stays loyal to John (even when it works against her). It’s not easy to be torn between your family’s loyalties and your loyalty to your patron and Michelle Diener played that dramatic tension perfectly.
The previous two books both had the complicated plots I’ve come to expect and love from Michelle Diener. This one tops them. There are twists and turns everywhere and the larger conspiracy is both well hidden and very believable. I honestly didn’t see the end coming and for a cynical reader like myself that’s very unusual. The ending wrapped things up nicely while at the same time leaving a little wiggle room for another sequel. I don’t think John and Susanna’s story is over quite yet.
If you haven’t read the first two books I can’t recommend them highly enough. Michelle Diener writes some darn good historical fiction and whether you’re looking for accuracy or a good plot you’ll be satisfied by her writing.
I give this book 5/5 stars.