This book is another example of historical fiction that reads a bit like a video game: we are given a main character purely for the purposes of exploring the world of the story.
This story doesn't accurately reflect Elizabethan England. Adopted commoner Kat would likely have simply married the pear farmer after the death of her guardian, not dressed in an expensive gown and dragged her hearing-impaired foster sister to London. Two wealthy-looking, pretty young girls, traveling alone at this time? I hate to think what could have happened had they not improbably run into a kind-hearted noblewoman who gave them shelter. I'm terribly confused, too, as to why Kat took her ailing sister into danger rather than letting her marry the pear farmer, since she didn't want him and her sister loved him. But I suppose she thought she might want him later and was loath to share. Kat's not big on selflessness.
I quickly grew bored with the story, which is ostensibly about Kat looking for the truth of her origin. She does little fact-finding, instead choosing to happily accept life as the Queen's favorite maid of honor. Well, why not? I thought she was finally showing some sense. Her real family did not want her, she ruined her marriage prospect, and Queen Elizabeth spoiled her rotten and genuinely adored her. It sounded ideal to me. But no, there was also a love quadrangle.
First, we had the pear farmer. He's poor but hunky, loves Kat but treats her like property, refuses to understand why she needs to run off and find her true parentage (same here), and is willing to marry her sister in her stead.
Then we had the assistant from the Queen's Wardrobe. He's an ambitious dandy who covets his father's position as head of the wardrobe staff and covets Kat because she is the Queen's marked favorite.
Finally, Rafael, scalliwag son of Kat's benefactress in London. He's left bastard children littered about Europe and seems happy to continue doing so, and he courts Kat because, well, he's courting every female he sees.
Wow, what a great lineup! I wholeheartedly supported Kat's early statement that she wouldn't marry and found the ending wholly disappointing. Her parentage is obvious if you know anything about the historical figures of the time period, but in a YA setting, that's perhaps not likely, so it's forgivable if dull. Her ultimate choice to leave the Queen who wants to be the mother Kat never had so she can marry the thick-headed pear farmer left me bewildered, perhaps because Kat never gives her reasons for loving him beyond finding him attractive and having known him all her life.
The small bright side here is that period details are fairly accurate, if the speech is a bit modern, and Elizabeth is skillfully and three-dimensionally written.
I think teen girls who relate well to Bella from Twilight will like this book, but those who want to kill Bella and keep Edward for themselves will long for a brighter, nicer, and cooler heroine.
Recommend to: Fans of Queen Elizabeth I and her historical period, romance fans, anyone who likes hearing about pretty dresses