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Feb 10, 2009

The Murder in the Tower by Jean Plaidy

The Murder in The Tower by Jean Plaidy (pseudonym used by Eleanor Hibbert, aka Victoria Holt)
(It's been listed as the first book in the Stuart Saga series, but it seems to stand alone as a James I novel; 1964)
Also reprinted and available as a reissue.
Personal copy
Burton Book Review Rating:FourStars!

"The drama is played out against the background of the Court of James I."
The dashing Robert Carr is a well-known favorite of King James I. After attracting his attention by falling from a horse in the tiltyard, Robert rises quickly through the ranks. But when the cunning and beautiful Frances Howard comes to court, a very dangerous liaison changes everything. Married against her will while still a child, Frances emerges from that experience a headstrong force of nature—determined to have her own way, no matter what the consequences. Her attempts to rid herself of an unwanted husband, and later to ensnare a lukewarm lover, have led her deep into the world of spell-makers and poisoners. This is a woman to underestimate at great peril. But not until Robert finds himself ensnared in one of Frances’s plots—imprisoned in the Tower of London and accused of murder—does he learn at last what she is truly capable of.

After finishing this first installment of Plaidy's Stuart Saga by Jean Plaidy, I would still love to delve more into the characters that Plaidy described. When you think of a Tudor or Stuart novel, with this title of Murder, one tends to think of Anne Boleyn, or maybe Mary Queen of Scots. This novel is actually concerning the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, who is not the main protagonist of this intriguing novel.
The book is based on the life of Frances Howard, and her loves and wicked ways that she uses to attain all that she desires. She starts out as a passionate young woman and we think we like her, but as she grows and becomes more and more of a selfish evil woman, there is no sympathy for her. I did find sympathy for Robert Carr, the man she fell in love with when she was a married woman.

Robert Carr caught King James' eye when he fell from his horse as a young man, and quickly shot up in the ranks with titles and favoritism from James. He is portrayed as a pretty boy who really didn't deserve the posts he had since he had to have another man, Thomas Overbury, secretly do most of the work for Robert Carr. They called Thomas a scribe. One thing led to another and once Thomas realizes that Robert wants to marry Frances Howard, he is incensed. He has no respect for Frances and happens to know she had visits with unworthy people who dealt with witchcraft. Since Thomas would not back down, Frances and her witchcraft friends decided to take matters into their own hands. Supposedly Robert Carr has no idea what is going on.

Even though this book has James I in it, it was only set within the time period of James I and his family. There was a small story line with Frances and the King's son, Henry, and a bit on the royal family and the royal children but not an incredible amount.

This was a quick read, and I definitely loved the deliciously entertaining Frances Howard and her intense need to fulfill her every whim. Although not an influential person by herself in the era, she caused quite a scandal and led a very interesting life which was a joy to read about. Plaidy fans do not want to miss this one, this was a quick read that stays with you.