Sometimes I think Margaret Frazer is actually two people writing, both with expert knowledge of fifteenth century England but with different ideas for mystery. One writes an exciting, fast-paced story where Frevisse’s intellect is put to the test. The other puts more emphasis on scandal and intrigue in the courts of King Henry VI and his noblemen.
“The Bastard’s Tale” is one of the latter. Frevisse is called to wait on her cousin, Alice de la Pole, who is married to the duke of Suffolk. The duke is in a power play for the king’s favor with the duke of Gloucester. Whoever the king favors controls the king.
Frevisse would much prefer to stay at St. Frideswide where the quiet days and nights are structured with the Offices and the duties and tasks assigned to the sisters. However, since she has no choice, she is drawn into the intrigue surrounding King Henry VI and the suspicious death of the duke of Gloucester.
Joliffe, the performer with whom Frevisse has worked before, is present but this time his actions suggest he’s up to much more than performing. And Frevisse is worried.
Joliffe and Frevisse befriend the duke of Gloucester’s illegitimate son Arteys. The duke had never shunned Arteys and neither had his wife, who had been arrested and imprisoned by the king. They were hoping Henry will grant her freedom, but tragedy strikes.
One thing that sets “The Bastard’s Tale” apart from Frazer’s earlier novels is the finale. I won’t put any spoilers here but Frevisse does something she’s never done before. My jaw dropped.
This one started out slow but the last third of the book was a page-turner!