Frances Gorges is a bright, forthright, intellectually curious woman. Unfortunately, she was born at a time when those characteristics were not seen as feminine virtues. Tracy Borman’s novel, The King’s Witch, opens in 1603 and continues over the next couple of years as Frances gets into several kinds of serious trouble at the Court of James I.
All Frances wants is to be able to learn more about herbal medicine and live at her family’s estate in Wiltshire. She definitely does not want to marry a man picked out by her social climbing uncle or go to court. But because she’s an unmarried woman, she is at her uncle’s beck and call. She only gets to pleasantly languish at the estate before she is summoned to be a lady of the bedchamber for Princess Elizabeth. Frances might have been able to turn this into a pleasant life for herself it it weren’t for that uncle and the paranoid, witch-obsessed King James—and if it weren’t for the fact that she fell in love with an up-and-coming lawyer, Tom Wintour.
Frances is highly intelligent, but she’s not really a match for the politically savvy men who are fighting for dominance in James’ court. She’s barely at court for a few months before she’s accused of being a witch. She survives that by the skin of her teeth, only to get caught up on the fringes of the Gunpowder Plot. During her travails in the Tower of London as an accused witch, Frances has only herself to look out for. But after that, she grows fonder of her charge and of the lawyer Tom. It isn’t just her anymore. In the middle of potential treason, how can a powerless woman save everyone she has come to love?
The more I read The King’s Witch, the more I enjoyed it. I was on the edge of my seat as I flipped the pages because I had to know what would happen to Frances and Tom. I already knew from the rhyme (“Remember, remember the fifth of November”) that the Gunpowder Plot would come to ruin. Given how paranoid James was about Catholic plots and the supernatural—and how ruthless Borman is with her characters—the ending of The King’s Witch could have gone either way.
And I’m not saying which way it went. Interested readers will just have to find out themselves.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. It will be released 3 July 2018.