The Devil’s Slave (Frances Gorges Trilogy #2) by Tracy Borman: 4****

Book Two of the Frances Gorges Trilogy, by renowned British historian Tracy Borman, begins shortly after the failed Gunpowder Plot in England. Frances has given birth to a son, George, whose father was hung for treason for his part in the plot. However, a friend steps in to marry Frances, claim the child as his own to protect Frances and George, and before you know it Frances, through no fault of her own, is  once again unwitting involved in Court and Palace intrigue.

            The book takes place in the first decade of the 17th century, a time that was filled with plotting and infighting in the court of King James I. King James was an avowed Protestant, and was trying to stamp all vestiges of Catholicism out of England. At the same time Francis is being put in the middle of plans to try to rid the country of James and install a Catholic monarch on the throne of England. but if James I has a dislike of Catholics, he has a greater dislike of those whom he calls “witches”, and Francis is not just a closet Catholic but also has helped heal many people through the years thanks to herbal remedies, and therefore Francis meets the definition of being a witch.

            The book can all get a little complicated because it’s based upon history that we don’t really learn too much about here in the United States. It has been over 400 years since these events occurred, and while we might consider some of these plots to be obviously flawed, Borman has done the history of that time and most all of the historical events, plots and intrigues which are part of this book are completely accurate. It was a difficult time in England. Witches were being hung, Catholics were forced to renounce their faith in public and swear allegiance to the Protestant King, and if it was found out that a person still had Catholic relics in their possession or privately worshipped the Catholic faith that person could be tried for treason, tortured and eventually put in the Tower of London or killed.

            Because of threats against her son, Frances must witness certain events, try to talk the Princess out of marrying a Protestant and generally put herself in harm’s way of the king and more specifically Prince Henry. Prince Henry is sure that Frances is a witch and because of that he calls her nothing more than the devils slave.

            While there’s not a lot of real action in this book, there is much behind the scenes intrigue and plotting which is all seen through the eyes of women. The author deliberately has taken this point of view in the trilogy so as to show the role that women were playing in and around the monarchy during this time. A message or word slipped here and there may have more effect that an outright confrontation by a male courtier. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plots, and Frances spends much of her time worrying about the consequences of her actions, the actions she did not want to take but felt she had to do in order protect her son.

            This is another quality effort by Tracy Borman, not quite as good as her first book, but it definitely makes me want to read the 3rd and final book of this trilogy just see how it all ends for Frances and her family.

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