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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Queen’s Scribe: Sea and Stone Chronicles by Amy Maroney is a medieval romance adventure set on the island of Cyprus in the mid-fifteenth century. A beautiful young Frenchwoman, Estelle de Montavon, leaves her family on Rhodes to travel to Cyprus, where she will be employed as a tutor to the young princess Charlotta who has recently married a Portuguese prince who speaks no Greek but does speak French. Unfortunately, when Estelle arrives, she discovers the princess’s husband has died or been poisoned, and the princess is no longer desirous of learning French. Relegated to her room with no work, Estelle believes herself to be no more than a prisoner. She must escape from the Cypriot castle and return to her family in Rhodes and, ultimately, her beloved France. However, when the deaths of the king and the queen throw the kingdom into disarray, pitting Queen Charlotta against her half-brother, the bastard usurper, all Cyprus's inhabitants must choose their sides. Finding herself in the queen’s favor, Estelle has to walk the fine line between ever-changing and shifting alliances and political maneuverings. Adding to her confusion are the deep feelings and romantic emotions she has discovered for a young under-falconer, to whom, despite her best intentions, she seems inexorably drawn.
The Queen’s Scribe is a historical novel that is genuinely satisfying to lose oneself in for hours at a time. With her deep research, clever plotting, and intriguing characters, Amy Maroney places her audience accurately within the course of history and events that are studied and recorded. Strategically located in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has long been the desired possession of numerous civilizations, be they Muslim or Christian. Maroney takes us deep inside the back-stabbing, double-dealing, and shifting loyalty that was the Cypriot court and allows us to feel the luxury and elegance of the royal court and the poverty and grinding helplessness experienced by the common Cypriot. At the time, Cyprus was a melting pot of different cultures, religions, and loyalties, something Maroney highlights perfectly through her prose. However, one shouldn’t lose sight that this is a love story. I particularly appreciated the language and emotions she conjures up between the two young, starry-eyed lovers. I also greatly appreciated the reality that even with a queen running Cyprus, the place of women in the fifteenth century was entirely defined by the man who was chosen to be her husband. Queen Charlotta and Estelle would feel the effects of having men thrust upon them as husbands, whether they chose them or not. This is a fantastic read, and as a lover of accurate historical romance, I cannot recommend it highly enough.