Cas is in awe of glamorous new friend Lacey, an artist from a wealthy background, but when Lacey disappears after a drunken night out, leaving behind a series of cryptic clues, Cas dismisses them as an elaborate performance-art prank.
That’s until someone breaks into her house and holds her at gunpoint. Cas realises she must decipher the clues, and find her friend before Lacey gets herself killed. She’s quickly drawn into a hunt for an Elizabethan treasure that holds the key to a very modern, very dangerous conspiracy.
Hunted by a criminal gang and pursued by a former Russian spy, the race to find Elizabeth’s lost jewel turns deadly. Good thing, then, that Cas is in the company of handsome secret service agent, Reuben, even if he does claim to work for an insurance company. She wants to trust him, but her instincts tell her otherwise.
As she races across England, from Brighton to York, Derbyshire to London, and then heads west, Cas is guided by a riddle that reveals the astonishing tale of a succession of women from British history and the oath they’ve kept for a thousand years.
The end of the journey is more personal than she could ever have imagined as she finally unearths the British Government’s most well-kept secret, and faces the organisation sworn to protect it…
“Goodenough is more than good enough . . .”
Five Star Review on Amazon By Don Sloan
Cas is not so hungover that she doesn’t notice that there are a few things amiss — like the disappearance of her good friend Lacey, or the diffident, handsome “insurance man” shadowing her, or the strange clues left in the sewn-shut pocket of her friend’s expensive jacket. The wild ride has begun, and Cas must hold on for dear life if she’s going to unravel a centuries-old mystery.
Author Megan Goodenough has done a brilliant job of interweaving a fascinating piece of history with a thrill-producing mystery/adventure in her debut novel, A Company of Roses. The characters are plentiful and complex, the protagonist (Cas) is convincing as a hard-partying British working girl now in over her head, and the villains are ruthless and thoroughly believable.
When rich, spoiled Lacey goes missing after a wild night of pub-hopping with Cas, it seems everyone wants to know what’s happened to her. Secret agent Ruben has been tasked both with finding Lacey and protecting Cas, who is torn between wanting to cooperate with him and falling in love with him.
At stake is a 500-year-old secret, begun when Queen Elizabeth supposedly secretly gave birth to a baby daughter named Rose. In a touching opening scene, a lady-in-waiting is smuggling the child to a place of safety, away from prying eyes.
“She was fighting the urge to lift the child into her arms, as she had done to Elizabeth herself when the Queen was tiny, and smelled of milk and promise.”
Indeed, this wonderful turn-of-phrase is one of many throughout this ingenious historical tale that alternately teases the reader with enigmatic clues, then reveals new epiphanies the next. Cas travels hurriedly from one storied British location to the next — Brighton to York to London — always a step ahead of nefarious forces bent on stopping her.
In one location, Goodenough’s vivid descriptive flair brings even a chilly old museum to life:
“Dragons chased their own tails around wall brackets, looked as though they might leap from stained glass windows near the ceiling, and lolled in brassy glory atop red velvet curtains; languid, post-coital, dope-fuelled royal dragons, too sanguine to strike.”
It is this very gift for storytelling that brings verve to what otherwise might be a dry rehash of a royal legend: whether or not the Virgin Queen did, in fact, have a child.
The promise of a firm resolution to this startling bit of historical intrigue is more than enough to carry the reader through the complex, interweaving plotlines — all installed precisely to keep the reader guessing until the very end whether we are pursuing fact or fiction.
I give A Company of Roses five stars and applaud this young writer’s courage in attempting — and succeeding — to bring off a thoroughly fascinating read.
About the Author
Author of ‘A Company of Roses’ Love: history, archaeology, thrillers, riding carousels, swimming outdoors, museums, mysterious secrets.