When I started writing Murder at Westminster Abbey, I had lots of fun digging through boxes looking for photos and scrapbooks of my trips to England, and I got to revisit my very first visit to Westminster Abbey! It was a rainy, stormy day, and I had just arrived in London after a long overnight flight. The hotel room wasn't yet ready, I was jet-lagged and a bit silly with lack of sleep and too much Chardonnay (I am a terrible flier!). So what could be better than a few hours wandering around in the cool darkness of Westminster Abbey, out of the rain?
For a lifelong history geek like me, the Abbey was a magical place. I spent hours at Poet's Corner, visiting Chaucer and Browning. I stumbled across Anne of Cleves, Margaret Beaufort, and Aphra Behn, and stood atop where Oliver Cromwell once lay, before the Restoration came and he was dug up again. Best of all, I found myself nearly alone for a few precious minutes at the tomb Elizabeth I shares with Mary I.
It was wonderful to revisit my memories of that trip (and re-watch a DVD of William and Kate's wedding, just for research on cathedral details, of course!). It was also a lot of fun to delve deeply into the events surrounding Elizabeth I's coronation—I almost feel like I could have been there now, and met all the historical figures who played a part in the glittering events. I loved weaving the real pageantry with my fictional characters and what happened to them on those momentous days in January 1559.
Queen Mary's funeral was on December 14, 1558, and Elizabeth then moved to Whitehall Palace to celebrate the Christmas season with a series of feasts and dances, organized by her newly appointed Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley. But there was work to be done as well as dancing, a household to organize, counselors to appoint, and a coronation to plan. The city, which had been quiet and somber for the last months of Queen Mary's sad life, sprang to life. Viewing stands were built, streets graveled, the river cleaned up, and vast quantities of cloth of gold and silver, silks, velvets, and satins were ordered. Seven hundred yards of blue cloth was laid as a carpet from Westminster Palace to the Abbey. Despite the economy of re-making Queen Mary's royal robes for Elizabeth's more slender figure, the Exchequer paid out more than 18,000 pounds.
Dr. John Dee, the new queen's favorite astrologer, laid out a horoscope predicting January 15 as the best date for the coronation. He didn't predict the fact that the weather would be gray, cold, and icy, but the party went on. On January 12, the queen boarded her barge at Whitehall and processed along the Thames to the Tower, where new monarchs traditionally slept before their coronation. Accompanied by dozens of other barges, musicians, the Mayor and his aldermen, she floated past hundreds of people lining the riverbanks to toss flowers and shout their approval. (The poor victim in my story, Nell, watches this procession before she sadly loses her life. She'd heard from her grandmother about Queen Anne Boleyn's procession, and wants to see Queen Anne's daughter go by now...)
On leaving the Tower, Elizabeth processed four miles through London, wearing 23 yards of cloth of gold and silver trimmed with ermine, riding in a white litter lined with gold and drawn by white mules. Trumpeters proceeded her, and her household rode behind, dressed in their finest red velvets and furs to watch five stately pageants that symbolized the new beginning of the reign. I loved having my heroine, Kate Haywood, ride behind the queen, taking it all in.
As for the coronation itself...you will just have to read Murder at Westminster Abbey for a glimpse of it!
For more historical background on the events of January 1559, and some great resources I came across in my research, you can visit me anytime at http://amandacarmack.com
Murder at Westminster Abbey (Elizabethan Mystery - Book 2) by Amanda Carmack
Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
Amanda Carmack (aka. Amanda McCabe) on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Books in the series:
1. Murder at Hatfield House
2. Murder at Westminster Abbey
Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.
Excerpt from, Murder at Westminster Abbey, courtesy of the author's website.
1559. Elizabeth is about to be crowned queen of England and wants her personal musician Kate Haywood to prepare music for the festivities. New to London, Kate must learn the ways of city life…and once again school herself as a sleuth.
Life at the center of the new royal court is abuzz with ambition and gossip—very different from the quiet countryside, where Kate served Elizabeth during her exile. Making her way among the courtiers who vie for the new queen’s favor, Kate befriends Lady Mary Everley. Mary is very close to Elizabeth. With their red hair and pale skin, they even resemble each other—which makes Mary’s murder all the more chilling.
The celebrations go on despite the pall cast over them. But when another redhead is murdered, Kate uncovers a deadly web of motives lurking just beneath the polite court banter, and follows the trail of a killer whose grievance can only be answered with royal blood.
Amanda Carmack returns readers to the time of Elizabeth the first with her latest historical mystery, Murder at Westminster Abbey. This is the second book in the Elizabethan Mystery series and takes readers from Elizabeth's exile to her triumphant entry into London for her coronation and beginning of her reign. Unfortunately, someone is targeting women who resemble the new queen and it's up to her friend and courtier, Kate Haywood to find the killer. This is a great blend of history and mystery, that readers will quickly be drawn into.
What I liked:
Amanda Carmack is an author who does her homework. It takes a great deal of research to pull this kind of mystery off, because of the historical detail required to make it authentic. The reign of Elizabeth I has been well documented in history, but it's another thing when it comes to making these historical figures become real characters in a book. The reader has to be fully engaged in the characters to make the story enjoyable and Carmack seems to really understand how she needs to portray them to bring them to life.
I absolutely loved all of the imagery and description that Carmack put into the coronation and the days leading up to it. Readers are treated to seeing the court during it's hay day so to speak. This was a time when the people were glad that Mary's reign had ended and that a new queen would rule in England. The festivities were magnificent and Carmack captured the expectant atmosphere and even the treachery and betrayal being plotted behind the scenes. It was very well written.
I have always really enjoyed Kate, since the first book and she comes into her own even more in this book. She has some experience in sleuthing under her belt now and she goes about it in a more reasonable manner. But like an good amateur sleuthing tale, the suspects don't always do what you think they will and the motives might be totally different than what you expect. In this case someone is murdering women who look like the queen and it stands to reason that she is the real target. I thought Carmack did a great job with Kate's character and the mystery itself was well thought out and executed.
What I didn't like:
As usual with this series, the author relies heavily on the historical aspects of the novel to carry it. But luckily this time it is a bit more balanced. I thought Carmack did a much better job of making the mystery aspects of the story a top priority. It made the book seem a lot more realistic and less like typical historical fiction.
The second book in this series, Murder at Westminster Abbey is much better offering than the first book, although I enjoyed it as well. The history is important, but so is the mystery and that's what was missing in the last one. I think this series has a lot of potential and it's getting better as it goes along.
Murder at Westminster Abbey is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
Amanda Carmack is a pseudonym for a multipublished author. Her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. Her Elizabethan Mystery series includes Murder at Hatfield House.
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