cover image THE TWYLIGHT TOWER: An Elizabeth I Mystery

THE TWYLIGHT TOWER: An Elizabeth I Mystery

Karen Harper, THE TWYLIGHT TOWER: An Elizabeth I Mystery

This third book in Harper's Elizabeth I series features a "she-can-do-it-all" protagonist and a plot that fails to fully quicken. It is a tale grown from a kernel of historical fact—the murder of Amy Robsart Dudley, wife to horse master Robert Dudley, with whom the queen is besotted. Amy's untimely death and a mellifluous lutenist's suspicious demise lead to the uncovering of a conspiracy to wrest the crown from the young queen, now versed in sniffing out murdering pretenders to the throne. Elizabeth is less successful in capturing the reader. Having strained to depict the queen as stalwart sovereign and sometime sleuth, Harper also struggles to underscore Elizabeth's old-fashioned femininity, and there is more than a whiff of cloying romance here as well. We are repeatedly alerted to the "slim body"—swathed in floral-scented robes—in which the queen's fine mind resides, and are privy to moments in which she pines expectantly for her ruggedly handsome Dudley. But this queen is also a feminist, and when her feelings for Dudley become common knowledge and are frowned upon, she ponders righteously the asymmetrical expectations that women and men face: "Why could a queen not carry on as a king and to hell with what people thought? Must a woman's reputation be so much more pristine and precious than a man's?" Those with a firmly entrenched proclivity for historical fiction and romance may be able to overlook such patches of clumsy prose and cliché. (Mar. 6)