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Feud: Lady Grace Mysteries    by Patricia Finney order for
by Patricia Finney
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

A famous painter, Levina Teerlinc, arrives at The Palace of Nonsuch (in the Surrey countryside) to oversee the Queen's portraits. Mrs. Teerlinc, Head Limner at Court, supervises five painters-stainers, amongst whom is young Nick Hilliard, who is exceptionally talented at miniature portraits. When Her Majesty is otherwise occupied, each Maid of Honour takes a turn posing for the numerous paintings (which are in constant demand from her Majesty's subjects). Lady Sarah is next in call for a sitting, but complains: 'It's perfectly awful having to stand stock-still in that horrible, smelly Workroom ... the Queen's bodices are always too tight for me, so I can hardly breathe and feel near to fainting.'

With the new daybook given to Grace by Her Majesty came a fresh supply of goosefeathers to shape into pens, a new bottle of the best ink, and a black satin, canvass-backed apron (Grace is prone to accidentally ink spot her garments, which gives Mrs. Champernowne, Mistress of the Maids, reason to 'tut and roll her eyes'.) To Grace's delight, Mrs. Teerlinc introduces her to graphite pens, which are a boon to her journal writing as they do not require ink bottles. She explains to Lady Grace the mixing of varied pigments on the artists' palettes, and what is required to create each. Grace learns that some paints are poisonous, especially yellow, which is made with orpiment, and white, made with mercury.

Mistress Carmina Willoughby has taken to her bed chamber with an indefinable ailment. Carmina's appearance is 'as white as a sheet', she has difficulty keeping awake, suffers severe megrim, has loss of appetite and stomach cramps. Lady Horsley (new at court) attends to Carmina's needs, making a 'tisane to help her head', and delicacies to tempt her appetite. Adding to Carmina's troubles is her family, who were recently involved in a feud with other nobles after the death of her father in a jousting tournament. Grace also learns that Carmina has come into an inheritance, for which the ailing Maid of Honour was chosen over a cousin.

Lady Grace suspects foul play in Carmina's continuing illness, which includes the constant taste of metal! The arrival of a troupe of players - amongst whom is handsome Richard Fitzgrey who no doubt captivates the eyes of many of the Maids of Honour, and female staff, including Grace's friend Ellie (a court laundress) - complicates her life. And Massou (court acrobat) does not consider the players' acrobatics as good as his performances. Grace enlists Ellie and Massou to investigate clues to Carmina's ailment. Could it be poisoning - possibly intended for the Queen, and caused by someone in the court kitchen, one of the players, or one of the limners?

Patricia Finney's sixth installment in The Lady Grace Mysteries includes endnotes on Fact Behind the Fiction, and A Note About Feuds, with information on social history, and a glossary of Elizabethan terms to enhance the reader's appreciation of the author's continuing saga of Lady Grace at the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

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