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The King's Witch: Frances Gorges…

The King's Witch: Frances Gorges historical trilogy, Book I (2018)

by Tracy Borman

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536337,757 (3.63)4
In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents' country estate, where she learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. When King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne Frances is only too happy to stay at home. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism see witchcraft in many of the old customs -- punishable by death. Yet when her ambitious uncle forces Frances to return to the royal palace, having bought her a position as a lady in the bedchamber of the young Princess Elizabeth, she becomes a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King's precocious young daughter and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But Wintour has a secret that, when revealed, places Frances in conflict with her royal charge and in fear for her own family.… (more)



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In 1603, Queen Elizabeth the First died, with Frances Gorges by her side, easing her death with her herbal knowledge. Frances was then allowed to ‘escape’ from court for a year, spending her time at the family estate, tending the garden and making up remedies. Then her highly placed uncle forces her to return to court, to be the Lady of the Bedchamber to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the new King James. This is a tense position to be in; James is a witch hunter and the women with the arts of healing and herbs are pretty much considered to all be witches. James is also very anti-Catholic, and pretty much only listens to his young, male favorites. Frances has no desire to play the court games of currying favor; she takes her job of being companion and maid to the princess seriously and the only courtier she trusts is Thomas Wintour, who may not be what she thinks he is... .it’s a time of unrest in general and her own position and life are put in danger when she heals Queen Anne of a fever, bringing her to the attention of Robert Cecil, the Lord of the Privy Seal. She accidentally becomes involved with the Gunpowder Plot, a plot to unseat James that most of us Yanks only know about as a yearly event in the UK to blow off fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day.

The book is well written; I felt a great deal of sympathy for Frances. The court was a dangerous place, and the author skillfully creates the claustrophobic air that would have existed. I loved the attention to detail. This book is the first of a projected trilogy, so there is no conclusion to Frances’s story, but a chapter in her life is definitely over. I have no idea what happened to the real Frances, so an air of suspense still exists. Four stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Oct 7, 2018 |
Lady Frances knows herbs and plants, which she can put to good use as a healer. She would much rather spend her time at her parents estate than at court. Elizabeth 1st has now died and James 1st is on the throne. For healers like Frances it is a dangerous time as the King wants to rid the land of witches.

I really wanted to like this book. It's historical fiction which I enjoy and has a theme of witchcraft. I really wanted to get lost in the time period but was struggling with the book.

May contain mild spoilers.

The story was very slow. I was plodding along waiting for the interesting parts. The story did take about two hundred pages for me to have a little interest. The first part for me was too descriptive with the plants, herbs and what clothing people were wearing. When Frances is in danger because of being healer and with the witchcraft theme I did beging to enjoy the book. The story then takes a turn and Frances is now involved with the gunpowder plot and the witchcraft seems to be forgotten.

I felt this book was overlong. There is plenty of history in the story and I would say very well researched. I did find myself skipping pages which were just descriptions of the plants, smells and surroundings. I'm sorry I couldn't gel with this book but I found it a hard slog. ( )
  tina1969 | Aug 29, 2018 |
Lady Frances Gorges has been encouraged by her parents to learn the art of healing and she is present at the death of Queen Elizabeth. however when King James ascends to the throne Frances' skills could see her accused of witchcraft and so her family decides to keep her at their country house. Unfortunately her Uncle is in a position of power and sees Frances as a pawn in his ambitions so she is brought to court to serve young Princess Elizabeth. This brings her into contact with a young lawyer, Thomas, whom she falls for but also into conflict with Cecil who is keen to find witches and treason at every corner.
Tracy Borman is an excellent historian and a writer of engaging yet learned non-fiction so I eagerly picked up this novel. On the positive side I liked the setting around the early days of James' rule and the Gunpowder Plot, this is a period of history which has not often been fictionalised. Borman wears her learning lightly and therefore although the research is clear the writing does not over emphasise historical details unlike many. On the negative side I found the heroine a little insipid and certain plot twists (the witch pricking) somewhat gratuitous. It's a solid historical romance without being memorable. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Aug 26, 2018 |
Exciting and fearful times!

The cut and thrust of politics and religion during Tudor times and on into the early 1600's reign of King James of Scotland, leaves the gap between trust and mistrust frighteningly narrow. The removal of women healers as witches from villages and elsewhere during this time was harrowing. Purges throughout history in the name of religion, powered by fanatics have dogged humanity. The King's Witch touches on the dichotomy between James 1's personal life and his actions towards the general populace, spurred on by his fears of witchcraft and papists. A well researched, historical novel that pulls the reader instantly into the action.
The story of Lady Frances Gorges, daughter to the Marchioness of Northampton and Sir Thomas Gorges, a talented healer taken by her outrageous dukely uncle to the new court of James I, after Elizabeth 1's death is harrowing. It thrusts the reader immediately into the dangers of that world. James issues proclamations against healers, spurred on by the insidious Privy Seal, Lord Cecil.
With Frances, I cringed with fear as she tried to negotiate the rocky ,dangerous shores of a decadent court. Papists who'd once reached accommodation with Elizabeth were back to the days of Queen Mary. James' fear of witchcraft and Catholicism cuts a swathe through his subjects.
Frances becomes fearful for her life and the lives of her loved ones as plots are hatched. And then there's the young courtier who befriended her, Tom Wintour. A man she comes to admire. A man who has his own beliefs and follows them.
Borman's descriptive prose drew me into the dangers of the time, and into the grist of Frances' life, as dangerous subterfuges make her safety even more uncertain.

A NetGalley ARC ( )
  eyes.2c | Jul 16, 2018 |
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To Stephen Kuhrt, with deepest thanks
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Her fingers worked feverishly. (Prologue)
'Mother says she passed easily,' Frances remarked quietly, her fingers tracing the intricate leadwork of the casement window.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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